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WITCH BURNING IN AFRICA The Hag or crone as symbol
A woman victim of Society?
by Isabelle Parent
Many people like to talk about La
Corriveau as a legend of Quebec while others pretend to know the real facts
concerning this story. This short text is a biography of the most tragic story
of a woman originally from Quebec who was literally a victim of the society in
Corriveau, well-known as La Corriveau,
was the daughter of Mr. Joseph Corriveau who was a farmer and Ms. Marie-Françoise
Bolduc (profession unkown). La Corriveau
was born on May 14th, 1733 in Saint-Vallier, in the region of Quebec,
where her family was originally from. Up to 1763, the life of La
Corriveau was apparently normal.
her life, Marie-Josephte Corriveau had had two husbands. She got married to her
first husband in November of 1749. His name was Charles Bouchard and he was a
farmer, like her father. She had had three children with this man before Mr.
Bouchard died in 1760. Then, La Corriveau
got married for the second time in July 1760 to Mr. Louis Dodier, who was also a
farmer. This man died a year later, in 1761.
tragic story of Marie-Josephte Corriveau started with the sudden death of her
first husband. From there, the neighbourhoods surrounding Saint-Vallier had
already pointed their fingers at her, telling her that she was probably
responsible and guilty for Charles Bouchard’s death. After the death of her
second husband Louis Dodier, a year after her first husband had died of unknown
circumstances, the military tribunal started hearing rumours accusing La Corriveau of being the only responsible for this death. At that
time, the English military tribunal was meeting in a room of the Ursuline
convent in Quebec. The tribunal consisted of 12 officers and one
Lieutenant-Colonel, Roger Morris, who were initially blaming her father, Joseph
Corriveau instead of La Corriveau
herself. The first trial started on March 29th, 1763 and finished on
April 9th, 1763 when he was finally condemned to death.
Joseph Corriveau made a confession to the tribunal to plaid his case, he
confessed and blamed his daughter, Marie-Josephte Corriveau, for Louis Dodier’s
death in front of the officers and the lieutenant-Colonel. Moreover, “Joseph
Corriveau even confessed that he was merely an accessory to his daughter’s
crime” (Dickinson). After the trial, the authorities decided that Joseph
Corriveau was innocent and therefore, gave him a certificate of innocence.
declared such things, La Corriveau had
to face society and fight against her father’s words. On April 15th,
1763, La Corriveau declared to the
military tribunal that she had killed Louis Dodier during the night of the 26th
and 27th of January 1763. She even said that she “killed
her husband by hitting him on the head twice with an axe while he was
sleeping” (Lacourcière, 1968).
Joseph Corriveau was no more a problem for the tribunal, but La
Corriveau surely was. On the same day, she was convicted to being hanged for
murder. In fact, to save herself from this horrible penalty, La
Corriveau mentionned the reasons for having acted this way; it was because
of the bad treatments of her husband if he was guilty of this crime (Frigon,1996).
On the other hand, rumours
mentioned that if La Corriveau
murdered her husband is was in order to save her dad from death penalty.
the Britain Embassy was governing Quebec at that time, the laws were theirs, and
so, La Corriveau was hanged on the
Buttes-à-Nepveu in order to honor the old Britain customs. The execution took
place in April 1763 near the Plains of Abraham and her chained corpse was
exposed in an iron cage in Pointe-Lévy until the end of May 1763. Apparently,
governor James Murray authorized its removal. Around 1840, some discoveries were
made and only some pieces of bones were found where La Corriveau’s body used to be hanged in the 17th
to the Canadian Criminal Justice
Association, which is responsible for Uncertain
Justice, Canadian Women and Capital Punishment that occurred between 1754 and
1953, “Women who murder their husbands are treated most harshly, and probably
with more venom and disgust than husbands who murder their wives” (Greenwood
and Boissery, 2000). In the end, why would wives who killed their husband be
dramatically be punished and judged for their act as opposed to husband who had
killed their wives? Of course, since women did not have power and control on
anything, men were the heads of the biggest jobs, and so, they were deciding
laws and sanctions in their favour. The fact that women’s rights were
restricted to domestic matters in the 17th century would certainly
abolish their dreams of one day, having the right to speak, act, and live for
themselves. The reason under this criminal act was, without a doubt, the result
of mistreatments administered from La
Corriveau’s husband. Where was the justice at the time to talk for women?
conclude, “La Corriveau
has also inspired artists: the sculptor Alfred Laliberté made a remarkable
bronze which is in the Musée du Québec portraying a haggard young woman bent
under the weight of fatality and the cage in which she is imprisoned” (Lacourcière,
John A. La corriveau. The
Sylvie. (1996). L’Homicide Conjugal Féminin,
de Marie-Josephte Corriveau (1763) à Angélique Lyn Lavallée (1990) :
Meurtre ou Légitime Défense? 29(2),
F. Murray and Boissery, Beverley. (2000). Uncertain justice, Canadian Women
and Capital Punishment 1754 - 1953. Toronto: Dundurn press.
