November 1 st


Remembering the witches


Have you wondered where your power and strength comes from? Or why at times you are overcome with a fear that seems unjustified given the life you are living?

Who were the witches? What happened? What can we learn? How does our history inform us, as women and men, today?

This Halloween is a good time to remember those women whose lives were lost hundreds of years ago.

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I recently saw the Canadian documentary The Burning Times for the first time. Produced in 1990 by Donna Read, the film examines the witch hunts that took place and the legacy they left.

Since today is Halloween, a day set aside to remember the dead, it seems an especially appropriate time to remember the witches and the hundreds of thousands of women and others who were persecuted and burned at the stake between 1560 and 1650.

These women were sought after for their intuition, healing and commitment to community.

The Burning Times is part of a fascinating 3-part documentary on Women and Spirituality. Thanks to the National Film Board of Canada, and today’s technology, you can view it on the web, for free. You can watch the first 10 minutes on the YouTube video embedded in this post, but please watch the full film by clicking here.

The Burning Times is a 56-minute documentary film. Snuggle up with some popcorn or a cup of tea and invest an hour of your time. I have watched it twice and shared it with friends. It has been haunting me and so I decided it was worth writing about, today, on Halloween.

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First, a note about history. What is history? It’s a collection of stories written by survivors. It’s important to question the history we are handed. Ask questions. Find out whose perspectives are represented. The information and perspectives shared in this film were not part of the history I learned in school.

It’s also important to remember that, as humans, our reality is socially constructed. That means that the stories we tell create our reality.

As an evidence-based ICF-certified coach and applied behavioral scientist, I know this well. We create stories individually and collectively. And these stories animate our world.

The witch burnings, as told through this film, tell a story which fills in some blanks in my own life experience. It also demonstrates the importance of culture. Culture consists of the people and artifacts we surround ourselves with, and the stories we tell and live collectively.

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I emerged from this film with so many emotionssadness for the misunderstandings and lives lost, fear that experiences like this continue to happen on a mass scale, and anger that some of the collective fear seeded in those times continues to reside in me. I also emerged with appreciation for the courage it took to produce this film, the technology that makes it’s wide distribution possible, and the frequency with which curiosity and openness to to new perspectives is flourishing today.

I am a workplace and life transition coach. Before that I was a leadership and organizational development consultant, and before that a lawyer. I continue to collect trainings and experiences and wear a lot of hats. But, increasingly, I find myself drawn to energy, intuition, healing and spirituality. I am not sure what this means for my work just yet. This is an emerging story and I am still finding my place in all of this. But as I watched this film, I could feel in my bones that the fear I have with regard to my own path is not all mine. I am standing on the shoulders of these women. Some of my fear is coming from what Jung called “the collective unconscious”.

Hundreds of thousands of women, men and children died due to mass fear, propaganda, politics, and institutions run amok. Collective fear is a most destructive phenomenon. This is the reason that we should ALL be in the business of naming, tackling and moving through our fear.

Individual fear becomes collective fear. Collective fear creates mass destruction.

*  *  *

The antidote to fear is love.

In the film, Starhawk reminds us that the word “witch” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “wiche” which means to bend or shape. To bend or shape consciousness and thus to bend or shape events in your life. I was stirred to my core when I heard this.  This is what my work is about.

It is with abiding love and gratitude that I remember the witches and all of the others whose lives were lost during “the burning times”. May we learn and grow and talk about our fears out loud so that we do not repeat the past.

*  *  *

I felt compelled to write about this and share the film because I believe that today we are living , all of us, with the fear from these and other horrific past events imprinted in our psyches, in our souls.

Men are walking around afraid of women and their power. Hate crimes, sex crimes, domestic violence, glass ceilings, the need for The Girl Effect … all are testimony to this legacy of fear. And women are sleepwalking through their lives, playing the “good girl”,  staying in abusive relationships, in jobs, marriages or religious institutions that hold them back, deeply afraid of stepping out and claiming their power.

Ironically, the power that is feared is the healthy kind of power. It’s a good power, a power with, not a power over. It’s the power of love, compassion, and healing for individuals, families, communities, organizations and the planet.

