Saturday, March 29, 2008

Eleanor of Aquitaine and Peter of Blois

How many of you have read Peter of Blois' "Letter to Eleanor of Aquitaine" (1173)??? You can find a translation by M.Markowski at the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. It makes for very interesting reading.

Essentially, in 1173 Peter of Blois wrote a rather misogynist letter to Eleanor of Aquitaine, chastising her for creating dissent between herself and her husband, Henry II, and between her sons and their father. Peter was requested to write this letter on behalf of Archbishop Rotrou of Rouen, whom it is alleged was prompted to do so by Henry II of England.

The Church in the medieval period was still blaming the woes of mankind upon the sins of Eve - she who took the apple from the serpent must still be held accountable for all that follows. At no stage must Man himself take responsibility for his actions.

In this extraordinary letter, Peter lays the blame for all of Henry II’s “ills” firmly at the door of Eleanor, who dared to remove herself from Henry’s household. She alone is held to blame for the civil strife that permeated throughout Henry’s Kingdom - both in England and on the Continent.

“So the woman is at fault who leaves her husband and fails to keep the trust of this social bond.” And “We know that unless you return to your husband, you will be the cause of widespread disaster. While you alone are now the delinquent one, your actions will result in ruin for everyone in the kingdom.”

At no stage is Henry himself called upon to be held accountable for his own actions - no blame his wife. And as long as Eleanor returns to her husband - peace will be restored.

“In your reconciliation, peace will be restored from distress, and in your return, joy may return to all."

A rather interesting take on the situation. Was Peter so blind that he could not see the forest for the trees? Surely, this is an overly simplistic solution to a problem that had been brewing for years.

And then this bit:
“We are certain that he will show you every possible kindness and the surest guarantee of safety.”

So, all will be forgiven upon Eleanor's return to the marital fold. And just where did Eleanor spend the next ten years of her life - oh, that’s right - imprisoned by Henry. This is the "kindness" Henry shows all who come to seek his forgiveness.

But what of Henry - how is he coping with the absence of his rebellious wife and brood:
“He has suffered many anxieties, offenses and grievances.”

So, the disaffection of Eleanor and her sons was starting to cause Henry II to receive some “bad press”.

“…you provoke disaster for the lord king, to whom powerful kings bow the neck”

All the other rulers were laughing and calling him names behind his back! Yes, poor Henry - he suffered so much - with all this dissent,how could he be expected to rule in a calm and rational manner - how could he decide which prelate to cause to be murdered, which of his son’s fianc├ęs to take to his bed, or how many towns to over-tax to support his military campaigns.

But Eleanor is not exhorted to merely return to Henry, so that all can return to normal. No, she must “come back to [her] senses, with sorrow and tears” - in other words, it is Eleanor who must repent, on bended knees, begging to be allowed to return to her husband - fully contrite for her sins in daring to leave him. There is no indication of Henry repenting his sins, or accepting to take some of the blame for the obvious breakdown of the marriage, nor is Henry required to show remorse. No - the blame is solely Eleanor’s to bear - and she alone must take full responsibility not only for the reconciliation but the contrition and penance.

Career of Peter and its context with the history of England.
And what of the man who wrote this letter to Eleanor - let us look at a little of his history and career.

Peter of Blois was a student of Law at Bologna and studied Theology in Paris. In the same year that Becket was appointed Papal Legate to England, Peter accompanied Stephen de Perche (relative of Archbishop Rotrou of Rouen) to Sicily (1166). Stephen became Archbishop of Palermo and Chancellor to the Dowager Queen, Margaret of Navarre. Peter became tutor to Margaret’s son, King William II of Sicily the following year (1167). In this year, Eleanor left England for Aquitaine.

When the Sicilians led a rebellion against Stephen, the French contingent left Sicily (1169) - Stephen went on to Jerusalem, whilst Peter of Blois returned to France. The following year (January 1170), the Pope demands that Henry II become reconciled with Becket, who returns to England (December 1st 1170) and is murdered (December 29th 1170).

Three years later (1173) we find Peter of Blois has entered the service of Henry II of England as a diplomat. Despite the rift between Henry and his sons (March 1173) there is an attempted reconciliation. Peter will advance in the service of Henry II, becoming Chancellor to the new Archbishop of Canterbury and Chief Counsellor to Henry II himself.

