05/30 – Lynn Lovegreen - Friendships

Friday, October 5, 2018

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time a woman was walking along a path gathering herbs. She hummed as she went about her work and at one point stood tall to stretch her back. The sun was out and she pushed the hood of her cloak back and for a moment paused and lifted her face to the warmth.

Unbeknownst to her, she was being watched. The man, the local priest, stood on an upper path. When she stretched her back, he felt a twinge of arousal. When she pushed her hood back, the twinge increased. When she lifted her face to the warmth of the sun, his arousal grew stronger. It was then he knew she was a witch, sent by the devil to lure him into sin.

What does this story have to do with our monthly topic Lost Arts, Found Art?

During The Burning Times (15th – 17th centuries) this scenario and others were played out to the point where in some villages virtually every woman including infants, toddlers, children and adults were hung or burned at the stake or in some other manner, murdered. In many cases these women were the Wise Women, the healers, mid-wives or women who owned their own property and were not subservient to men.

What’s important to note is that these women did nothing wrong or bad. In many cases they adhered to many of the “old ways.” They planted and harvested herbs according to pagan traditions. They followed the seasons honoring the turning of the wheel of life.

And to be fair, while I’ve watched the Canadian documentary The Burning Times, I’ve also done some additional research albeit on Google. There were areas in Europe where mostly men were accused and in some cases mostly children. There were also areas where there were virtually no cases of a “witch hunt.” While there are many theories about “who” and “why,” the skeptics and naysayers minimize or attempt to turn us away from what was lost.

Paty Jager’s Monday post talks about what happened to the Nez Perce who lost their spirituality when forced onto reservations and forced to accept Christianity.

And along the same lines, the collective “We” lost the old traditions. We lost human potential. We lost artists, healers, oral histories and thus wisdom.

While there are disputes that millions were “burned at the stake” even conservative estimates range from 50,000 to 200,000 victims over the centuries. Considering these victims had families, friends and neighbors, it is accurate to say that millions were affected by these witch hunts.

Can you imagine what it was like for the woman gathering herbs to return to her home, to be seized and accused of being a witch sent to seduce the local priest? What could she have ever said that would have been believed? And for those situations where the woman would have been raped? Again, she was sent by Satan to lure the man to sin. What would her defense have been? Who would have believed her?

And centuries later we are still paying a price. Women who speak up often become the target of ridicule, of suspicion, of hate. How dare she say anything about her past.

As a woman who graduated from high school in 1959, I can attest to the routine sexual harassment that most of us endured at that time. A boy who grabbed a girl’s breast was “just being a boy.” In my fifth grade health class, I was taught that it was My Responsibility if a boy “got out of line.” If that happened, I had done something wrong. If that was what I was taught, why would I have spoken up?

As a single mother who worked in a male dominated profession (law enforcement in the 1960’s), I know the price I paid to get along with and be accepted by my colleagues. The sexual innuendos, at times spoken to see if I’d squirm. The pats on my butt, the “accidental” brush against my breasts. Could I take it? I had rent to pay, food to purchase for my son and me.

As a woman who worked fifty years in social services with populations that spanned from nursery to nursing homes, I know the toll sexual and physical abuse, sexual and physical harassment and domestic violence takes on women and men. Part of our homeless problem is because women and men do not feel safe in shelters or adult care homes, or even in an apartment building (there are elevators and stairwells and they know from personal experience what horrors can happen when trapped there).

But most of all from all these experiences I know the price we all pay when
women in particular are targeted, blamed and not believed.

While what is happening on the national scene in the US affected this post, I am not talking about any one case or situation. I am talking about acknowledging that for centuries we have blamed women for some men’s sexual arousal, sexual fantasies, for some men's need for domination, control and power over others, over women.

We are at a crossroads once again where what we lost in The Burning Times can be found in present time.

The question is: Do We Want To?

To find your own answer, I encourage you to watch the Canadian documentary The Burning Times and also to read the book When God Was A Woman by Merlin Stone. And if you have a book you want to recommend, please do in the comments. What's important is to

Educate yourself.

Question what you’ve been told, been taught.

Ask yourself “Is it true?” “How do I know this to be true?” “What are my personal experiences?”

Yes, there are somethings we take on faith, but our history?

Something we can check out ourselves?

We owe it to not only ourselves but to our mothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters and in my case, great granddaughter as well as all the women who came before to do the work, to do the research, to know the truth of our herstory.