The good news is that when this power is unleashed, there is nothing that we cannot do, men and women, together. Now more than ever, we need a blend of the masculine and the feminine. We need to love and embrace both. And we begin by claiming what we are afraid of.

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Please take action now. Share your thoughts and leave a comment below.

If you have other perspectives or sources to share, please share them in the comments below.

What do you think? What am I missing? What would you add to the dialogue?

Does any of your fear seem “older” than you or beyond the circumstances of your life as you know it?

What next step will you take?





  1. Laura Gates says:

    Wow, Powerful post Laurie and I feel the risk you are taking to put this out there, to share your thoughts. Obviously it touched a chord for you. And I can relate to the fear you mention, that fear to put myself out there, to express who I really am and to stand in my power. And I know that this is a collective unconscious issue that holds me back, so thank you for this brave post!

    • Laura, thanks so much for reading and sharing. Something about the fear in the collective unconscious really stirred me. Our fear really is not ours alone. We are all feeling it and we can claim it and move through it together!

      I was nervous about publishing this and your comment helped me breathe easier. Thank you! xoxo

  2. Laurie – Oh, thank you for reminding me about The Burning Times! I watched that film when it came out in the 90s. It was such an important film back then – I’m so happy to hear that it still rings true. I will do what you suggest: make a pot of tea and sit down and watch it again on the NFB website. Thank you for this powerful post.

    • Sarah, I can’t believe I only just learned about this film. At the same time, I trust that it showed up when I was ready for it. It’s such an important film. Enjoy watching it again. It’s more than 20 years later … I wonder what you will take away this time?

      And thanks for reading and visiting my blog. I will admit to feeling slight embarrassment since you are such an exquisite writer. I am a relatively new blogger and still finding my voice and style. My writing also needs some work to be as effective as it could be. I love your writing and it means a lot that you came by.

  3. Kathleen says:

    my love, Laurie! YES! Thank YOU for marking this day, this time, with this post and this film. In honor of those women… and men, the Druids and others who practiced forms of direct wisdom other than the ruling order approved of. So. Many. Suffered. Wretchedly. It makes me heart weep.

    This last year when I was doing my painting process training… Painting from the Source, I encountered this strata in my own psyche… first the fear.. and then the presence of the guardian of the gateway of women’s mysteries in the collective unconscious. Out of context it may sound bizarre… but to you I know it won’t. I was in the dream psyche. The personal and collective unconscious. This guardian spoke of how he had been placed as a temporary guardian to the mysteries (a ferocious tiger image)… because almost everyone had been massacred. The one’s who were left, refused to be any part of it because of the fear of reprisal and the murder of their own families and communities. I was now encountering this fear as I was standing in a place to teach others the entryway into these mysteries, into their own depths. I had been railing against my mother who embodied so much wisdom and yet abdicated her power to the mormon god. ugh. Yet through the process I understood. Until now, this moment, women did not have the psychological capacity or the outer safety to work from their embodied wisdom.

    Whether concocted in the imagination (which of course it was!) or not, I know scientifically, to see gruesome murders of one’s own family and friends, over and over and over again, is to have it etched upon the dna/collective unconscious. It impacts behavior. And whole cultures take on behavioral patterns because of it. Behavioral patterns of fear in this case.

    And… yes, it IS still happening today! And thus it does quiver in our essence when we cross that threshold. I KNOW it is one of the primary issues I have been wrestling with now for years to actually move myself to greater exposure. For as you recognized in my piece, this is exactly what my work is about… just as yours is! We are here together. So know… I have your back, your front, your heart.

    Virginia Woolfe suffered with tremendous terrors. What she brought forth was in direct opposition to the societal norms and patriarchy of the time. She was terrified. And… she did it. I think part of her illness was tied up with the pressure she experienced over time. Such a profound woman!

    So… here we are. We have a constitution and Partners/Lovers who support us. And a whole tribe of women who are cheering us on. We have come a long way. I am sooooooooooo grateful this was the era/country/family I was born into.

    I am not going to watch this film right now. I know the stories too well. I feel the abuse so deeply. I know, like you, it will haunt me. There will be a moment that I do enter in. But for now, I am building the new earth for my and others like me, existence. The old order is going down. And you and I are part of its demise.