Henry II attacks Eleanor’s court at Poitiers (1174) and Eleanor finds herself exiled or “imprisoned” in England (June 1174). Henry II wants to divorce Eleanor - she refuses (October 1175) and even the Papal Curia refuse Henry’s request (1177). That same year, Henry and Eleanor’s daughter marries King William II of Sicily (1177) - Peter’s former pupil. Peter travels to Rome (1177) and Verona (1187) on diplomatic business for Henry II.

However, with the death of Henry II (1189), Peter finds himself in disgrace - he does not attain a position at the court of Richard I. Where does Peter eventually find a position - as Latin Secretary to the widowed Dowager Queen Eleanor!

But what is equally ironic is that despite this letter written to Eleanor (1173) chastising her on her behaviour and exhorting her to return, upon pain of ecclesiastical action, to her husband and put a stop to her opposition, Peter wrote a number of letters which directly addressed the status of women in his day. In fact many of the letters openly encourage women to take authority over their own lives and promoted gender equality, based on Biblical teachings.

So, whilst promoting the modern-day feminist ideals of equality of the sexes on the one hand, on the other Peter is preaching the subservience of one sex to another. What is a medieval woman supposed to think???

(full article: Women of History - Eleanor of Aquitaine and Peter of Blois)

The End of Women's Studies

I came across a rather interesting article written by Tedra Osell over at "Broadsheet" entitled "Is Women's Studies Dead?".

Apparently, in the UK, the undergraduate courses in Women's Studies are all but disappearing due to lack of numbers. And now that society is no longer "patriarchal and oppressive 'male hegemonies'", the need for the study of women's issues today is subsiding. Women are now opting to study courses that will assist in the need for employment or further career advancement.

I remember as a student at high school (so many years ago) when the subject of Women's Studies was first introduced - our teacher, a woman, was rather different from our other teachers - she rode a motorbike! she had a short manly haircut! she wore pants! My goodness how she rocked the establishment. We, her students, thought ourselves pioneers of the feminist cause. We were proud to be the first to study this revolutionary subject at our school. We saw ourselves of pioneers for the feminist movement. We were 15yo young women who had ambitions of asserting our independence in a male dominated world. We lived just on the other side of the feminist movement of the '60s and '70s - and we didn't want to be like our mothers - stay at home housewives - we wanted careers - and good ones at that. After high school we all planned to go to university and study.

My how things have changed. Some of us did go on to university - but we didn't continue our Women's Studies - it wasn't available at the time. And from what I could gather, the subject of Women's Studies was soon dropped from the high school curriculum of my old school. (Note: my old high school now calls itself a College!).

Whether the need for an undergraduate course in Australia is still relevant - I couldn't tell you. It's been a while since I was at university - though looking at some of the current courses being offered today - Women's Studies doesn't feature. It may be a sub-topic hidden away in an Arts or English course - but a separate degree it is not.

So, where does this leave us today - is Women's Studies a "dead" issue?? Is there any need to have a separate undergraduate course or should it be amalgamated into a more broader study of societal issues as a whole. Is it now, like the "Classics" becoming antiquated.

How do young women today perceive the feminist struggle which dated back to the 19th century and continued on into the 20th century. Do they take for granted all those things hard fought for years before they were even born?? Do they perceive a need to study this area - obviously not if the number of students enrolled is anything to go by.

A topic on one of the Forums I visit claim that there is no longer a need to study "Women's History" - certain aspects - suffragettes, feminism - yes - the this history of women - no. As women made up a large portion of society in general it is not necessary to study their "involvement" as separate from the male portion.

I would be very interested to know how Women's Studies and for that matter, Women's History, is perceived in other countries.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Richard I - I told you so

Yes, I have been harping about this for years - just because one chronicler of the times claimed King Richard I of England "shared a bed" with King Philip II of France that he was to all intents and purposes a homosexual - Richard I that is NOT Philip.

Now the "I told you so" part, courtesy of Helen Castor in an article - "Why Richard I Shared His Bed With the King of France" - (10th March 2008) for The Guardian:

"For the past half-century, Richard the Lionheart - that buff, bronzed warrior who hardly saw his wife and had no children - has been something of a gay icon. As a presence on the silver screen (most famously in the shape of the young Anthony Hopkins in The Lion in Winter) his homosexuality has rarely been in doubt.

