Many, many years ago I bought a book called Witches by Erica Jong. It’s illustrations are just stunning and at the same time heartbreaking, especially the ones alongside her poem For All Those Who Died. It’s a poem honouring those sisters wrongly brought to trial for being … well for just being. It’s a hard read but one I always read aloud at Samhain 🖤
For All Those Who Died
For all those who died-
stripped naked, shaved, shorn.
For all those who screamed
in vain to the Great Goddess
only to have their tongues
ripped out at the root.
For all those who were pricked, racked, broken on the wheel
for the sins of their Inquisitors.
For all those whose beauty
stirred their torturers to fury;
& for all those whose ugliness did the same.
For all those who were neither ugly nor beautiful,
but only women who would not submit.
For all those quick fingers
broken in the vise.
For all those soft arms
pulled from their sockets.
For all those budding breasts
ripped with hot pincers.
For all those midwives killed merely for the sin of delivering man to an imperfect world.
For all those witch-women, my sisters,
who breathed freer as the flames took them, knowing as they shed their female bodies,
the seared flesh falling like fruit in the flames, that death alone would cleanse them of the sin for which they died the sin of being born a woman,
who is more than the sum of her parts.