At my Welsh school, my female teachers had always tried to secretly teach me stuff. One of them took us out for the day to all the main hotspots where the witches were murdered in North Wales. These weren’t lessons you could find in the history books. Just local historical knowledge passed down from Welshwoman to Welshwoman.
I remember staring into the swirling river, the pure clean water almost black because of how deep and cold it was, where the witches were drowned. Another time, with a pained look in her face, a teacher told us about the Inquisition, and that fake needles were used that would retract, so the interrogator could show the public the woman didn’t bleed– as proof she was a witch. Lots of malicious “tricks” had been used to convict women, and to convince the public of the justifications for killing them.
Because the Welsh were colonized, there was a second reason to get rid of the women. Gwenllian, our last princess, was locked in a nunnery for life so that she could never have children. A largely ridiculed and seemingly minor event today, but you can see that the genocide of the Welsh and the efforts to extinguish us and our line was very real. Nowadays, the Welsh are nothing much more than a joke. No threat at all. I decided I would never have a child with an Englishman, but I knew the dangers of inbreeding.
I had forgotten that some little girls are born to be sprites and woodland spirits. We’re not all supposed to grow up to be mothers. There are no sprites left in the forests and mountains of Wales now. They’ve all been turned into mothers. If domesticating fairies and turning them into mothers is not the worst crime, then I don’t know what is.
I knew that Welsh men felt the pain at the damage that was being done to our beautiful country, but I could also see they didn’t feel it enough to reinstate female status and power. Our boys were proud to shed their smelly farming clothes and put on a suit to hob nob with the English in the shiny new council and government buildings. “Bradwr” we would whisper.
It translates poorly.
It is more powerful than the English word cunt.
And now I’m a bradwr because I left Wales for good.
I visit sometimes, but I see that the countryside has been destroyed beyond all repair. Most Welsh people don’t yet realize that the Welsh Wales they know only exists in their heads. I couldn’t stay to see its demise.
But never, not until I read Mary Daly, did I realize that it was men, and patriarchy at large, that had been specifically killing women. I mean I knew the witches were women, and on some deep level I felt the evil of the men, but I had to intellectualize it to really understand. I had to be educated that this was patriarchy.
And then the mental asylums started popping up all around Wales a few centuries ago. Because of the rural nature of Wales, these places were isolated houses of horror.
My mother worked here.
This is the same mother who just last year, sneered at me because I’m a feminist, and who assured me that men have it worse. I have no idea what kind of gynocidal acts she was complicit in. She had picked her side and now has to stand by her belief that females are evil to the bitter end. That’s what being an “independent woman” got her.
Growing up in a predominantly white rural area in Wales I always had a feeling of absolute terror and dread in my daily life. It was of course my own family’s treatment of me, being the only girl in a family of 5 kids, but it was much more than that. The terror was everywhere; it was in the air.
I was there on the day the men came to steal my cousin. Bless my paternal grandmother for harboring my aunt, who was hiding from them with her child, knowing dangerous men were on their way. We were all in the farmhouse, my grandma, aunt, cousin and I when they banged down the door . I was about 6, she was 3. My grandma kept screaming as they ran through the house, found my cousin and carted her away into the night. Making a regal and composed woman like my grandmother scream like a banshee. My aunt was promptly locked up in a mental asylum and didn’t get to see her daughter grow up. She was eventually released.
When this cousin turned 16 her father and his girlfriend threw her out. She found her mother, who was living independently far away from Wales, near Liverpool. They still live together now. Happy, the last time I saw them.
The breadth and width and depth of the terror, and the horror, runs in my veins. I fled to the South of England as soon as I could. I felt safe around the people who hailed from far away lands that became my friends. Japan, Kashmir, Iran, Syria, Sudan, India, the West Indies; men and women alike. I felt harbored by them. I could feel without even investigating it that they didn’t have mental asylums quite like we have, that they haven’t drowned and burned as many “witches” quite like we have, wherever it was they came from. They had brought with them sun and light and spices and silks and color and food. Joviality and etiquette and culture.
I would visit “home” from time to time and feel dread in the pit of my stomach. I realize now that by coming to live in rural, traditional Japan, a place stuck in time, I’ve been trying to find Wales.