English history isn't short of gay or bisexual monarchs - Edward II, James I, possibly William II - but the historical evidence for counting Richard I among their number rests on one contemporary document concerning his relationship with King Philip II of France. In 1187, a chronicler reports, the two men were so close that "at night the bed did not separate them".

Now, however, as the BBC prepares to air a new Lionheart docu-drama, the king's biographer, Professor John Gillingham, has pointed out that Richard's ostentatious bed-sharing with the French king was the product of a political alliance rather than a lovers' tryst.

Gillingham's suggestion that this was "an accepted political act, nothing sexual about it" might strain modern credulity - but we should remember that diplomacy has always been intensely personal, if not downright physical. Only this week, Jonathan Powell's account of the Northern Irish peace process has highlighted the significance of Tony Blair's decision to shake hands with Gerry Adams - the press of prime ministerial flesh on republican palm a powerful gesture of political intent.

In centuries past, a wider range of body parts might come into diplomatic play. Medieval rulers, for example, routinely greeted one another with a kiss (the biblically sanctioned "kiss of peace"). Richard's decision to share a mattress with Philip was the ultimate public demonstration of trust in an age when PR had to rely on word-of-mouth rather than the lenses of the international media.

And it worked, in the context of a monarchy where privacy was relative and political life didn't stop at the bedroom door. The king held court in his bedchamber, and his favourite servants slept at the foot of his bed. World leaders don't, any more, feel the need to ratify a treaty by getting into bed with each other - though, interestingly, that's still the language we use when we talk of sealing a deal. Perhaps we should just be grateful that, these days, the "special relationship" between the UK and the US doesn't involve seeing Bush and Brown in their underpants.

· Helen Castor is a medieval historian and author of Blood & Roses: the Paston Family and the Wars of the Roses."

So, those who would disagree riddle me this - why was it that only Richard was labeled gay and not Philip???

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pharaonic Statue of Tiy

From Yahoo! News:
"Egyptian and European archeologists on Saturday announced they had discovered a giant statue of an ancient pharaonic queen on the spectacular south Egypt site of the Colossi of Memnon.

The statue represents Queen Tiy, the wife of 18th dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep III, and stands 3.62 metres high (almost 12 feet).

It was discovered around the site of the massive Colossi of Memnon twin statues that command the road to Luxor's famed Valley of the Kings.

Two sphinx representing Tiy and Amenhotep III as well as 10 statues in black granite of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, who protected the pharaohs, we also found by the archeologists and presented to reporters and senior officials.

Culture Minister Faruq Hosni hailed the discovery as a "formidable" entreprise and told reporters he expected the statues to be erected for public view next year."

So it would seem that this March - Women's History Month - has proved quite eventful.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Housekeeping @ WOH

For the first time, in quite a while, I actually have a four-day weekend over Easter!

So, I have decided to do a little housekeeping - sort of. I've decided to clean up some dead links, delete blogs that I no longer read, remove links to forums I never visit - you know the type of thing.

On another front, I have also used the time, albeit not too wisely at times, to go through the stack of notes and notebooks, with bits of information and data jotted down willy-nilly, and to type it out and organise it somewhat - thus eliminating huge piles of scrap notes. Create an orderly mess. Stuff I have rarely referred to - but just can't seem to throw out in case I need it later - I have filed away - I have more lever-arch folders than the local newsagent!

I have also added a couple of articles to the Women of History website - unfortunately, I am working on a number of things at once and yet don't seem to be progressing much at all.

I've been blogging elsewhere at the moment - over at "Executed Today" - and I had a request from someone else to write an article for their blog - Algo de Historia - still haven't decided what I am going to write about.

The book I am writing is progressing at snail's pace - I have this habit of going off on a tangent when a topic or subject crops up that takes my fancy (now you know why I have huge amounts of notes lying about the place!). But as one famous Kiwi said .... "it won't happen overnight, but it will happen ..."

I am always on the look-out for a good blog or forum with a history related theme - so if you know of any - feel free to drop me a line.

Take care on life's great journey!

