This series focuses on the region from where the roots of Western Judaic and Christian civilization of today are traced: the northeastern, eastern, and southeastern region surrounding the Mediterranean  from Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine,  Jordan, Iraq, (western) Iran, and Egypt).  A similar evolution and change happened in the (farther) East that became dominated by Islam and Hinduism.

To read the full series posted to date, and other Zeitgeist Change Commentaries by Janet Wise go to

Note: The term androcracy is used to describe a social system ruled through force, or threat of force by men. This term derives from Greek root words Andros or “man,” and kratos (as in democratic), or “ruled.”




“Therefore a wicked woman is by her nature quicker to waver in her faith, and consequently quicker to abjure the faith, which is the root of witchcraft.

And as to her other mental quality, that is, her natural will; when she hates someone whom she formerly loved, then she seethes with anger and impatience in her whole soul, just as the tides of the sea are always heaving and boiling. Many authorities allude to this cause. Ecclesiastics xxv: There is no wrath above the wrath of a woman.”

                The Malleus Maleficarum: or Hammer of Witches, Part I, Question 6, Concerning Witches who Copulate with Devils; Why is it that Women are Chiefly Addicted to Evil Superstitions? (1484), by Heinrich Godfrey Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, Catholic Dominican Inquisitors[1]


Quietly disregarding the turmoil of wars and plagues, women in these dark centuries went about their daily work, hurrying along the narrow streets with their medical bags and torch-lights on a stormy night to care for a woman in labor, or stooping at a fireplace to make a cup of hot calamint tea for a crying child, or filling a pig’s bladder with hot water to warm the feet of a fainting pilgrim, or producing an opium pill and giving a treatment for a headache. They soldiered on in this Church dominated world that held them in disdain. When plague raged across the continent and women much more so than medical men braved the disease to care for the sick, and ease the pain and discomfort of the dying, in 581 A.D. the Fathers of the Church were asking in all seriousness whether or not women were reasoning animals or mere brutes without a soul.  And having with much logic decided in the negative, the Church decreed that women could no longer be given position in it. A century later it went further: henceforth women were not allowed to speak (in church or in regard to church); “non enim eis loqui permissum est, sed subjici sicut dixit lex.”[2]

The anti-woman crescendo was building; it was to get a lot uglier and vicious. But before we get to that, let us look at the home life of the average woman of these Dark Ages that lasted through the 18th century in Britain and the European continent and contrast it with what archaeologists have found to have existed thousands of years earlier on Minoan Crete, in Egypt, and in Neolithic Anatolia and Sumer. “The ordinary house was scarcely more than a shelter of one story. The floors were bare earth; there were no carpets, no glass windows, no chimneys. Most houses had but one room, and the smoke from a fire in the center of it found exit through a small hole in the roof or between the eaves. Even in the time of Chaucer[3] English cottages were no better than those of the twelfth century and before. Travelers were obliged to sleep on and under straw, perhaps in a loft with other members of a family or their friends, and share the rest of the house with pigs and hens and the donkey. In the living room, near the fire, was a movable trestle table in the center of which a bowl of food might be placed into which everybody dipped his bread, and one large cup from which everybody drank. The bedding along the walls, and also the covering of the floor, was of straw or rushes more or less filthy and full of remnants of food and rubbish, and alive with vermin. Patients as well as healthy people slept in their clothes. No indoor or outdoor plumbing for sewage control (as found on Minoan Crete dating back to the 4th and 3rd millennium B.C.E.); raw sewage ran in the streets and gutters. Rats and vermin proliferated and spread plague after plague.”[4] While the castles of the wealthy were as primitive and uncomfortable, their building upgrade was that they were built with high walls surrounded by moats to barricade them for security. Again, we see how the advent of the Christian male God reversed the high arts of civilization achieved by the Neolithic Goddess cultures and sent Western civilization into nearly two millennium of darkness, war, pestilence, barbarous living, and violence slaughtering millions and killing millions more through disease. It would not improve until the end of the 18th century when the age of enlightenment would challenge and to a degree overcome and outlaw the misguided non-scientific and philosophical teachings of the Church – by then, both the Catholic Church and the Reformationists.

