The II International Feminist Meeting on Witch Hunting was held in Madrid during the weekend of October 29-30, when the entire world resurrects the parodic iconography that only in sexy satanic costumes generates more than eight million dollars annually. Organized by the Madrid node of the Memory of the Witches collective together with the historian Silvia Federici, this second congress focused on the current validity of the hunts, showing that this open war against women did not end in a story of feudal superstition.
The witch hunt never stopped, it continued through colonization and recolonization caused by the debt crisis of the 1990s. For this reason, it is currently experiencing a rebound fueled by the rights around the world. We cannot think about this phenomenon without understanding the processes that in recent decades have contributed to the global expansion of capitalism across the four continents. In recent years, women have been kidnapped, tortured and burned for witchcraft in different parts of the world, such as Ghana, India or Papua New Guinea. As in the first cycles of the hunt, the accusations of witchcraft go hand in hand with the intensification of patriarchy, the impoverishment of the masses, the destruction of common goods, forced privatizations, the rise of religious fundamentalism, etc. Once again, women are the first victims. Our lives are devalued, because we are the main subject of social reproduction.
It is surprising how almost exactly the same narratives are resurrected, accusing us of similar evil powers. If 17th and 17th century witches were blamed for ruining crops and making their neighbors sick, 21st century feminists have been blamed for spreading the covid-19 and the emergence of the pandemic. If before they accused us of offering children to the devil, now they accuse us of indoctrinating them in schools. Let’s not forget sounds cases of witch hunting in the Spanish Statesuch as conversion therapies, established obstetric violence, incitement against trans people, the persecution of Pamela Palenciano or the police set-up known as Free Childhood Case, whose affected were able to briefly participate in the Meeting. In addition, the fires are being lit again in those places where neoliberalism demands the forced implantation of capitalist ways of doing things, and the monetary economy is imposed on the shared wealth of the commons. Among the international speakers, there was the opportunity to listen to Sashiprava Bindhani, one of the authors of the witch hunt prevention law in Orisa (India); Tanja Seter, artist and activist against the six camps where Ghanaian women are currently tortured and killed under the accusation of witchcraft; and Nancy Santi, the first curaca of Ecuador and a member of the Memory of the Witches node in said country.
This congress has given space to militant research outside the academic circuits. It is a women’s movement from below, since the mainstream university circuit has hardly paid attention to the phenomenon. During the presentations, the historiographical field of the witch hunt was also supported by the theoretical points of view of Marxist feminists and decolonial and anti-European ecofeminists. in conversation with Silvia Federici for Pikara Magazine, this ensured that a harsh opposition between the two schools of thought can hardly be sustained if viewed through the prism of the violent persecution against witches and Calibans. At different times, she wanted to emphasize that the history of the transformation of women into servants of men goes hand in hand with the history of enslaved, racialized and persecuted people for sexual and gender dissidence. To fight against the witch hunt is also to fight for the liberation of all the Calibans. Therefore, we speak of a framework of reflection that allows past and present events to be combined; and that has occurred and occurs in all social classes and in all Western or violently colonized territories. However, it is the only global event that has not only been silenced and forgotten historiographically and politically, but is also ridiculed and folklorized through brooms and cauldrons. What other mass genocide has turned the victim into a tourist attraction?
Ignoring women’s history is another form of gender violence. Memory of the witches is born from the importance of reading history not only as domination, but also as resistance. In their attempt to recover the memory of this femicide, in addition to the different presentations, three initiatives created by the group itself were presented. The first of them, the documentary “a witch story”, born from the confluence during the First Meeting (Iruña, 2019) between the filmmaker Yolanda Pividal and the writer Alice Markham-Cantor, a direct descendant of Martha Carrier, a witch hanged during the salem witch trials of 1692. In it, the history of Markham-Cantor is reconstructed through his ancestor, while at the same time witnessing the process of writing Caliban and the witch. The second action consisted of an itinerary of the repression against the sorceresses of Madrid, where it was possible to map the spaces of detention, torture and public punishment by installing plaques in commemoration of the women executed by the Inquisition. The Madrid node has published the book Walk. Madrid and the witch hunt fruit of this research. Finally, the Terrassa feminist collective presented a similar action in honor of the five women executed for witchcraft in their city, in 1619, a historical event that they rescued from absolute oblivion despite being one of the few processes in which complete documentation is preserved.
Born as a result of reading Caliban and the witch: women, body and original accumulationthe colective witches memory It has different offices inside and outside the Spanish State and remains open to any collaboration. Since 2018, it has been working outside institutions in order to investigate, recover and raise awareness around past and present hunts. Because when we are afraid of being silenced, we are annulled in our own childbirth, they impose us or prevent us from caring, they call us crazy and intern us against our will, criminalize us due to lack of resources, label us as migrants or accuse us of not being true women are connecting our history with that of all those persecuted, punished and disciplined by the capitalist state for witches.