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[personal profile] maculategiraffe
Okay, so this bit is totally nonrequired reading for the story-- I wasn't even planning to post it, was just trying to get a couple of cultural details ironed out while I fiddle around with the last three chapters (because I still suck at endings)-- but then I remembered how annoyed a couple of you got when Leah took Kyle's book away, and figured someone might find it interesting. So!

(Let's get down to business/ To defeat the Huns!)

Excerpt from The Origins of Power, chapter 6, "Psychopompai"

...The deaths of so many prominent male religious figures, though unavoidable given their role in oppressing, confining and condemning women-- particularly women who even appeared powerful in comparison to themselves-- was taken early on as a sign that the power derived from the forces and entities defined by those religions as evil.1 In Christian communities such as Salem, the power was usually attributed to Satan, and attempts were made at exorcism, a form of ritual whereby the person manifesting power and therefore considered "afflicted" was restrained and subjected to various torments in an attempt to force the afflicting entity to leave her body. The still-bewildered young Maenads were bound, starved, and drenched with water which, having been "blessed" by male priests and ministers, was considered to have supernatural power, while Satan was lectured in ritual terms which instructed him to surrender his hold on the Maenad in question; this inevitably led, in some cases, to serious psychological damage on the part of such Maenads as had previously considered themselves pious devotees of their fathers' gods. The deaths of a number of priests and ministers in the course of such ceremonies eventually led to the male survivors' pragmatically retreating in favor of the adult women who, having reached menarche before the onset of power, had no access to it themselves, and had therefore not fallen under suspicion of possession or witchcraft.

Though most such substitutions were made in the spirit that someone must tend to the "afflicted" girls and that women were generally more disposable than men, the discovery was quickly made that these women, though powerless themselves, remained unharmed even by the most violent manifestations of the Maenads' new abilities. The realization that Gaia had now granted her protection even to the women she had not seen fit to empower was the first hint, to the men who still retained their social, cultural, and political dominance, that a massive shift was coming in all those areas of power. The generation known to modern womanhood as the Psychopompai2 was poised to take hold.

Their lifelong training in subservience to men was enough to guarantee that the Psychopompai did not immediately grasp the significance of their protected state, and indeed, in many communities it was immediately followed by negative repercussions; immunity to the power was interpreted as collusion with the evil supernatural forces that empowered the Maenads. When men began to grasp that they alone were at risk from this new phenomenon, they lashed out with all the remaining power of their threatened position. Some states imprisoned all women without trial, or attempted to do so; some simply began killing them. In some places, female infants were drowned or had their necks snapped at birth as their helpless mothers looked on, while male children were immediately taken away from their mothers "for safekeeping." As these atrocities spread, a movement, or rather an innumerable series of isolated movements, began: in prisons and makeshift detention centers patrolled by men with guns and knives and sticks, the Psychopompai and their empowered daughters were beginning to understand, and to plan.

The first organized counterstrikes were far from an unqualified success. Without the slightest understanding of their new powers or how to control them, the Maenads who actively attempted to strike back at their oppressors caused every sort of disaster, from the conflagration of their prisons to catastrophic weather events, killing many women in the process, in addition to the men who had been the intended targets. While the men responded to these catastrophes in various ways-- some regarding the floods and fires as new evidence of their danger and justifying further atrocities, some viewing them as divine vengeance and even expecting a form of apocalypse-- the Psychopompai developed the earliest and crudest methods of focus and control, encouraging the Maenads in such exercises as burning a hole one inch in diameter through a piece of cloth, and then through a piece of wood. Before long, many Maenads had developed enough control to destroy or incapacitate their jailers and escape, taking the Psychopompai with them; these newly freed fighters traveled quickly to other sites of female imprisonment, freeing their less fortunate sisters. Communities of women began to form in remote, unpopulated areas such as forests, hills, and mountains; makeshift dwellings were constructed, from which the women returned only to pillage food and other supplies and to guide other women and girls to join them. As more and more women freed themselves from captivity and fled to join their sisters in the resistance, the Maenads continued their training and strove to heal from the physical and psychological damage many had already suffered.

In these early days, the Psychopompai, though powerless themselves, naturally assumed a position of authority; it was quickly determined that the power could imperil women as well as men unless carefully controlled, and the Psychopompai, with their immunity to the power's direct effects, were best equipped to guide their newly empowered daughters. Apprenticeships were established, and the Maenads spent many hours developing control and focus for their powers, exploring at the same time the extent of their abilities. One of the earliest tactics of the resistance was the development of weather control; by summoning storms, floods, and thick fog, the women could elude hostile male pursuit without the need for more killing than necessary, which naturally they wished to avoid.