Judith Ashley is the author of The Sacred Women’s Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual practices that nourish the soul and celebrates the journey from relationship to romance.
You can find Judith’s books at all major e-retailers, some books stores and libraries.

Learn more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series at

Follow Judith on Twitter: JudithAshley19

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You can also find Judith on FB! 
© 2018 Judith Ashley


Deb N said...

WOW - an eloquent and mind-blowing historical analogy to today's terror. it is a daunting task we face that we still must overcome the need of some to overpower and blame. Having worked in rape and sexual assault crisis, it seems a never-ending job (and sometimes against-all-odds job) to protect those who are victimized. Will it ever end? It will if we can raise ALL our voices and work collectively. These days it is one step forward and about ten steps backwards. And right now, a sad, sad state of a nation and world. Past time to OVERCOME this terror.

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for adding your voice here, Deb. I remain grateful for Dr. Ford coming forward at great cost to herself and her family. So many women (and men) who were sexually assaulted as minors have spoken up. While the politicians did not hear their voices, others of us did. And Thank You for the work you did at the front end of the horror of rape.

Maggie Lynch said...

An important and timely post, Judith. I'd never thought about the comparison to witch trials. You are absolutely right. I do have my own story to share, as I think it is important that people speak out.

I became an adult in 1972 and like most women of that era I experienced sexual harassment daily. As a teenager walking to high school, men from the nearby Marine base would drive by and whistle or say things about me as I walked. I kept my head down and walked faster. When I told anyone about it, what I heard was: "That's how men are. Don't wear short skirts. Dress conservatively. Don't do anything to encourage them."

To pay for college, I worked as a receptionist and venue coordinator booking entertainment acts coming to the area. A requirement for that job was to simply smile when someone slapped my butt; winked; gave me an unwanted kiss; or made lurid remarks about taking me to bed. Why? Because the “talent” could do anything.

In my thirties (mid to late 1980's) I worked in the Washington D.C. area at major software consulting firm to the military. My boss was a retired submariner with big ties to the military and government contracts. Within the first three months of starting employment my boss attempted to “seduce” me in his office. He called me in for a meeting about a "review of my status" to move me from probationary to permanent. He invited me to sit on the sofa in his office to "make me feel more comfortable." It began with some compliments about my work, and then he moved closer and put a hand on my knee. I did nothing to remove it. I just couldn't believe what I thought he was suggesting was happening at the workplace in his office.
Within another minute, he pushed me backwards on the sofa. He was 6'4" and probably over 200 lbs. I was 5'5" and about 130 lbs. Placing his full body weight on me, he began kissing me. At this point, I didn't care if my job was in jeopardy. I kicked and kneed him in the balls, and when he rose up and swore at me threatening to end my career in the Washington D.C. metro area, I knew my career was over.

His secretary opened the door and he immediately got up, saying nothing. She also said nothing as she escorted me, sobbing, out of the office and to HR. To keep my job, I signed an agreement to not sue. In return I would be moved from probationary status to permanent and be transferred to another department. I soon learned that this was the tip of the iceberg in this company. The company "celebrated” big contract signings in the penthouse suite of a hotel with salesmen and highly paid prostitutes. Is it no wonder that men felt entitled to act as they wished? I left the company within two years, but I will NEVER forget that experience.

Though EEOC added sexual harassment, in 1980, as a form of gender discrimination prohibited by Title VII. There was no teeth in that law until 1991 when congress added more protections allowing right to a jury trial in federal court and, for the first time, right to collect compensation and punitive damages. And it wasn't until 1994 that the Violence Against Women Act was passed and limited evidence of past sexual history in sexual harassment cases.

I am ALWAYS shocked when I hear yet another story today. My own siblings have shared stories of what happened to them that they never told before. Nieces, nephews, and now grandchildren also have stories they haven’t told before. I am heartbroken that it continues to be pervasive.

I think it is important that we are shocked. I think it is important that we work to make this NOT acceptable in any way, under any circumstances. I think it is important that we vote for leaders that understand we will not trade women's rights for anything else. I also think it is important that we DO talk about it and that we vow to raise our children and grandchildren in a way that they also know it is not acceptable.

Paty Jager said...

Very well stated, Judith!

We've all had our encounters that should never have happened. I've had three. Two I told my husband about. The third one I've only told a close friend who had the same experience.

We've all heard stories that should have been dealt with differently. Until everyone, men and women, start standing up for themselves and their rights, it will continue.