Absolution for Connecticut Witches

"After more than 300 years, the Connecticut residents accused of witchcraft finally might be vindicated thanks to what began as a school project." - The Hartford Courant

"State legislators took up the issue Thursday of Connecticut's witch trials, the result of efforts by 14-year-old Addie Avery and her mother, Debra Avery, descendants of a Hartford woman accused of witchcraft and probably hanged. The judiciary committee discussed a resolution that would absolve the approximately 40 residents accused of practicing witchcraft in the mid- to late-17th century.

The Averys have since heard regularly from people around the country who believe they're descendants of the accused, and their home has increasingly filled with copies of old court records and books about the witch trials.

Also testifying before the committee was Laura Barber Cayer of Mansfield, a descendant of Lydia Gilbert, who was accused of causing a man's gun to accidentally shoot her neighbor during military training exercises.

Outcomes of many of the state's witch trials are unclear, since records were either lost or purged, but historians believe Gilbert probably was executed.

State historians say at least eight of the accused definitely were executed, and another three probably were put to death.

In 1647, Alice Young of Windsor was the first to be hanged for witchcraft — more than four decades before the Salem witch trials began. Of those who weren't put to death, some were acquitted of the charges, and others fled.

Because all but two of those executed were women, the Averys and Cayer also see the resolution as a women's rights issue.

Often, women were accused simply for being outspoken or eccentric."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Princesses In the News

This week has seen a couple of long forgotten Princesses making news:

New Tomb For Altai Princess
From an article from RIA Novosti:
"A tomb to house the remains of a woman found after being preserved in ice for 2,500 years will be built in Siberia's Altai Republic, the director of a local museum said on Thursday.

The well-preserved remains of the woman dubbed the Altai Princess were discovered in the region by a team led by a Novosibirsk archeologist in 1993 near the Mongolian border, and have been studied at the Archaeology and Ethnography Institute in Novosibirsk.

Residents of Altai, where shamanism is still widespread, had repeatedly called for the body's return to its homeland, and blamed the removal for earth tremors and other natural disasters.

However, Novosibirsk scientists had been reluctant to return the body, saying local museums did not have the necessary facilities to preserve it.

"A decision has been taken to build a sloping building for the mummy, resembling a burial mound. This will be an extension to the main building of the national museum" in Gorno-Altaysk, the museum director said.

The body will now be housed in a state-of-the-art glass temperature-controlled case. Construction work should be finished by the end of this year.

Russian state natural gas giant Gazprom has contributed about $11 million to the reconstruction of the museum, and the building of the tomb and sarcophagus, the head of the republic, Alexander Berdnikov, said earlier.

Scientists have no information on the actual history of the Altai Princess, but DNA tests and facial reconstruction have suggested she was ethnically European."

Russian Princess Dies For Soldier's Love
From the UK Telegraph:
"Princess Helena Davidovna Palavandova was 27 when she died a year after following her husband, the Somme veteran Lendon Fitz Payne, to Britain.

Descendants of the princess's late husband found that she lay in an unmarked grave. They have now travelled from far and wide to commemorate her and mark her plot.

They explained how the young royal fell in love with the soldier after escaping from her Russian home.

Princess Helena was born in Georgia in 1898 but had to flee when her family home was burned down and her mother killed by a mob when she was eight years old.

She ended up living in Constantinople, then part of the Ottoman Empire, where she met the soldier with the Royal Corps of Signals, who hailed from Leeds, West Yorks.

The pair married at the British Embassy in 1923 and arrived back in Leeds in 1925. Their only child, David, was born the following year but Helena died from tuberculosis, aged 27.

She was buried in an unmarked plot in Harehills Cemetery, Leeds.

All she left was a single photograph, a pair of David's bootees and a small painting."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Founding Mothers

Forget about the Founding Fathers, according to this "Wired News" article:

"Nearly all of today's Native Americans in North, Central and South America can trace part of their ancestry to six women whose descendants immigrated around 20,000 years ago."

"Those women left a particular DNA legacy that persists to today in about about 95 percent of Native Americans, researchers said.

The finding does not mean that only these six women gave rise to the migrants who crossed into North America from Asia in the initial populating of the continent, said study co-author Ugo Perego.

The women lived between 18,000 and 21,000 years ago, though not necessarily at exactly the same time, he said."