The desire to spare male lives insofar as should prove possible led to the first establishment, in these early female-led communities, of male servants and studs. When threatened by mobs-- military, police, or civilian-- of males demanding the return of their wives and daughters, the Maenads were often encouraged by the Psychopompai to show mercy and restraint; men who surrendered were, when possible, allowed to return unharmed to their homes. In some cases, where the women were willing, this forbearance extended to an invitation to stay with their former wives or female relatives on terms of peaceful subservience to the female community. In addition, women who brought their sons, husbands, fathers, or brothers to the new communities were permitted to keep them, on the understanding that any male who intended to live among women must do so under the protection and countenance of a specific woman-- in most cases, the woman who had brought him there, although before long, arrangements arose between women for the transference of the responsibility of protection. For women who still felt bonds of affection with their former oppressors, the arrangement was regarded as worth the risk of organized male aggression or betrayal, especially as any rebellion on the part of the males was punished severely enough to serve as a warning to others. Some men, frightened by these demonstrations of discipline, chose to flee back to their own kind, but others, whether because of emotional attachment to the women they were accustomed to consider as family or some vague recognition that the days of their ascendancy were numbered, remained and obeyed. Though the term "marriage" was not yet obsolete, and the men's protectrices still referred to themselves by such terms as "wife" or "mistress,"3 the pattern for female-male relationships as they are known today had already begun to be established.

Those men who remained in the cities found their morale sinking rapidly as the extent of their peril became clear. Psychopompai who had been unable or unwilling to leave their male friends and relatives to escape to the resistance were frequently butchered, along with their pre-menarchal daughters, or viciously interrogated for information on the origins of the power as well as the whereabouts of their sisters, which in most cases they were unable to supply. Rescue raids were staged by the resistance, which were sometimes successful, but the realization was beginning to form among all women that if they were to survive and prosper, the ultimate goal of the Maenads' training must take the form of a categorical and organized attack on the masculine power structure. Accordingly, the Psychopompai shifted their focus from the defensive potential of rain and fog to the offensive aspects of power, encouraging the Maenads to develop their abilities to inflict controlled pain on their enemies and, if necessary, to destroy them...

1 One of the less panicked responses to the onset of power was an interpretation by some classical scholars that the "frenzy" the girls suffered-- in fact a wholly unsurprising emotional response to the unexplained onset of their new abilities combined with the near-universal hostility of their communities-- was a manifestation of what was once termed "Dionysiac frenzy." Certain Greek myths depict female followers of the chaotic deity Dionysios, or Bacchus, as entering a state of ecstatic madness accompanied by supernatural strength during their worship rituals. Such followers were termed "maenads" and were considered both a danger to male authority (Dionysios is depicted as ambiguously gendered) and an object of fascination for male authority figures; an early play by the Greek author Euripides depicts a young king who, unable to resist the temptation to spy on the maenads in their frenzy, is ripped limb from limb by them, after which their leader-- his own mother-- mounts his head on a pike in triumph, believing she has killed a dangerous lion. Despite some unfortunate implications of this term, it seems to have been eagerly adopted by the girls themselves-- presumably it was at least preferable to "witch" or "demon"-- and today it is the most common Western term used to refer to the first generation of females gifted with Gaia's power.

2Like "maenad," this term derives from classical Greek, where a psychopompos-- guide of souls-- was said to lead the spirits of the newly departed to the entrance of Hades, the abode of the dead, and then return to the natural world. Unlike their classical counterparts, the Psychopompai guided the spirits, not of the dead, but of the newly awakened, teaching their daughters and younger sisters skills they could not learn themselves, and acting as escorts to the entrance of a place they could not reach. The classical origin of both terms is perhaps an indication that in the earliest days, women were able to find answers in ancient pagan mythologies which were denied them by the rigid, dualistic structure of their own contemporary religions.

3While the status of a wife has been addressed in previous chapters, it will perhaps be useful to note here that the equally obsolete term "mistress" carried two distinct meanings: it could refer to the female employer of a male or female servant (the male equivalent was "master"), or it could, with less delicacy, refer to a woman engaged in a sexual relationship with a man without having been married by him. The term was used in both senses for early protectrices, but as the institution of marriage faded and the subservience of males in general was established, both meanings became largely redundant, and the term has disappeared from common use.
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