It was in the 5th century when hordes of Goths descended upon Italy and Rome was sacked (410 A.D.).  With a much weakened and reduced Roman Empire, the Scots and Saxons raided Britain, the Visigoths invaded the regions south of the Danube, the Vandals became masters in Spain, the Franks made inroads in Gaul and pirates roamed the seas. Attila and his half million wild Huns overran Europe as far as the Rhine; and from the north came Theodoric crushing everything in his path and setting up a kingdom in opposition to the rule of Justinian in Constantinople. Southern Italy was ruled by Pope Gregory the First, who paid his army with revenues from the Church.[5] The centuries of Egyptian and Greek progress of medicine (passed onto the Romans via their conquering those nations) came to a standstill.

In spite of barbarian chiefs becoming rulers, Christianity spread and the Church grew in temporal power. Christians began to rely on holy relics, hanging wax models of diseased organs in churches, and to have faith in saintly men interpreting their dreams as a method of treating disease. The dark ages were a time when pestilences of all kinds raged, and charlatanism flourished as never before. Great numbers of men and women fled to monasteries that had sprung up from Ireland, to Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Egypt, to find rest and peace. At one such institution not far from Alexandria, twenty thousand nuns were mortifying their flesh while they copied books, sang psalms, and prepared for the next world.

In the 6th century a terrible plague spread all over the Western world – from 5,000 to 10,000 people died every day in Constantinople alone. Every pregnant woman died, for there was no known cure. Procopius of Caesarea (500 – 565 A.D.) a prominent Byzantine scholar tells us that male physicians fled from the cities, but that the women remained to do what they could to help the sufferers and pray with the dying. It was during this time that the Church Fathers were pondering whether women were beasts without brains and if they had a soul, and deciding in the negative. Lynn Thorndike (1882-1965) an American historian of medieval science and alchemy wrote that nothing of any value in medicine was written during the thousand years between Leo the Great, who died in A.D. 461, and Leo the Tenth, in 1521, when the Reformation was in its early years.[6]

The Church effectively put a stop to scientific experimentation; they forbade dissections. The laws of retribution – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and death of the physician or surgeon if he or she lost the life of the patient during an operation prevented even the best medical practitioner from using surgical measures. In addition to the deplorable lack of medical education and hygiene, and the presence of religious zeal and medical quackery promoted by the Church, more war and plagues would ravage the European continent.

The Church permitted certain crimes to be expatiated by gifts to it; absolution another mechanism of extracting wealth from the populace. Those who had no money or goods with which to pay for absolution might make amends by a pilgrimage to the Holy Shrines at Jerusalem. From earliest Christian times people who could afford the long journey had been fired with pious zeal to go to Jerusalem as a penance or to fulfill a vow. Due to Church propaganda and zealotry, there became a burning desire in the hearts of belligerent Christians to drive the hated Mohammedans out of Palestine. So in 1096 A.D. hundreds of thousands of people, men and women, answered the call to win absolution and indulgences – meaning they could earn or pay to the Church for the right to commit any sin without incurring God’s retribution – promised by Pope Urban to all who followed the Crusaders’ banner. Only a small remnant of this army lived to reach the Holy Land. It is said that 800,000 people were killed or died in this first Crusade, of whom only 70,000 were Saracens (Islamic Arabs). Great numbers of Jews were also tortured and murdered by the Crusaders.

Note: In addition to confiscating property and paying for absolution, paying for indulgences (paying to be excused for committing a sin) was another corrupt method of the Catholic Church in acquiring that $65 billion in assets!

