I have the great pleasure to be sharing my review of this amazing book; A History of Women in History (Cunning Women, Physicians, Witches) by Sinead Spearing, so sit back grab a cuppa and let me tell you all about this brilliant book.
‘Witch’ is a powerful word with humble origins. Once used to describe an ancient British tribe known for its unique class of female physicians and priestesses, it grew into something grotesque, diabolical and dangerous. A History of Women in Medicine: From Physicians to Witches? reveals the untold story of forgotten female physicians, their lives, practices and subsequent demonisation as witches. Originally held in high esteem in their communities, these women used herbs and ancient psychological processes to relieve the suffering of their patients. Often travelling long distances, moving from village to village, their medical and spiritual knowledge blended the boundaries between physician and priest. These ancient healers were the antithesis of the witch figure of today; instead they were knowledgeable therapists commanding respect, gratitude and high social status.
In this pioneering work, Sinead Spearing draws on current archeological evidence, literature, folklore, case studies and original religious documentation to bring to life these forgotten healers. By doing so she exposes the elaborate conspiracy conceived by the Church to corrupt them in the eyes of the world. Turning these women from benevolent therapists into the embodiment of evil required a fabricated theology to ensure those who collected medicinal herbs or practiced healing, would be viewed by society as dealing with the devil. From this diabolical association, female healers could then be labeled witches and be justly tortured and tried in the ensuing hysteria known today as the European witch craze.
Well, what a fascinating, illuminating and at times quite harrowing book. I literally finished this in one day, I was completely hooked from the first page. I hate to say it, but before reading this I hadn’t heard of this author before – and I do feel awful for saying that. I’m very sorry, Sinead!
I was intrigued by the book the moment I spotted it and knew I had to read it and I am so pleased that I got the chance to. It is a remarkable read, I found it to be very hard-hitting and yet sensitive to those women it tells the stories of, it is a book that should be read by everyone, not just women who like me are interested in women’s history and celebrating how wonderful these women were but by all. I can guarantee there will be something within these pages that will intrigue everyone.
I really like how this is written, it not only tells the stories of these amazing women but it also highlights just what ignorance and fear can do, how when people fear or don’t understand something such what these fine women were doing or who then Ms Spearing’s voice comes through the history with such clarity that you feel her passion for the subject of which she is writing.
The book is all about the very early medicine women, or ‘cunning women’, healers and those that were basically viewed as witches; not quite people to be trusted. I loved the opening as Ms Spearing tells the story of how this book came about, all about when archaeologist found the remains of a women not buried in the grave yard but on the edge and buried with some very interesting and quite odd items. From there the book goes further in detail about who this women could have been, about the women like her from around the country doing good work healing and helping, these women who were basically the first doctors, these women who were respected one minute and the next tried for witch craft.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, it is a fresh and original book that looks into a different aspect of history.
This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review, Thank you Rosie.