    Thank you! Love you!! support you!! xo

    p.s. Couldn’t help myself! watched the first 10 minutes. Going to have to watch the rest very soon!

    • Kathleen, what you have written here is sheer art! I have tears in my eyes … you have painted such profound pictures with your words, captured my feelings and touched my soul. Your mind and heart are a wicked combination (pun intended)! When I wrote this post, I sensed you would resonate with it and and have something compelling to say about the topics raised here. I am humbled and moved that so many others were touched too.

      You wrote: “Until now, this moment, women did not have the psychological capacity or the outer safety to work from their embodied wisdom.” This is so true! It breaks my heart when I think about what was not available to my mother, my aunt, my grandmothers and others. And, at the same time, I feel responsible for living from the embodied wisdom I have now. We are living in conditions and times that make it easier than ever to live and speak our truth. Just because we don’t face the same threats does not mean the fear is not still there. It’s cellular. It’s, as you say, in our DNA. It’s instinctive not rational.

      You wrote: “And… yes, it IS still happening today! And thus it does quiver in our essence when we cross that threshold. I KNOW it is one of the primary issues I have been wrestling with now for years to actually move myself to greater exposure. For as you recognized in my piece, this is exactly what my work is about… just as yours is! We are here together. So know… I have your back, your front, your heart.” Kathleen, this gave me goosebumps. I can’t tell you how much it means to know you, to hear your story, and to realize we’re not in this alone. I have been wrestling with greater exposure too. It has been silently terrifying. Every from of resistance has reared its head. So, it has been a relief in some way to recognize, from a very deep place, that the fear and resistance surrounding me is not merely mine alone. Individual and collective fear are different animals. And I think I really just “got” that for the first time. The film helped expand my view of fear in a whole new way. It has lit a fire under me.

      And it helps to know we will continue to support each other, and that we have a whole tribe of women cheering us on as we bring our work to the world to serve the world.

      So so very grateful for you. Your Art. Your Support. Your Wisdom. Your Love. xoxo

      p.s. I am including a link to your Facebook post “Ode to my ancestors” here and to Ms. Emelie Rota’s exquisite poem about witches because I want to be able to find them again! 😉

      • Kathleen says:

        Thank you, Laurie, for your deep rich response!! For your acknowledgement, deep heart… and vulnerability. Yes. We are so vulnerable! Isn’t it bizarre to realize that? realize how vulnerable we ALL are? Its actually empowering. IT breaks the curse. The web has broken the curse that says we are wretched and alone.

        I want you to hear this… and know this. Laurie… we are in a new era. It is WE who now wield the power. No more can “they” persecute us. Never again will we be imprisoned or tortured. That is NO MORE… and will never be again. That is what I am absolutely affirming for women like you and I. I know it. As well as I know that there are many in the world who are going through horrendous torture on one level or another. As we both know it is happening to women on this continent as well. But never like it was. Women like you and I may be mocked or jeered at on our sites. But we are not endangered.

        Knowing that is important. Knowing that DOES allow us to stand up and put our voices and our work out here. I bow in such deep regard respect and honor to allllllllll the women and men who have suffered and died horrible deaths so we can stand in this place of our freedom to be fully ourselves… and keep on growing!

        We must be BIG now. We must move through our discomfort and step into our full selves now. We must do it for our ancestors and for the women… and men… who still do suffer due to unconsciousness.

        So… you and I! lets do it! along with all these other rad women who are stepping out in powerful ways. I am here. You are here. Lets keep on writing posts… like this one, Laurie. What a gift to open this dialog so we can witness its power and connect in this way! YAY for you!
        love you!

        • Kathleen, you are such an inspiration!! I am back in town and heading over to your brand new site!

          You wrote: “We must be BIG now. We must move through our discomfort and step into our full selves now. We must do it for our ancestors and for the women… and men… who still do suffer due to unconsciousness.”

