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On the psychological roots of witch hunting

Summary

Catherine Brekus considers why, around the world, it’s women who are accused of witchcraft.

Summary

Catherine Brekus considers why, around the world, it’s women who are accused of witchcraft.

Transcript

When historians have tried to explain why it is that women, not only in Christian cultures but in cultures around the world, have been more likely than men to be accused of witchcraft, they have often talked about the psychological roots of child-rearing. That mothers are usually the ones who are caring for infants, they’re usually the primary caregiver. And so the mother looms very large in the infantile imagination, and then in children’s imagination, as having an enormous amount of power – even perhaps a magical power. And so there has been a tendency, I think, to blame women for harms. Women have been held up as nurturers, but they also have been criticised for being bad mothers or for not meeting others’ needs in the way that people want their needs to be met.