Interesting theory ...

How To Kill A Witch

So - the answer - with a Reigate Bottle!

Yes, according to an article in Current Archaeology (UK), you just need a bottle - an aged bottles - some objects that will harm the witch - nine bent nails - some hair, wool fibres and leaves of some prickly grass, and then add the most critical ingredient: urine. Then bury to keep it nice and warm!

Yes, folk! To kill a witch you just have to stop her from going to the loo! And how do you know when your witch is dead - the bottle will explode!

So, read this fascinating, but brief, article - and who knows, maybe it might come in handy at Halloween!

Anglican Women

Came across a fascinating website that I would like to share with you all:

"Resources By and About Anglican Women"

There are a number of articles written by women who worked as missionaries in the Far East and women who were Deaconesses. Many of these articles were written in the 19th Century.

There are also a number of articles of women missionaries in America.

So for those interested in the lives and works of these 19th and early 20th Century women, please check out the website and browse through some of the articles and memoirs.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Parthian Girl Discovered

In a fascinating, though short, article from CAIS (Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies), archaeologists have uncovered the 2000 year remains of an 8yo girl, buried with her treasures.

"LONDON, (CAIS) -- During the recent archaeological salvage excavations in Parthian site of Nakhl-e Ebrahimi village, near the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, Iranian archaeologists have discovered a crypt containing a body of eight-year-old girl and burial gifts, reported by Persian service of CHN on Friday.

The crypt and its contents are estimated to date back approximately 2200 years ago.

According to Abbas Norouzi, archaeologists working with ICHTO, the Parthian girl was buried in the crypt, placed in an embryonic position and with herself had 18 pieces of gifts, including cut-pendants and decorative beads all made of agates, as well as small pottery vessels and a number of jars.

The team in February discovered a large fortress dating back to the Arsacid dynasty (248 BCE-224 CE). The excavations have been carried out to salvage possible ancient sites before building developments totally engulf the region. The original Parthian name of the coastal village is unknown."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mysterious "witch pits"

Further to my post on "Witchcraft" today, comes an article from the Times Online regarding the discovery of 35 mysterious "witch pits" in Truro.

"Since 2003, 35 pits at the site in a valley near Truro have been excavated containing swan pelts, dead magpies, unhatched eggs, quartz pebbles, human hair, fingernails and part of an iron cauldron.

The finds have been dated to the 1640s, a period of turmoil in England when Cromwellian Puritans destroyed any links to pre-Christian pagan England. It was also a period when witchcraft attracted the death sentence.

Each of the feather pits, which are“ about 40cm square by 17cm deep (15 by 6in), have been carefully lined with the intact pelt of one swan and contain other bird remains.

There was a particularly macabre discovery in one of the feather pits: fifty-seven unhatched eggs ranging in size from a bantam to a duck. They were flanked by the bodies of two magpies, birds that have long been the subject of superstition in Cornish folklore. The organic remains survived because they were preserved in the water-logged ground. Although the shells of the eggs had dissolved, the membrane remained, revealing chicks shortly before they were due to hatch."

Archaeologist Jacqui Woods will deliver a paper on the feather pits at the World Archaeology Conference in Dublin in June.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lady Macbeth

I first came across the tragic figure of Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare - my second meeting with this mysterious woman came from Nigel Tranter's "Macbeth the King" (1981 edition). Since then my fascination for her took off and in 1998 I published my own little biography on Gruoch, Lady Macbeth, on "Women of History".

Recently, I came across an amazing website - "Word Wenches" - and lo and behold! one of their members had just written a historical novel on Lady Macbeth.

The following will take you through the "Word Wenches" site and you can read the two-part interview with Susan Fraser King, author of "Lady Macbeth: A Novel".

Excerpt: "Lady Macbeth: A Novel" by Susan Fraser King.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Doctor "James Barry"

Dr James Barry graduated from the all-male Edinburgh College of Medicine (1812). After qualifiying, James Barry joined the British Army as a medical officer. Barry was sent to South Africa a year later and gained a reputation as a first-class surgeon. And it was in South Africa that Barry carried out the first successful ceasarian section (1826) - keep in mind that there were no antiseptics.

