Skin tags, witches and women (the first dermatolog

Attending the University and studying sometimes obscure history, I never forgot a lecture by one very special professor. The class was, I believe, on the Middle Ages.

The question was: “ Why do we call dreadful men ‘pricks’?” Well, it’s not what you think, and the answer is going to surprise you.

During those “good old days” of religious fanaticism and witch hunts (I mean the real witch hunts), it seems there was one physical attribute that would identify a REAL witch: an “extra nipple.” This secondary nipple was, supposedly, the one that the woman used to suckle the devil. And, what was that nipple? Actually, it was a large “skin tag” on her breast.

The technique used to expose the witch was simple and barbaric. The woman was held down and tortured. Without her noticing, a man called a “prick” would jab the “extra nipple” (skin tag) with a sharp needle. If the woman didn’t feel the jab, that was proof positive that she was a witch. (As we all know, the skin tag has no nerves and therefore it was a sure thing she wouldn’t feel it.) Anyway, that’s where the term “prick” came from. (Don’t bother looking it up; it’s not there! Well, another definition is there; the wrong one.)

Furthermore, and most interesting, women became the first dermatologists! Female friends would get together in secret and peruse each other’s bodies to find any dreaded skin tags … and then cut them off. So we have the Middle Ages version of an esthetician. Next time your’re visiting your esthetician you might consider the historical roots of this institution.

Anyway, I never lost my love for history and am still an avid reader. I just thought you might enjoy this little story. I love quirky things like this … that’s probably why I love electrology.

You will love the book, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses by Barbara Ehrenreich. I wish she would have written a longer, more comprehensive version of this book.

Ha ha I have to admit I think I’ve been called a prick once or twice. I didn’t notice a pointed hat or broomstick so I’m assuming it wasn’t a witch??? I’m planning on dunking my wife later because I think she’s a witch sometimes, I looked it up and found a test that might determine her status for sure, it seems a little harsh but I’m sure she’ll understand :wink:
In a trial by ordeal, supposed witches were immersed into a vat of water or pond, and taken out after some time, thus and given the opportunity to confess. This process was usually repeated until the victim drowned or gave up and confessed, leading to them being executed in another way, usually hanging or, more rarely, burning. Also, if they had their hands/feet tied, they would be left under water. If they floated they were guilty of witchcraft, if they sank they were innocent but would have usually drowned anyway. (copied from Wiki)
I am a bit concerned about who’s going to cook dinner when the trial is over but I was fed up with spiders and bats noses anyway…

During the witch trials period in Europe, it is estimated that at least 30,000 women were put to death. As James pointed out, Ehrenreich’s book is important but, in my opinion, maybe a bit too political. I have never heard one additional explanation for the witch trials, but I have often thought that being a witch might have been suspected when the person presented unexplainable behavior caused by mental illness.

Two people very close to me have bi-polar disorder. Indeed, their behavior can, at times, appear to be “demon possession.” Until you know and understand this disorder it can be beyond frightening. I have shared my recent story with Jossie, but it’s enough to say that living with someone with severe bi-polar is beyond challenging. An extreme form can render the person temporarily schizophrenic … actually, the form I am presently dealing with (called schizoaffective disorder).

I have been attending NAMI meetings for the last year to further my understanding. I discovered that 78% of people with bi-polar disorder are women. Yes, I do know about the other suspected causes in Medieval Europe (molds on grain products), but maybe mental illness was another instigator? Especially since the focus was usually women.

If you have a family member or friend with mental illness, do contact your local NAMI organization (also on the internet). They offer free classes (weekly), and it can be the difference between your own happiness and being drawn into the abyss. I have become a big supporter of the mentally ill and I am working with the group to overcome the stigma. Once the patient and society can accept mental illness as just another illness, treatment can change lives. (The ill person seldom wants treatment because of the stigma.) In reality, nearly all of us have some interaction with mental illness (others or ourselves). Mental illness is the last great hurtle for our society.

Yes, history is full of women who have been (and still are today) victims of religious fanaticism. Even some queen was accused conveniently of witch (Anne Boleyn, for example). Sometimes it was because was a nipple more, sometimes because a extra finger in one hand, and bang! they cut off the head even though she only had one. :wink:

Fortunately, there are still witches today, but yes, they are now those who prick … and make magic with Electrolysis. :grin:

Michael, what is the equivalent of a witch, for men (dark side) that make magic?

Warlock (?) Well, sort of …

I just want to chime in here and say, by no means all were those killed during the Witch Hunts women. Many (and in some places, most) were men, and in a lot of the trials the accusers were women. It’s a vast oversimplification to make the witch hunts some kind of patriarchal war against women, though that’s been the recent fad for political and ideological reasons. The word “warlock” is almost never used by modern magical practitioners, having as it does an association with “oathbreaker” and other negative meanings.

Incidentally, witch hunts still go on today. In Africa, tens of thousands of children and the elderly (men and women both) have been accused by Evangelical Christian pastors of being “witches.” Said pastors then demand a hefty fee from their families for “exorcism” or else bring about the mutilation or death of the accused. Sadly, there are now colonies of children living alone in the wilderness, with no one to care for them, because their families or the clergy branded them as “witches.” The dangers of religious fanaticism and the witch-hunt mentality are not relics of the past, but are ever present dangers.

I’m sure that Jesus would not approve of this kind of fanaticism towards children and adults. Africa has always been a basket case of superstitions and cruelty, whether under the banner of politics or religon. These African pastors are not doing this with the knowledge and acceptance of the involved churches headquarters, are they?

Yes, they are, and in many cases are supported by big-name American Evangelical pastors (who, incidentally, were also behind Uganda’s move to make being gay punishable by death.) One of the most prominent African witch hunters, Thomas Muthee, was invited to the US and was the man who gave Sarah Palin her “anointing” against “witches.” He was also behind a notorious witch hunt in which a woman was almost stoned to death, and had to flee for her life, and he publicly called her a “witch” and declared “spiritual war” on her.

Don’t forget the number of Fundamentalists in the US who burned Harry Potter books, thinking they were “Satanic.” Fear of imaginary witches and demons is still rife here, though because of our laws they can no longer get away with murder. The same cannot be said for Africa, however, which is why the churches there receive so much support from American organizations in persecuting so-called witches.