Herbal healers and devil dealers: a study of healers and their gendered persecution in the medieval period
Thesis: M.A., (History), California State University, Sacramento (2009)
Long before written record, men and women have known the healing properties of herbs and medicinal arts have been practiced even before the first civilizations emerged. This ancient tradition of treating infirmity with herbal medicants was especially significant during the late middle ages, when women healers became a target and were cast as enemies of society. This thesis examines the evolution of the female healing tradition, focusing on the role of women as healers and their devaluation to witches during the renaissance and early modern periods (1500-1700). This study will also address why women and especially those identified as healers were singled out in the witch crazes that sporadically raged throughout western Europe for over two centuries.
In the ancient world, herbs were an essential aspect of life. Early societies passed down the knowledge of herbal remedies for centuries; this learning came much earlier than both writing and history. People used herbs that were available in the local area to heal their wounds and ailments. To define a point at which this learning began is impossible. It simply grew organically, one civilization co-opting the medicinal knowledge from their ancestors and adopting other herbs and herbal traditions as new cultures and civilizations were encountered. The first point in history from which there is written record and thus a good place to begin is ancient Sumer.