Center For Arts & Equity

Hysterical Society

Many of us were taught the major religious movements and the rise of modern science in early modern European history. Under this mainstream narrative is an untold story: For three centuries, diverse societies were consumed by a panic over alleged witches in their midst. Witch-hunts, especially in Central Europe, resulted in the trial, torture, and execution of tens of thousands of victims, about three-quarters of whom were women.

Arguably, neither before nor since have adult European women been selectively targeted for such large-scale atrocities.

This genocide erased millenia of diverse indigenous knowledge systems and social practices. Medicine, astronomy, ethnobotany, physiology, much of what was known was lost or only survived as chopped up part of themselves in “old wives tales.”

Centuries of fear, banishment and dominance control has affected our bodies and our minds. We are living only one story: one of individuality, separation, and fear. Parts of our bodies have been severed, blamed or threatened if they do not conform with this story.

Hysterical Society reclaims the collective body and our animistic nature from dominance systems. We see behind a modern myth of Hysteria in which a uterus that roams around the body provoking women’s evil predispositions such as greed, malice, deception and lasciviousness.

We connect that hysteria narrative to the suppression of embodied ways of knowing – sensitivity, curiosity, intuition, pattern recognition – that liberate us from systems of domination and fear.

We still carry this power. Many of us hear the cry of earth roaring in our bodies. Inflammation rises as the temperatures do. Our immune systems fight against some unseen enemy. Our bodies seek some act of control, of power, as though we can stop the external world by quieting ourselves. We dream of things that seem impossible. But are they?

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