There would be a total of nine Crusades lasting until the end of the 13th century. In the third Crusade, in which we find Frederick Barbarossa, Richard the Lion Hearted, and Philip Augustus II of France, there seem to have been fewer physicians and surgeons than in preceding Crusades. So, when the demoralized army reached Jerusalem, almost decimated, physicians were sent to care for them by their noble Islamic enemy, Saladin. There was so much sickness in the towns through which the Crusaders passed that hospitals were needed, and sprung up all along the way. Although the conditions in many of the hospitals were deplorable, all historians testify to the kindness and sympathy of the caregivers – most of them women.[7] It is unknown how many people died during the Crusades, but the numbers had to have been in the multiple millions – all for Christian religious zeal and hatred of an opposing religion whose bloodlines traced back to Ishmael, son of Abraham (and Hagar); the same Abraham bloodline of Christ.[8] Of course Christ was a descendant of Isaac, son of Abraham and Sarah, so it was matrilineal bloodlines that were at the heart of that hatred.[9]  But that can’t be, because Christians are an androcratic society that traces bloodlines through the father. (Well, most of the time – more on that to come.)

Historians have lamented about how the enmity of the Church for the Arabs and Jews of southern Europe of the Middle Ages lost any progress made in art and architecture and science, since any and all was due to them – Arabs having conquered and settled in Spain. The Arab ‘Moors’ from Persia, Egypt, Syria, and North Africa under the rule of the Lombards as well as their own rulers lived peaceably in Spain and Portugal, then called Al Andalus, for four hundred years. While the rest of Europe was mostly barbarian, the Arab Muslims introduced their numerals, copied and translated manuscripts of many languages, and established public libraries, colleges and hospitals on a magnificent scale. And, of course, they were hygienic, frequenting their public baths segregated for men and women.

Among both the Arabs and the Jews, all medical midwifery was left to the women; but as well, the women were physicians on a broader scale. Among the Jews of the 12th and 13th centuries, women physicians were in great demand; the Christians had special confidence in Jewish eye doctors and surgeons, both male and female, though the Church refused to allow any Christian to employ a Jew.[10] The wealthier did it in secret, though it was dangerous, especially for the Jew.

During the centuries when the Arab Moors and Jews flourished in Al Andalus, it was the time of great monasteries of Britain and the rest of Europe, though the people lived in the one-room hovels already described. Many women were educated as nuns. We are told that during this time women studied medicine from one another in every part of Gaul (France) in order to become good Samaritans, and that they traveled far and wide wherever they were told that there was sickness and suffering (as there was much during the Crusades). They healed the gravest diseases and wounds, gathered herbs, tended midwifery cases, and sometimes lived alone in huts or trunks of trees to study or teach their pupils all because of religious zeal, believing that their sacrifice in this world would allow them to live in the after world atoned of original sin.[11]

Famous women who served in medicine during these centuries include Heloise (1101 – 1164) of France, and Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) of Germany.  Also in Germany (as well as other European countries) the women of royal families such as that of Andech and Meran were all educated to care for the sick. Among them was Hedwig of Silesia. She was sent to Kissingen for an education in the convent of Franken, was married in 1186, and became the mother of six children. She founded several hospitals, where all the members of her family tended the sick. She also founded a leper hospital and one or more Cistercian nunneries. Her sister, Agnes, married Philip Augustus of France, and another sister Gertrude, became the mother of the beautiful Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. Her daughters-in-law, Anna and Agnes, were both famous in the following century for their medical skill.[12] And so it was in Europe that women were devoting their time, both in the convent and out in the world, to quiet devotions and the care of the sick. German medievalist historian Karl Weinhold says that they knew as much of the healing art as the men of the universities. They had been taught folk medicine, the knowledge of the roots and herbs – along, it is true, with symbolic remedies, stones, signs, prayers and amulets. Some of their ancestors had been priestesses as well as healers in pagan times, and they had studied the medical works of Saint Hildegard of Bingen.[13] All were marginalized by the patriarchal rulers of the Catholic Church.