Luc. (1968). Le triple destin de Marie-Josephte Corriveau, Cahiers des
Dix, XXXIII, 213–42 http://biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?id_nbr=1277
Witch Burning in Europe by Cynthia Stocks
Throughout history, patriarchal society has influenced the lives of many women and most of the time in a negative way. Women had to fight for their rights, fight for their credibility, and fight for their liberty. In Europe, from the 1500s to the 1800s, started one of the biggest battles for women: the witch-hunt. Women were accused of witchcraft, and they were sometimes tortured, hanged or burned at the stake. There were also some men, who were accused, but according to research, it was only a small percentage, around fifteen to twenty percent. It is important to know who was targeted and why, by whom they were targeted and finally what happened to the witches that were caught, to truly understand the witch burning in Europe.
Most of the witches were women. According to Christina Larner, “the witch-hunts were sex-related if not sex-specific” (Larner, 3), 40,000 to 50,000 persons were killed and eighty to eighty-five percent were women (Briggs, 8). The women who were considered to be witches were women who were doing things against patriarchal values. Witches are women with knowledge and in that period of time, men portrayed women who possessed knowledge, as evil. In the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of the Witches), the bible of the witch hunters, “All wickedness,” write the authors,
, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature,
painted with fair colours. ... Women are by nature instruments of Satan -- they are by nature carnal, a structural defect
rooted in the original creation. (Katz, 438-439)
book was printed in 1486. It became an instant success, and it had to be
reprinted in at least 29 different editions between 1520 and 1669. People in
Europe were influenced by those words, and they believed they were true. It is
hard to say if all women were targeted and persecuted or if witches only
represented a certain type of women. Although, in the limited data available
there is a large majority of witches over 50. Katz argues that it is normal
because “ these women, particularly older women who had never given birth and
now were beyond giving birth, comprised the female group most difficult to
assimilate, to comprehend, within the regulative late medieval social matrix,
organized, as it was, around the family unit."
In other words, witches were mainly poor elderly women, unmarried or
marginalized women who went against patriarchal values.
The witch-hunts started with pope Innocent VIII, he was the one who
published the bull, known as Summis desiderantes affectibus (desiring with the
most profound anxiety). It basically said that Inquisitors had the power to
correct, imprison and punish any person that was doing abominations and
enormities, like heresy, incantations, spells, conjurations and others (Innes,
106). However, it is important to know that Catholics were not the only ones to
punish witchcraft; Protestants and other religions were also against it. Furthermore,
what might is surprising is that men were not alone to denounce women. Most of
the time, a woman was accusing another woman. It might have been to save her own
life, or because of jealousy, but clearly women
were not helping each other out. Instead of standing against it, they
participated in the witch-hunts.
After they were denounced, women were arrested, put in prison and had a
trial. This is pretty usual for prisoners; the big difference lies in the fact
that those trials were not ordinary. Witches were previously asked if they were
guilty or not, if they said not guilty, they were then tortured until they
confessed. When they did confess, most of them were burned at the stake, to kill
the evil in them. Their confessions were forced; therefore, they were not true
most of the time; women confessed when the pain was too excruciating. According
to the Malleus Maleficarum, “only a confession obtained through pain and
torment could be assumed to come truly from the heart”(Innes, 108). It was
also a way to scare people. Witches were burned in public places to show
everyone what was awaiting them if
they were not conforming. It was a way for men to show their superiority and
The witch burning in Europe has ended a long time ago, but the witch icon still lives. Mad or marginalized women have been called witches by the patriarchal society for a long time. Unfortunately, there will always be a witch-hunt as long as there is a patriarchal society. However, women are starting to help each other out, instead of participating in their own fall. They are fighting back.
and Neighbours: the Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft.
Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. Print.
History of Torture.
New York: St. Martin's, 1998. Print.
Steven T. The
Holocaust in Historical Context. Vol.
