Thirsty for a Fresh Take on All Things True Blood?

WELCOME! Thirsty for a fresh take on all things True Blood? Pull up a virtual barstool at the Pierced Pomegranate Tavern where sisters Rachel and Rebecca are serving up juicy feminist analysis with a twist and opening a vein of thoughtful sociocultural dialogue on HBO's hit series.

Like the epic literary salons of eras past - theaters for conversation and debate which were, incidentally, started and run by women; where the spirited debate about the issues of the day ran as copiously as the actual spirits did - but updated for the digital age, the Pierced Pomegranate Tavern is a fun forum for exploring questions ripe for discourse about the human condition & today's most crucial social issues through the medium of True Blood.

Your salonnières are not peddling liquor per se, but they are offering up new and alternative ideas informed by such diverse influences as pop culture, art, music, cultural history, Goddess studies, transformative theory, literature and poetry, and archaeomythology, filtered through the sieve of their own lived experiences as feminist women of a particular age, background, and culture.

This is a space where you - patrons and passersby alike - can view and engage with these perspectives through the lens of True Blood and contribute your own thoughts. So, no matter if you're a Truebie or a more casual viewer of True Blood, or your drink of choice is a pomegranate martini - one of Rachel's favorite cocktails to drink and Rebecca's to mix - an herbal tea, a frothy double mocha latte, or a can of Fresca (wink, wink) you're invited to join the conversation on the show's complexities in a way that can spark transformation.

Hopefully you'll find something to sink your teeth...err...straw, into! PLEASE ENJOY RESPONSIBLY ;-)


The Pierced Pomegranate Tavern is dedicated to exploring social issues and more through the lens of True Blood. As such, you may encounter:

related to the often provocative and adult themes presented by the show

If you choose to enter and participate in this virtual salon, please be prepared to do so in a thoughtful, respectful, and mature fashion with the above in mind. Click here to check out our comment policy. Thanks!


No copyright infringement is intended, all rights to True Blood belong to HBO, credit is ascribed to sites where images appearing here were originally found.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thou Shall Not Suffer a Witch to Live


The Burning Times & Sexual Torture

Did you happen to notice the unholy glee with which these two matter-of-factly discussed the perversely sexualized protocol for burning a witch? Rebecca and I did, and it turned our stomachs.

"You must burn a witch properly, first the calves," the bishop leeringly explained in Spanish to the aristocrat at his side, "the thighs, and the hands, then the torso and forearms"...

...and as added sick delight played across both their faces, he continued, "los senos" (the breasts). 

Marnie's dreaming mind had conjured this diabolic vision, injecting her into the spectacle as an unseen, unheard observer. "This is madness" she shouted as a hooded figure touched his lit torch to the pyre that had been built up around the condemned Antonia, and ran into the crowd. "We must stop this, we have to save her!" Her frantic cries went unnoticed, as the bishop pronounced to the wealthy noble, "She cannot be allowed to die until her face is in flames."

*This scene appears in the video clip below, preceded by some context

Thou shall not suffer a witch to live
perhaps the world's most misogynistic book
(Exodus 22:18)

This single line of scripture also appears in Part One, Question 6 of the infamous Malleus Maleficarium (Latin for “The Hammer of Witches”, or “Hexenhammer” in German).

Written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger and first published in Germany in 1487, it went on to become the de facto manual for the witch-hunters and Inquisitors of the Burning Times in Europe - a brutal period spanning the four centuries preceding the Enlightenment.

Ashes and cobwebs have gathered in the dark corners of our collective memory of the time from the late Middle Ages to the early Modern Era when women [and some men] deemed heretics by the Church were ruthlessly persecuted. In her book Shakti Woman self-described radical feminist healer, independent scholar and wisdom teacher Vicki Noble sweeps them away, revealing the still smoldering embers of remembrance of "the incredible loss of nine million 'witches' (women healers)" (1991, pp. 2-3) still glowing in our psyches.

Noble writes of the Malleus Malleficarum:
This book charged women, in the lewd details that sprang from the repressed minds of the Catholic clergy, with all manner of lust and fornication. But most prominently this book declared in no uncertain terms that any woman who was successful at healing was by definition a witch and would be burned. Children were forced to watch their mothers burn at the stake, and women were routinely raped, violated, and tortured until they confessed to anything the Inquisitors accused them of. (1991, p. 192)
According to Noble, the virulence of the Church's enforced celibacy erupted in the mass acting-out of this most noxious of medieval treatises' prescriptions for identifying and dispatching witches. Women were accused of being “carnal” at the core, the source of every temptation for men, linked with evil, sin, and degradation.