[1] Note: Because court records were often not accurately maintained and preserved over time, the actual number has been difficult to verify, other than it has been possible to trace the numbers well into the hundreds of thousands with other historical writings documenting the 9,000,000 figure. In Germany alone, 100,000 witch burnings have been carefully documented. There were very likely many more. At the same time, there has been a concerted effort to downplay the numbers by those either sympathetic to, or aligned with, the Church. It is interesting to note that in reading historical accounts written closer to the time in history that this heinous crime was being perpetrated onto the masses of women in Western society by the Church, that the estimated numbers were greater, with factual accounts provided, and that they have lessened in later writer’s estimations. This indicates that over time those sympathetic to the Church have lessened the numbers by methods common to those who create deceptions; scoffing the credulousness of the numbers, disguising in Church-sympathizer pseudo-studies which are biased, and simply by repeating the premise of the lie often enough that it becomes the standard-bearer of truth. No matter what the true numbers were – and this writer is inclined to believe the older historical accounts which studied it closer to the time in which the crime occurred – the victims’ crime was being women; and it invariably had to do with the loathing of her sex and sexuality.

[2] Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead, M.D., Women in Medicine: From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century, 1938, p 93, quoting from Council of Nantes, Canon III, A.D. 660)

[3] Quoting from the Nonnes Preestes Tale: “The Poure wydwe (widow) somdel stape in age” was so stiff she could no longer dance. Her cottage was black with soot, and over-eating had never made her sick for her diet was milk and brown bread, and occasionally an egg.

[4] Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead, M.D., Women in Medicine: From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century

[5] Ibid. p. 86

[6] Ibid. p. 94

[7] Ibid. pp. 166-169

[8] Note: A Crusader Order, the Knights Templar, had its beginning in Burgundy in France in A.D. 1119 to protect pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. Their gowns bore a red cross. They were soon to become the greatest financiers among the Christians.  Due to King Philip IV being so far in debt with the Templars and his desire to confiscate their wealth which was said to be enormous – booty accumulated over the two centuries – he had the leaders arrested and got Pope Clement V to order that the Templars be dissolved. Jacques de Molay (1244 – 1314) was the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar. Philip had de Molay and many other French Templars tortured into making false confessions; when de Molay later retracted his confession, Philip had him slowly burned upon a scaffold on an island in the River Seine in Paris, in March 1314. The Templars’ torture until confession, and death by burning paved the way for the witch trials and inquisitions of the following centuries.

[9] Note: Muhammad (also translated as Mohammad, Mohammed, or Muhammed) was one of the descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham and Sara’s Egyptian slave Hagar. He was born in about 570 A.D. in Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia. He didn’t begin preaching his revelations from God until after he was aged forty, and Islam didn’t begin spreading across Arabic nations and beyond until about the 7th century A.D. Prior to the spread of Islam, the entire region from Anatolia to India had a history much like as has been described where the earlier cultures worshipped the Goddess but then later incorporating male animistic gods as deities. Muhammad is believed by Muslims and Bahá’ís to be a messenger and prophet of the male monotheistic God, and by most Muslims as the last prophet sent by God for mankind. Muhammad is generally considered to be the founder of Islam, (a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion articulated by the Qur’an, a text considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God (Arabic: ????? All?h) although this is a view not shared by Muslims. Muslims consider him to be the restorer of an uncorrupted original monotheistic faith of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, all of whom they believe to be prophets of God. Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable and the purpose of existence is to love and serve God. Muslims also believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed at many times and places before, including through Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Many of their stories, including the creation story in the Garden of Eden are similar to those of Genesis in the biblical Old Testament. Christians and Jews consider Muhammad to be a false prophet. A religious war commenced when Muslim nations reclaimed much of the Levant (the region surrounding what was Canaan) from the Christians, and it has waged ever since.

[10] Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead, The History of Women in Medicine, pp. 170-174

[11] Ibid. p. 178, quoting from Ernest Langlois, Origines et Sources du Roman de la Rose, 1891.

[12] Ibid. pp. 181-182

[13] Ibid. p. 222, quoting Karl Weinhold, Die Deutschen in dem Mittelalter, 1882, vol. I, pp. 156-160, and also in quoting Lena Eckenstein, Women Under Monasticism, 1896, writing, “The author of the Holy Maidenhood in the thirteenth century called the nun the free woman, and contrasted her with the wife, who in his eyes was a slave. Later, however, in the 16th century, Erasmus said that the women of the convents were slaves as opposed to the free woman of the home, who was then well-protected and gently treated.

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Janet Wise

Janet Wise