          Hear, hear! YES! I think I needed something bigger than myself to rally myself forward. And I needed to see what was holding me back. Stepping out is courageous work. Doing it together is crucial! xoxo

  4. molly maloney says:


    God I love you.. Thank you so much for raising this issue again. I have been apart of this dialogue before and feel much energy around it. Repression, racism, and ignorance at large is so hard. As you know, I have a mixed-race family and Halloween in particular has been a difficult one for me. We dance between the “fun” and the “education” of it all. As my children age they seem to take in the energy and fact based info of what it was based on…not unlike what their ancestors (recent) have experienced. You are a love and a light. Keep it up my friend. This type of posting gives me an avenue for appropriate conversation…not just coming from “Mama” whom they tend to tune out.

    Love you and miss you like crazy…I want a sleep over!

    • Molly! So thrilled to see you here! Thanks so much for reading and sharing your story. I know you know what a challenge all of this is. And of course we cannot forget the collective fear that has been generated by racism. It all grows from the same seeds, doesn’t it? Fear of difference, fear of “other” … and all that we learned together at LIOS. I so cherish you and miss you! You too are a love and a light. We light each other’s light! Thanks from the bottom of my heart for visiting, reading, watching, and adding your voice here. Means the world to me. Oh, we SO need a sleepover! xoxo

  5. Laura says:

    Thank you for reminding us. So important!

  6. Nicole says:

    Dear Laurie,

    Thank you so much for this.

    It seems so pertinent to me as a woman in these times of change.

    If we are to truly bend consciousness and bring about al that is possible, it will, as so many have said, be the women who rise to show the way.

    I believe that the powerful ingredient that will differentiate the burning times from the present time of evolution, is the integration of male and female energies.

    Last time, the male energies were afraid and threatened by the female energies.

    I pray that the love and goodness, the pure intentions and vision of the female energies will find such authentic expression that the male energies will do what is their nature to do: support, compliment, protect and cherish the female, and take His position at Her side as equal, beginning the exiting process of the co-creation of a New World!

    So be it!

  7. Omg! I love this post and your words about history being made of stories and the importance of questioning everything. I can’t wait to watch this documentary now, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Danielle, thanks for stopping by and for sharing your take-aways! I look forward to hearing what you thought of the film. Feel free to pop back in if you like. Love and light to you.

  8. Sue Ann says:

    Great post, Laurie. What resonated most with me was this line: “And women are sleepwalking through their lives, playing the “good girl”, staying in abusive relationships, in jobs, marriages or religious institutions that hold them back, deeply afraid of stepping out and claiming their power.”

    So many of the women I work with are experiencing ill-health because they are taking care of others instead of themselves. Many are in emotionally abusive relationships and, to make up for the loss of control they feel in their lives, they either attempt to “over control” the food they put in their mouths or they turn to food, work, punishing exercise, or alcohol for solace—anything but being in the present moment.

    I think we need to pay attention to our history. I also think we need to cultivate the art of forgiveness and agree to be “here” fully alive and ready to stand in our power reclaiming the both the divine feminine and the divine masculine in all of us.

    Thank you for a thought-provoking post.

    • Sue Ann, I love hearing what resonated most for you. And I so agree that it is vital to be “here” and fully alive in the present moment. I think what struck me about this film and the topic is that this “history” is living in me in the present. That’s what I found so disarming. The fear seeded by the burning times is not just in the past. It’s living in the cells of my own body. I think it’s living unconsciously in all of us and as you say, showing up through a variety of different symptoms. As you point out, for many it shows up in our relationships to health or food.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, reading and taking the time to add such thoughtful reflections here.

  9. Sherold Barr says:

    Laurie – I posted this blog over at my women’s forum – Women Heal The World. I would love to have you join and also please bring loads of our dynamic B School Babes with you. This is a forum for posts like this – meant to have us question old beliefs and create new ways of operating that bring out our power and let us shine the light of who we are meant to become.

    Let’s go girls! Join Women Heal The World here – it’s free.

    • Sherold, thank you so much! I so appreciate the invitation and I signed up! Love what you are doing and thanks so much for reading, sharing and commenting. “Women Heal the World” … this is SO important. Thank you. So blessed that we’re on this path together. 😉

  10. nasrine says:

    Laurie! I have to share this one with the world! This is amazing and I feel like I am floating after I re-read this a few times. This is wonderfully written breathtaking work! I am haunted by it – but I say that in a pure way, in a way that I know I must be reminded of what so many women that broke ground had to endure. If only for myself I must stop and really think deeply about the work that still needs to be done. I only hope the power and empowerment within the souls of these women will give me a lil pep in my step from time to time. Thank YOU so much for sharing this wonderful post with us and also for sharing with the world your self and always existing is good faith. I am both honored and humbled to have this post be a part of my orbit! Love + Light!