Until the men start treating women with respect, we'll have to become strong together and make them accountable.

Barbara Rae Robinson said...

Very interesting post, Judith. I hadn't thought about the witches. Women have always suffered harassment or worse all down through history. We may outnumber men in this country, but that hasn't given us any power. Yes, I have my own stories of sexual abuse, starting with a pedophile at age five or six. I still remember how I felt and how I got away from him. Those helpless, fear-filled feelings never go away. The one that bothers me the most is an on-going situation with a relative of my husband. I try to avoid him as much as I can. Years ago when I tried to tell my husband about what he was doing and tried to tell his then wife, neither did anything to help me. If he ever touches me again, everyone in the family is going to know. His son abused my daughter when they were young and she didn't tell me until about eight years ago. The son is now dead. I won't be completely free until this man is also dead. I know it's wrong to think such thoughts, but I've suffered enough inner turmoil over his actions. Never again.

Judith Ashley said...

Maggie, unfortunately your story is one of thousands because as you know "in the good old days" women didn't even have the protection of laws of the books about sexual harassment. I'm so thankful you got away and HR semi-protected you (after you protected The Boss) until you could found another job. Your "that's how men are" is the grown up version of "boys will be boys" and it really demeans boys and men to treat them as if they have no self-control when it comes to sex when they exhibit self-control in numerous other ways. The wall of entitlement that says men who are powerful, important, bigger have the right to assault a woman (oh and she'll like it, be grateful, accept it, etc.) does have some cracks in it. Not gigantic gaping holes but small fissures that can erode until the wall of entitlement breaks.

While the documentary "The Burning Times" and Merlin Stone's book "When God Was A Woman" the other pivotal book I read was "I Never Called It Rape." These are books that should be a part of every school's curriculum, in not in middle school then for sure in high school.

Judith Ashley said...

Paty, I do believe most men do try to treat women with respect. That is more my experience these days than when I was in school and first in the workplace. I'm glad you've someone you've talked to. I know that telling even one person our truth helps us in our own healing. I am heartened to see the number of men who are standing up with us, who do believe us when we speak up, who do champion our rights (and we champion theirs).

Judith Ashley said...

Barb, I don't think your wanting to be free of an abuser is wrong thinking. In fact it is positive thinking. You are looking forward to a life free of the fear and stress of dealing with a sexual predator. And I totally support you in telling everyone in the family now so you don't have him touching you even one more time.

Judith Ashley said...

Thank you Deb, Maggie, Paty and Barb for sharing your stories with me. I am honored that you've done so. I also truly believe that when we speak our truth and are believed, it helps us in our own healing. We realize we are not alone and that sense of isolation is lessened. If there is one bright light from the #MeToo and #EnoughIsEnough movements it is that women and men are now speaking up. Instead of thinking we are the only ones with these experiences or there aren't many of us, we can see how pervasive it is.

Sending love, light, hugs and gratitude to each of you and to everyone else who read this post and remembered their truth.

Sarah Raplee said...

This is an important and timely post, Judith. I also thank those who shared their experiences.

I was lucky in that the worst thing that ever happened to me was wolf whistling from men when I was only eleven. My girlfriend and I would walk to the theater for a matinee. Buying popcorn during intermission required running a gauntlet of young men who lay in wait in the hallway. I still remember the fear and confusion I felt. We always went together to the concession or the bathroom.

Things have improved but we still have a way to go.

Judith Ashley said...

The fact that you felt fear and confusion, Sarah, shows it would fit within the context of a traumatic experience. Trauma is on a continuum just like most if not all emotions. I'm glad you didn't have to deal with anything more than wolf-whistles which I'm sure were accompanied by looks - as in scanning your body and leering.

Madelle Morgan said...

Judith, thank you for this very timely and important post.

Thank you to the commentors who shared their stories.

Unfortunately it is usually women who read these posts and empathize. Not men.

I hope everyone who reads Judith's post will share it on her (or his) timeline. Dr. Ford's voice is not the only voice that needs to be heard.

Judith Ashley said...

Madelle, Thanks for stopping and commenting. What's important is that we all understand this is a centuries old problem that we've thought was "fixed" or at least "better" only to find it was underground for awhile. I'm rereading Merlin Stone's "When God Was A Woman" and it is, in places, a chilling read. I feel as if I'm bearing witness to the violence towards women through the ages to now. Very challenging but in truth there were times when we were treated even worse than today.