Witches have been around longer than we think. Their origin, in fact, well precedes the Middle Ages, which perhaps helped to create their legendary image, and is lost in the myths of history. Witches have always practiced medicine, often streaked with magic, helping to keep the ancient ritualistic and symbolic approach to disease alive.
Starting from the huge pool of herbal knowledge passed down by witches into the popular tradition, Erika Maderna conceptually continues the work begun with the successful Medichesse, and describes the relationship between witches and medicine: from myth's imagination and literary figures, to the biography of some historical healers, on trial for magic.
This richly illustrated essay recounts the events of those who history has called evil, enchantresses, sorceresses, witches, focusing on aspects concerning their medicinal knowledge, first through the genesis of their archetype, then unravelling incidents of persecution in the biographical and human stories of seven women accused of practicing therapeutic magic in different periods.
We will get to know Elena "the dragon", who was considered to be possessed; the fortune-teller Gostanza, who was arrested because she knew the practices of "making medicine" and "measuring clothes"; Benvegnuda Pincinella, who was denounced as a witch, despite having cared for the Podestà of Brescia's daughter.
The book pays tribute to these figures, and tries to repiece the rumours and shreds of lives that have enjoyed the perhaps fortuitous privilege of survival.
Erika Maderna, who graduated in Classical Literature from the University of Pavia, lives in Grosseto. With Aboca Edizioni she has published:Aromi sacri, fragranze profane. Simboli, mitologie e passioni profumatorie nel mondo antico (2009); Medichesse. La vocazione femminile alla cura (2012); Le mani degli dèi. Mitologie e simboli delle piante officinali nel mito greco (2016).