As Colonial Medical Inspector at the Cape, Barry imposed strict control upon apothecaries and the supply of drugs. Barry also improved the health standards in the gaols and leper colonies. At St Helena, Barry was court-martialed for a certain over-zealousness in attempting to improve the conditions of women patients in the hospital.

As the strutting, bombastic little doctor, Barry found himself in a duel and was wounded. ,Eventually Dr James Barry was promoted to become Inspector-General Surgeon to the British Army. Barry was in the Crimea for four months when the the British Army was at the nadir of it's medical history. Barry was the only medical officer with the invective and termerity to reprimand another equally formidable woman in the form of Miss Florence Nightingale (d.1910).

This much is know - and what was known for some time was that Dr James Barry was in fact a woman - and always had been. The name James Barry was adopted upon entry into Edinburgh College (1809) by a woman known as Miranda Stuart.

However, new evidence has come to light that Dr. James Barry may, in fact, have been one Margaret Bulkley, the daughter of an Irish Grocer.

According to an article in the Telegraph:
"Key evidence came from around two dozen letters, some written by Margaret as a teenager and others by Barry the student doctor.

Alison Reboul, a document analysis expert with the Forensic Science Service, has concluded they were written by the same person. Another newly-discovered letter was written by Barry to the family solicitor Daniel Reardon on "his" arrival in Edinburgh to study medicine in 1809.

Although the letter was signed 'James Barry', Reardon had written on the outside 'Miss Bulkley, 14th December’. "Reardon was a meticulous man," said du Preez."

The true identity of Dr. James Barry remained hidden by the British Army after the scandal, when Barry, succumbed to dysentery (1865). Only after Barry died, when the body was laid out to be prepared for burial, was Barry's true sex discovered.

And so, " ... a woman had posed as a man to become the first female medical graduate in Britain, fooled the army into employing her and then kept her sex secret for half a century."

The Telegraph: "Real Army Surgeon Actually A Woman"

"Witchcraft" today

"The Telegraph" in the UK has run a series of articles on "witchcraft".

Pardon" for Britain's last "witch
A petition was due to be submitted to the Scottish Parliament on 29th February 2008, calling for Helen Duncan, the last woman to be convicted under the Witchcraft Act, to be pardoned. Helen was tried in 1944 under the 1735 Witchcraft Act, which was repealed by the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951.

According to part of the petition: "In fact, the 1735 Witchcraft Act was originally formulated to eradicate the belief in witches and its introduction meant that from 1735 onwards an individual could no longer be tried as a witch..."

" ... second petition asks MSPs to urge the Scottish Parliament to grant a posthumous pardon to all people convicted in Scotland under all witchcraft legislation.

The petitioners claim around 4,000 people were convicted, 85 per cent of them women.

The Witchcraft Act was in force between 1563 and 1736, and the top county for witchhunting was the area that is now East Lothian.

Torture was used to extract confessions as late as 1704, said the petition, and those convicted were almost always strangled before their body was burnt."

Nigerian Tribal Queen rule through witchcraft
From an article reported in October 2007:
"Muslim leaders in Nigeria have accused a tribe led by a woman of using black magic to keep men off its throne. Every man who has become king in Kumbwada has died under mysterious circumstances.

The northern tribe has been ruled by queens for the last six generations in stark contrast to the rest of the strongly patriarchal society.

"The fact that any man who assumes the throne dies in a week strongly suggests the use of black magic which Islam absolutely condemns," Aminuddeen Abubakar, a prominent cleric in Kano, the north's main city, said.

But Hadiza Ahmed, said that she would not abdicate and that black magic had nothing to do with her ascent to the throne. She said her father tried to break the spell, which locals say is linked to a mysterious large rock, but within a week he had been struck down by sickness."

Saudi woman face death for witchcraft
From an article dated 26th February 2008:
"A human rights group appealed to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah yesterday to stop the execution of a woman accused of witchcraft.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said that Fawza Falih was never given the chance to prove her innocence in the face of "absurd charges that have no basis in law".

It said that to convict her in April 2006, the judges in the northern town of Quraiyat had relied upon Falih's coerced confession and on statements from witnesses who said she had "bewitched" them.

Falih, who is illiterate, later retracted her confession, claiming it was extracted under duress by the kingdom's religious police, and that she did not understand the document she was forced to fingerprint."