New Exhibition Shares Untold Story of the European Witch Hunts
Cali White, the exhibition’s lead curator, explains how inherited trauma from the so-called Burning Times still affects women today
A new exhibition has opened in Lancaster, sharing the untold story of the European Witch Hunts (1450-1750), when thousands of innocent women – branded as ‘witches’ – were tortured and burnt to death, leaving a wound in our collective psyche. The I am Witch – Tales from the Roundhouse exhibition opened on 5 January to the public at The Storey in Lancaster and will run until 28 January. The exhibition explores how inherited ancestral trauma, sparked by the European Witch Hunts (1450-1750), may still affects us today and how a legacy of witch-hunting continues to divide us.
‘Our educational and experiential exhibition explores the history of the so-called Burning Times, the vital history lesson mostly overlooked at school,’ says Cali White, lead curator of the exhibition, which was co-created by 33 fellow women known as the Silver Spoons Collective.
‘In multi-platform artworks we look at how epigenetically inherited trauma from those times continues to affect us, and how creativity, ceremony and collaboration offer a threefold pathway to healing. We also want to dispel witch myths of ‘black pointy hats, devil worshipping, warty-nosed old women’ and tell the untold story of what really happened.’
‘Sharing the trauma-clearing personal journeys of 33 women,’ Cali continues, ‘evocatively expressed through interactive installations, painting, film, music, performance and storytelling – we offer a powerful opportunity for reflection and reconnection, and the chance to be part of a growing movement for social change and healing.’
The Silver Spoons Collective is a sisterhood of UK-based women working to heal their intergenerational trauma inherited from the Burning Times. The group’s work was born out of a pilgrimage made by psychotherapist, Cali White, across the UK and Ireland in 2019, during which she gathered women in ceremonies to honour our ‘witch’ ancestors. Coming together at the beginning of 2020, the group committed to collectively transform the destructive behavioural patterns caused by inherited trauma, which were negatively affecting their lives. Cali explains that the exhibition shares the intimate journeys women have made, confronting feelings of fear, pain, and rage, and building healthy ways of living.
Comprising of 4000 hand-printed and stitched individual pieces of fabric, the centre-piece of the exhibition is the Medicine Spoon Memorial, co-created by over 1000 women worldwide, led by artist Caren Thompson, to honour the 4000+ women from the UK and Ireland whose names lay forgotten in trial records during the Burning Times. Alongside the main exhibition, a three-night programme of live events will feature spoken word, music and dance performances, and a series of daily workshops offers opportunities for learning and empowerment.
Highlighting how modern-day witch hunts continue today, particularly in India, Africa and Brazil, the exhibition will also raise funds for charities working to support the growing numbers of innocent women being targeted.
The exhibition reflects an emergent modern movement working to undo the injustices of the Burning Times, including a campaign, ‘Witches of Scotland’, led by Claire Mitchell QC and author Zoe Venditozzi, which has just secured the support of the Scottish Government to clear the names of those women in Scotland unfairly accused and convicted as witches under the Witchcraft Act of 1563.
“The Burning Times divided our communities, taught us to play small in order to survive and broke our trust in the people closest to us,” Cali White explains. “The scars we still carry show up in many ways – fears of being seen or heard, experiences of betrayal, mistrust of other women, feelings of disconnection to nature, irrational fears, and struggles to feel at home in ourselves. 25 generations on we are left feeling powerless, isolated, stuck, divided, unsafe and unsupported. It is affecting our health and wellbeing in so many ways and we’re tired of it!”
Cali White shares eight ways women today can carry the legacy wounds of the Burning Times:
1. You feel a deep rooted mistrust of other women and hide your vulnerability to protect yourself.
2. You carry a fear of being seen or heard which keeps you from fulfilling your potential.
3. You don’t feel “safe” in your own skin and suffer from self-esteem issues, anxiety or eating disorders.
4. You feel the need to compete with other women and experience jealousy when you deem them more successful than you.
5. You lack a spiritual connection to Nature and have little understanding of the medicinal and healing properties of plants or herbs.
6. You have a fear of authority and prioritise the needs of others over your own in order to comply.
7. You fear conflict and fall into the passive role of “people pleaser” to avoid criticism or judgment, rejection or ostracisation.
8. You live in one of the 36 nations across the world, including India, Africa and South America where modern-day witch hunts are on the increase and where thousands of innocent people are tortured and murdered every year.
‘The Burning Times affected everybody within a community, men, women and children alike, not just those branded as ‘witches’,’ says Cali White. ‘Our whole nation was traumatised and divided by what became a mass hysteria, passed down over 20 generations. The legacy of this has left a collective wound which affects us all in some way, and which I feel we are now being collectively called to understand and heal.’
Cali adds, ‘Through the creative telling of our own stories, we invite you on an experiential journey to understand how you too may be carrying these ancestral wounds, along with opportunities to heal them through an inspiring workshop programme.’
The I am Witch – Tales of the Roundhouse: An Exhibition of Hystory, Healing and Hope runs from 5th-28th January, 2022. Tickets cost £13; students & OAPs £7; teens 13-18 admitted free of charge. 50% of profits from the exhibition will be donated to charities working to stop modern-day witch hunts in Africa and India. For further information about the exhibition and to book your place, visit: https://silverspoonscollective.org/the-exhibition. For more details re the Medicine Spoon Memorial in honour and remembrance of our witch ancestors, visit: https://silverspoonscollective.org/the-memorial. To watch a video about the making of the Medicine Spoon Memorial, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4nMqQnjgjk.