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Inquisitions | The Nation

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Inquisitions

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Women Possessed

 

Theologian and friar Martín de Castañega confirmed that the Devil preferred women to men, because they are pusillanimous and have less robust hearts and more humid brains.

Satan seduced them by caressing them with his goat's hoof and his wooden claw, or by disguising himself as a toad dressed as a prince.

Exorcisms of possessed women brought overflow crowds to the churches.

Protecting the breast of the exorcist were scapulars filled with consecrated salt, blessed rue and the hair and nails of saints. Crucifix held high, he did battle with witchcraft. The bedeviled woman swore, howled, bit, shrieked insults in the tongues of Hell, and with loud laughter tore off her clothes and proffered her naughty parts. The climax came when the exorcist rolled on the floor hugging the body where the Devil had made himself at home, until the convulsions and wailing ceased.

Afterward, some searched the floor for the nails and bits of glass vomited by the possessed.

 

The Devil Is Female

 

Malleus Maleficarum, also known as the Hammer of Witches, recommends the most ruthless techniques for exorcising titty longhaired demons.

At the request of Pope Innocent VIII, two German inquisitors, Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger, wrote the book that became the juridical and theological basis for the tribunals of the Holy Inquisition.

The authors demonstrate that witches, Satan's harem, represent women in their natural state, for all witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable. And they warn that such beings of pleasant aspect, fetid touch and deadly company enchant men and attract them, serpent's hiss, scorpion's tail, only to annihilate them.

That treatise on criminology advises torturing everyone suspected of witchcraft. Those who confess deserve the stake; those who do not also deserve the stake, because only a witch, fortified by her lover the Devil at the witches' Sabbath, could resist such suffering without spilling all.

Pope Honorius III decreed:

"Women should not speak. Their lips carry the stigma of Eve, who led men to perdition."

Eight centuries later, the Catholic Church still denies women the pulpit.

The same fear drives fundamentalist Muslims to mutilate women's genitalia and cover their faces.

And a sense of relief moves Orthodox Jewish men to begin each day by whispering:

"Thanks be to God for not making me a woman."

 

Teresa

 

Teresa of Ávila entered the convent to save herself from Hell, the conjugal Hell. Better to be a slave to God than servant to a brute.

But St. Paul gave women three rights: to obey, to serve and to remain silent. So the representative of His Holiness the Pope found Teresa guilty of being an apprehensive and unsettled female, disobedient and contumacious, who under the guise of devotion invents evil doctrines against St. Paul, who commanded women not to teach.

In Spain, Teresa founded several convents where the nuns not only gave classes but were in charge, where virtue was prized and lineage worthless, where no one had to submit proof of clean blood.

In 1576 she was accused before the Inquisition, because her grandfather claimed to be a true Christian but was a converted Jew, and because her mystical trances were the work of the Devil ensconced in her body.

Four centuries later, on his deathbed, Francisco Franco wielded Teresa's right arm to defend himself from the Devil. By one of those strange turns life takes, Teresa had become a saint and a role model for Iberian women, and except for one foot, which ended up in Rome, her remains were housed in several churches around Spain.

 

Juana

 

Like Teresa of Ávila, Juana Inés de la Cruz became a nun to remain free of the matrimonial cage.

Like Teresa, in the convent her talent caused offense. Did this head of a woman contain the brain of a man? Why did she have a man's handwriting? Since she was such a good cook, why would she want to think? Deriding her questioners, she answered:

"What could we women know but kitchen philosophy?"

Like Teresa, Juana wrote, although the priest Gaspar de Astete warned her that Christian maidens need not know how to write, and it might cause them harm.

Like Teresa, Juana not only wrote but, scandal of scandals, she wrote undeniably well.

In different centuries, on different shores of the same sea, Juana the Mexican and Teresa the Spaniard defended, aloud and on paper, the despised half of the world.

Like Teresa, Juana was threatened by the Inquisition. And the church, her church, persecuted her for extolling human concerns as much or more than divine ones, and for seldom obeying, and for questioning far too much.

With blood, not ink, Juana signed her confession. She vowed eternal silence. And mute, she died.

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