I. New York: Oxford Univ., 2008. Print.
of God: the Witch-hunt in Scotland.
J. Donald, 2000. Print.
Obeah by Dave Jalbert
Caribbean has been one of the most important places for the slaves’ trade.
Originally, these isles were renowned for their imposing markets where slaves
all around the world were gathered to be sold. It was mostly black people from
these isles and from Africa who were sold. From these mixtures of many different
nationalities, tribes, beliefs, were born many superstitious religions known as
Voodoo, Ju-Ju, Obeah and Santeria, among others. All of these religions were
similar in many ways, with some slight differences typical to their countries of
origin. They all accept women as practitioners and spiritual guides,
particularly Obeah, whose name means “magic.” In this religion, an Obeah-man
is a sorcerer and an Obeah-woman is a witch.
origin of Obeah is Jamaica. But what is Obeah? It is not a real doctrine of
faith to speak of, but an arrangement of superstitions, the most popular of
which is the “Voodoo doll.” All these superstitions (Voodoo,
Santeria, Obeah, Ju-Ju) are nearly identical to one another, following mostly
the same set of beliefs. The main reason as to why there are some differences is
because these superstitions were part
of “oral tradition”: some of their aspects changed over time. One of the
major characteristics of the Obeah is that its practitioners, the “leaders,”
are men or women who have knowledge about plants, which can be used to cure as
well as to poison. They were specialists in creating charms and idols, such as
necklaces, bracers, dolls. Their purpose was to make people believe in their “powers,”
exploiting other people's faith in the supernatural to gain followers, and
therefore more power.
interesting aspect of the Obeah is that, contrarily to Europe, women were
permitted to learn the practice of the Obeah. Like the men, they were spiritual
leaders and they provided help to their communities. But, when their practice
had been made known to the “White people,” they have been immediately
referred to as witches, like men were referred to as sorcerers. Why did they
think that Obeah-women were witches? During the XVI and XVII centuries, the
knowledge of medicine was for the purpose of “Purging the evil (bad blood)
from the person,” so physicians performed Bloodletting most of the time.
Obeah-women did not use Bloodletting; they used their knowledge of plants and
nature to create “potions” which could help to cure the ailment. During this
time, everything that the Church did not understand was classified as heretic,
like the knowledge of Obeah-men and Obeah-women.
the major distinction of Obeah from the other similar religions is that Obeah
involves the relationship between human and spirits, and these spirits are
primarily ghosts that can be summoned to accomplish a particular task (such as
protect or harm others, for example.). One of the famous practices is to catch a
person's last breath in a bottle. They would later use the last breath to create
charms associated to evil.
were spiritual leaders for their people. They were as feared by some as they
were loved by others. Being the ones who know much about nature, they were able
to give life as much as to bring death, to bless persons as much as to curse
them. They represented good and evil. “They played various roles
simultaneously. They were healers and executioners; they were loved and feared,
they were the guardian to all and demons to many.”
Long, Edward, History of Jamaica (London:1774), Vol. II.
Still Happens Today
by Tania Fortier
by Tania Fortier
you even heard about the Salem Witch Trial or the thousands of executions of
women accused of witchcraft in Europe? This was a long time ago, but
witch-hunting still happens today! In many parts of the world, women are still
killed because they are accused of being witches. Before my research, I already
knew it because I had worked for a women right’s organization in Burkina Faso,
and I have family in Republic Democratic of Congo, but I had never expected
witch-hunting to be such an endemic problem.
is a Witch?
history, people have always believed in superior powers and too many women have
been accused to communicate directly with the devil; men have been rarely
accused of witchcraft. Witches “are
a society's collective nightmare, a personification of its fears and forbidden
desires. But in real life, those accused of being witches are not the terrifying
creatures of nightmares” (Witch
Hunts in Africa).
Sometimes, it is just “someone too beautiful, too clever, too successful” (Witch Hunts in Africa), but most of the time, those women are old, ugly, mysterious, apart from society, independent from men. They are considered to be mad and dangerous. In fact, each time something has gone wrong in their societies, such as illnesses and misfortune, they have been blamed, but all those problems could have been explained scientifically (Witch Hunts in Africa). This is why it no longer happens in the well-developed Fortier parts of the world such as Europe where people are highly educated, so those people look for other causes than sorcery when problems occur.