Brazen nakedness was a sign of witches' evil nature
Once held as sacred, female body now represented depravity

The "blaming of the flesh" (Sanchez-Grant, 2008, p. 89) - and its harsh punishment - was part of every Inquisitor's playbook as the female body (seen as naturally unstable, deficient, unruly) became a site of oppression.

In the fevered and repressed minds of the witch-hunters, if sex = evil (Stone, 1976), the punishment must fit the crime.

I hesitated to post the image below due to its graphic nature, but after consulting with Rebecca I decided to go ahead and put it up because it's actually one of the tamer representations of the interrogation by sexual torture inflicted upon accused witches. 

It comes from an excellent slideshow on on the persecution of witches and witchcraft where you'll find other such period illustrations that rival today's most hard-core pornography.

*PLEASE NOTE* We believe that no matter how dark and disturbing, we can't deny our history lest we be doomed to repeat it. However, we do feel some images are just too graphic and offensive for display at the PPT. To view a woodcut depicting the true depth of the depravity of the sexual torture of accused witches (and information on the origins of witchcraft, influences on our modern perceptions of witches, etc.) see Garden of the Witch

According to Noble (1991), the late American radical feminist philosopher, academic, and theologian Mary Daly would cite a parallel between the killing and maiming of women in large numbers during that time to the modern practices of gynecology.

In this vein, Arisika Razak writes of "the cultural rape of women by the dominant health care model" - a model that has usurped the woman-centered and woman-dominated profession of midwifery and placed birthing in the hands of "an obstetric speciality that accepts the myth of the dangerous womb and the hostile vagina" (1991, pp. 165 & 171). She continues that under the Newtonian and Cartesian worldview, the body was seen as a functional machine. The male body was he perfect expression of that machine; the female most imperfect and scarcely worth study. Under this logic, which persists today, the medical profession casually removes the sexual parts of women; breasts, uteri, and ovaries - and a hundred years ago, clitorises.

Interestingly, Razak notes that since pain in labor was sen by the medieval Church as God's punishment to wisdom-seeking Eve, midwives in the Middle Ages were burned as witches for the sin of seeking herbs to reduce women's pain.

The gallery covers witch hunt and Inquisition-related topics ranging from the suppression of dissent & outsiders, Church depictions of witches & witchcraft, and how misogynistic, patriarchal attitudes fed the fear of witches to the persecution of women, torture implements used, witch hunts in America, and witches as scapegoats.

If you're curious (and brave) I encourage you to check out these valuable resources to learn about this shameful time during which the Catholic church seized all property of the witches it murdered and became rich as a result of the plunder; centuries from which records tell of whole villages where all the women were wiped out (Noble, 1991).

Implications of this Barbarous History for Today's World

I hate the disagree with ya, Nan Flanagan, but what happened in Salem, MA in the terrifying year of 1692 when nineteen men and women were hanged as witches, one man was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to confess, and several more people died in jail can't just be chalked up to, "just a bunch of neurotic Puritanettes who needed a good lay". 

The same formula that led to the conflagrations of the Burning Times (fear + trigger = scapegoat) was at play in Salem and still operates in the modern world - as evidenced most recently by last week's terrorist attacks against multiculturalism in Norway that claimed the lives of more than 70 people.

And we are still living in a culture in which, as Razak writes, "male participation in the acts of sexuality and procreation have become so equated with the acting out of hostility, physical oppression, and fear that rape, incest, and sexual abuse and murder of children, and the battering of women have become health issues of pandemic proportions" (1991, p. 165). This is certainly not to brush all men with the broad strokes of modern-day Inquisitors, but the larger societal patterns Razak speaks of are undeniable. 

The Salem Witch Museum serves as an educational resource for the lessons of that time applied to the present day. My husband and I visited in 2005 and I still have our admission stickers glued to my wallet:


There we saw an exhibit asking visitors to consider the phenomenon of witch hunting in the context of contemporary examples of witch hunts: the Japanese-American internment after Pearl Harbor, the McCarthy hearings on Communism and the persecution of the gay community at the start of the AIDS epidemic - these examples of the fear + trigger = scapegoat formula bring the lessons of stereotyping and prejudice full circle.

For some people, Marnie and her circle & their alternative religious practices/lifestyle might just fit the scapegoat bill. Who are the other scapegoats, what other witch hunts are under way today?


~ Rachel

Transcription credits to Fangs, Wands & Fairy Dust


Noble, V. (1991). Shakti woman: Feeling our fire, healing our world. The new female shamanism. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Razak, A. (1991). Toward a Womanist Analysis of Birth. In Orenstein, G.F. (Eds.), Reweaving the world: The emergence of ecofeminism. (pp. 165-172). San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

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