    • Nasrine, I am so touched and humbled and grateful for you sharing how my post and the film impacted you. I really appreciate your feedback.

      There is so much work to do and we will light the way. The souls of these women are our souls.

      Thank you so very much for reading, sharing such heartfelt reflections, and sharing this on Facebook and Twitter. So grateful we are on this path together. xoxo

  11. Laura Gates says:

    Laurie, just coming back here to say I watched the full documentary tonight. Thank you for sharing. I know this. I have felt this, but to watch it again is powerful and painful at the same time. Thanks for the powerful reminders!

    • Laura, so glad you watched the whole film! The 10-minute clip is a good start but there is so much more in the full film. Thanks for watching and coming back here to share. We have important work to do! xoxo

  12. Marion says:

    Hi Laurie!

    Love your post and thanks for using Samhain as a reminder of the pain and injustice that was inflicted upon these wise women who were wonderful healers. There still are many, many misconceptions out there as to what a witch really is. Starhawk obviously has done a lot to bring clarity to that point in history. I would also recommend reading When God Was A Woman by Merlin Stone if you haven’t already. She provides us with a totally different perspective on women’s history and societies, which honored female deities and Nature. 🙂

    All my best,

    • Marion, thanks for reading and sharing. Yes, Starhawk has been a pioneer in expanding our view of this point in history. Thanks for the Merlin Stone recommendation! I got chills reading about the book on Amazon. I need to get it.

      I did not draw on them in this post, but I have also read Women Who Run with The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (and have a number of her audio CDs — they are fantastic!) and Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd.

      Marion, thanks so much for commenting and for sharing this resource! xoxo

  13. Sheila says:

    Wow, Laurie, I can feel your passion through your written word. I am so looking forward to watching the whole documentary. And the synchronicity is intriguing, it occurred to me recently that I have been carrying around a lot of fear with me (and this comes from someone who always considered herself fearless), so this realization is HUGE. I look forward to seeing this video and deciphering if some of my fear is coming through the ages. Thank you for being the brave warrior you are to raise the questions and invite dialogue around the past so we can heal and create a better future.

    • Sheila, thanks so much for stopping by, for reading, and for sharing your heartfelt comments. I really appreciate your feedback. In a strange way, I feel “seen”. I have never quite considered myself a warrior but I smiled when I read that. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Angeles Arrien’s book The Fourfold Way? She describes the Warrior, Healer, Teacher and Magician archetypes. I have always identified more with the Teacher-Healer, but really we have them all in us.

      If you watch the film, I would love to hear how it impacts you, what you take away. Thanks so much! xoxo

  14. Amy Scott says:

    Wow, this is awesome, Laurie. I’m going to watch this film very soon – sounds powerful and important! Thanks for encouraging me to come by and read this post – there is so much great stuff here, but I also have some feedback for you – we can talk about it on the phone sometime. 🙂 xo

    • Love that Amy! Thanks for reading and yes I eagerly await your editorial fairy dust! Let’s talk before I write my next one … love to incorporate your feedback. My wild ideas were spilling out all throughout this post. 😉

  15. Laurie, the best part of my mini sabbatical this December is catching up on blogs like yours. Loved this post. Loved the Burning Times. When I was in grad school for Theology, our professor, a Benedictine nun showed this movie to our class and it flattened me. It was one of those watershed moments in my relationship with Christianity as a religion. I knew I needed to walk away for however long…maybe forever… in order to allow my mind and heart to open to something else that was brewing inside of me. What most got me though was the recognition of all that had been lost over the centuries. It was a sort of 7 dark night of the soul where I lost my bearings, felt no certainty (dread for a head type), and felt a sense of hopelessness, loss and mourning.

    It birthed a desire to be a part of something that would recover what was lost and create something that speaks to our deepest selves regardless of beliefs. Something like your closing line: “The good news is that when this power is unleashed, there is nothing that we cannot do, men and women, together. Now more than ever, we need a blend of the masculine and the feminine. We need to love and embrace both. And we begin by claiming what we are afraid of.” Yes, something just like that. Thank you and much love to you.