Still Happens in Africa
Therefore, in some countries where the education rate is really low, witch-hunting still happens such as in Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, RDC Congo, Tanzania, etc. “Across Africa, a war is being waged on women – but we are refusing to hear the screams. … As girls, they face having their genitalia sliced out with razors, to destroy their ‘filthy’ sexuality and keep them ‘pure’. As old women, they face being hacked to death as "witches", blamed for every virus and sickness blowing across the savannah” (Witch Hunt
For these reasons, men accuse them of witchcraft. It gives them a reason to eliminate those unsubmissive women. “In one decade alone, (1991 to 2001), Tanzania had 20,000 persons accused of witchcraft, murdered by her citizenry--a disproportionate number of the suspected witches were female octogenarians” (Petraitis). Here is part of the speech of a man from Tanzania who believes in witches and kills them: “These women are frightening anomalies here: they have a flicker of financial independence denied to all other females. It has to be stopped. Of course witches must be killed!” (Witch HuntMoreover, before to be killed, women are frequently martyrized.
The organization Marapece now provides “old women with adjusted ovens that blew the smoke not into their eyes, but up a funnel and out into the sky. Their eyes soon healed – and the villagers started to listen” (Witch Hunt […]).Therefore, knowledge is power and Marapece has decreased the number of murders related to witchcraft accusations by 90% in the villages where this NGO works (Tanzania).
witches are also present in literature. In
the book Wide Sargasso Sea, one of the main characters, Christophine, went to
jail because she was convicted of witchcraft. This woman has many
characteristics of a witch. First, she was independent because she did not want
to marry someone, but she still had two children. Second, she was working to
have financial independency and she had her own house. She said: “I thank my
God. I keep my money. I don’t give it to no worthless man” (p. 68). Third,
she practiced Obeah which looks like Voodoo.
She was lucky to still be alive because, as mentioned earlier, women accused of
witchcraft are usually tortured and killed. For instance, in the poem Spelling
from Margaret Atwood, there are lines about witch persecution: “Ancestress:
the burning witch/ her mouth covered by leather/ to strangle words.” This is a
protestation against all the persecution done to women, including the accusing
them of witchcraft to keep them quiet and under men’s control.
it is our duty as citizens of the world to speak up and tell what are the
atrocities that are still done to women. By raising people’s awareness, more
organizations will demystify old beliefs about witches, and more women will
speak up for their rights.
Atwood, M. (2003, January 3). Spelling. PoemHunter.com. Retrieved from http://www.poemhunter.com.
Tanzania. (2011). HelpAge International. Retrieved from http://www.helpage.org
Witch Hunt: Africa's Hidden War on Women. (2009, March 12). The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk
Witch Hunts in Africa. www.liberatedthinking.com. Retrieved from http://www.liberatedthinking.com
Hag or Crone as Symbol by Guillaume Lauzière
is defined in the Canadian Oxford dictionary as: an ugly old woman and a witch.
It is often seen in fairy tales as a symbol of anger, jealousy, hate and as
something to be feared. Hags and Crones were envious of prettier and younger
women who were prettier and more attractive.
could be seen as an occult form of a reclusive person since they were often cast
away from the mainstream of the villages. They were usually alone with no one to
care about because they were usually ugly. They had to perform some sort of
mysterious profession to make a leaving, such as healer, herbalist, midwife, and
to conduct burial preparation. Because of this, they could be seen as strong
minded woman and also be seen as witch because of their knowledge over nature;
therefore, they were seen as helpful or armful but they always seemed to be cast
parallel could be made of the Hag and Crone and the mad women in the attic since
they were seen in women writings. These women do not take care of their physical
features and are strong minded. They do not fear to say what they think at any
moment. Often feared, they are sometimes necessary to the development of a story
giving an almost mystical aspect. They do so either to be armful or to help the
protagonist. They are, most of the time, secondary characters.
There is no strong equivalence for men regarding the hag and crone. Only woman could occupy this function and have ‘’supernatural powers.’’ Men who were reclusive could live on their own without the need of occupying this occult aspect of society because they were living in a patriarchal society; ugly and lonely women had to sustain their living in some way and they found a mysterious way of doing it, which gave them power over the patriarchal society. They could live on their own but they had to do it with the judgment of others. The lack of youth and beauty was their only flaws, if only they were flaws…
Alma Iris. "Old Women, Hags And Crones." Open
28 Feb. 2009. Web. 22 Nov. 2011.
Def. 1. The
Canadian Oxford Dictionary.
2nd ed. Print.