    • Leslie, thanks so much for reading and for sharing some of your story here. I am not surprised you were familiar with this film and can imagine the dark night of the soul that ensued. Thankfully you have stepped up to recover a contemplative Christianity that honors the masculine and the feminine and offers a healing many didn’t even know was needed. You inspire me and I am so honored that you visited my blog. xoxo

  16. Paula Jessop says:


    Its a new year and well past Samhain when you posted this. I just stumbled upon it today however and feel the urge to say thank you and share a little how this has touched me today.

    Before I do I want to add my voice into the whole collective consciousness fear issue. One thing I didn’t notice being spoken about in this issue which seems to resonant with so many of us. Is that as each one of us stands for ourselves and faces those fears. Not only do we clear them for ourselves. Not only do we collectively add a new idea and new way of being into that collective consciousness. We also clear this old energy for our ancestors. Those that are linked to us through our DNA and those that are linked to us on a soul level. Our very act of saying “No that is a lie! We are not powerless. We are not bad. We are not evil.” ” We are powerful, we are love and we are one!” This flows backwards into the past and heals those old wounds. We heal for ourselves and for each other past, present, and future. It is no wonder the big “they” were afraid of us. They should have been. We are that powerful, our love is that grand and once we say “No More” there is nothing that can stop us.

    OK now for a thank you. I realize this is an issue I needed to be brought to the forefront of my consciousness today. Just last week I had a woman who is on a Facebook group that I am in friend me. In her message she stated that she was a Psychic and told me that she had been looking at my profile picture and wanted to know what was up with me. She then realized what it was and asked me if I was a Witch. This is a label I have not been very comfortable using. I have been into metaphysics, healing, priestessing, shamanic practices etc, for over a decade. I have a friend that tells people to my chagrin that I am a witch. My spirituality is not something I talk about. I was raised Mormon and it is definitely not aligned with my culture upbringing. So you might say I have been in the closet. This year it has been made clear to me that it is time to come out of the closet. I am being called out all over the place. By strangers. I have been told it is time to share my gifts. I am publishing a book on Twin Flames and in the bio wouldn’t even say I was a healer instead thought the word healing facilitator sounded more mainstream.

    Just last night I was sharing on my Facebook group about how I had received in the mail yesterday proofs of my book and how excited I was and I admitted I was also scared. Scared about having to be honest with the world about who I am. I haven’t even shown anyone in my household my book because I didn’t want to be honest about who I am.

    I didn’t really question very deeply why I’ve just allowed this fear to lead me around by the nose and to hide myself. Then I followed a link here to this story and Voila my answer before I asked. Of course its scary. Of course I’m safe and don’t need to be afraid. Of course, I’ve repeatedly cleared this fear; knowing I was doing it not only for myself but my sisters. And still when confronted with the reality of having to be honest it is still there ready to rear its little head. Because I’ve confronted it, it isn’t as dramatic as it once was so it only a little head rearing at me. But this time I know what it is and I am not being blindly led away from me. You had a part in my clarity and I am very grateful for that. Now I can choose to do what I know is right and be honest and stand for myself, my ancestors and my sisters.

    Thank you sister,


    • Paula, I am so deeply honored that you stumbled upon this post and shared here as you have. Your comment gave me goosebumps and my eyes teared up … signs that you have not only spoken some deep truths but what you have shared struck a personal chord with me as well.

      It especially moved me when you wrote that as we stand for ourselves and face our fears, we clear them not only for ourselves but we “collectively add a new idea and new way of being into that collective consciousness” and we “clear this old energy for our ancestors. Those that are linked to us through our DNA and those that are linked to us on a soul level.” You went on to say that this “flows backwards into the past and heals those old wounds. We heal for ourselves and for each other past, present, and future.” I reread this several times and each time it made me shiver. Thank you for sharing this profound truth.

      Thank you, too, for sharing your story including your process and your fears around your forthcoming book! Ooohh … that ALSO gave me goosebumps. Looking forward to learning more. Thank you so very much for popping in, reading and sharing your story. xoxo