The Burning Times
Let's take a trip back in time for a moment, shall we? The
year is 1500. Thousands of your friends, relatives, and even enemies
are being tortured, hung, burned and worse. Your local church says that
it's in the name of God to protect others from the devil's ways, but
you're not sure you totally agree with what's going on. Now stop for a
moment. Answer these questions.
-Do you have a birthmark, mole, disfigurement, or do you even have a pimple?
-Are you a liberal type?
-Do you like to dance?
-Do you have a pet cat, mouse, snake, goat?
-Do you own a broom?
-Do you speak out against what you don't believe is right?
-Do you sometimes give your husband or mother grief or do you "obey his/her every command like you should?"
-Have you ever had any enemies or just someone who didn't think highly of you?
you ever lived near someone that lost their job? Had a pet that died?
Had a bad crop? Had a family member that died? That got sick?
-Have you ever gone out for a walk by yourself after nightfall?
-Has there ever been a hail storm or even a wicked thunder storm in the same area that you live?
Answering yes to just one of these questions would have gotten you
tried, persecuted, tortured and either hung or burned at a stake
between the dates of 1100-1700. Men, women, children, the elderly, the
crippled and even pets, all ended up as victims during the Witch Craze,
aka The Burning Times and Witch Hunts/Craze. More middle-aged women
than any other were tortured and killed though.
the times when man was just discovering and concurring "new frontiers",
fears began to develop of the unknown that lie ahead in these "new
fears lead to the largest global killing spree on any scale. Many
refute that the Burning times all started with the two girls who
claimed they were "bewitched". But in fact, the start of the hatred
towards Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches started far, far earlier during
the renaissance period. When the Christians first arrived on the
British shores, they encountered the Pagans and their rituals.
first they worshipped side by side, but in time the Christians realized
that the Pagans had a much larger following than them so they decided
that something needed to be done to get more followers of Christ in
Sabbats were starting to be broken up by groups of people against their
ways. Pagan temples were being destroyed. And eventually all of the
beautiful ways, practices and the worshipping of the Old Gods was
outlawed. The Pagan God was perverted into the depiction of the
Christian Devil to scare away others from "the temptation of those
that turned into Christian Holidays were conveniently dated close and
even on the same date to Pagan Sabbats to further deter others from
going to the gatherings. Pagan followers had to practice in secret and
seclusion. They were no longer sure of who they could trust with their
the old clans split up in fear of being caught and they moved far away
from the newcomers. The Christians had the law on their side and they
kept a very watchful eye on their congregation. Anyone with thoughts,
notions, or opinions different than that of the teachings of Christ
were shamed, teased, persecuted and forced to leave or be jailed. Fear
and hatred started to breed...one thing lead to another and the Witch
Craze was starting to happen.
most infamous Witchcraft Trials was the Salem Witchcraft Trials in
Salem, Massechusettes in 1692. Although only 30 were killed there, it
was ironic how a "fresh start in a New World" ended up as a killing
spree on innocent victims.
in the trials in the New World included political tensions, land
related grievances, disease and religious repression. Because of the
strict religious society of the time, with it's adamant upbringing of
children to follow the Bible, it created a very strong belief in the
Devil. (By this time the Christians and Catholics has already done a
"great job" of spreading the word that the Pagan God was actually the
Devil in the Bible.) So it only took the hysterics of two young girls (
Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams),one of them was the daughter of
Rev. Samuel Parris, to start off the madness of the Witch Hunts there.
two girls became interested in the magickal culture of a West Indian
slave named Tituba, who was incidentally was "owned" by Rev. Parris.
They started doing divinations about future husbands, and various other
things. When some of the towns people caught them in the act of doing
some of the divination techniques on their own, they quickly claimed
they were bewitched to do it to save their butts.
Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne were the first named by the two girls and
arrested as the perpetrators of their "bewitchment" on February 29,
1692. From that point on, neighbors and friends instantly became
back-stabbers and foes.
the year 1233, Pope Gregory IX instituted the Roman Catholic
Inquisition in an attempt to gain popularity for Catholicism and his
church. In 1320, Pope John XXII requested that the church officially
declare Witchcraft ,and the Old Religion of the Pagans, as a "heretical
movement" and a "hostile threat" to Christianity.
single most influential piece of propaganda that fueled their campaign
was commissioned by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484 . He instructed the
Dominican monks, Heinrich Kraemer and Jacob Sprenger, to publish a
manual for Witch-hunters. Two years later the Malleus malificarum, or
"The Witches' Hammer" was produced. The manual was used for the next
250 years in the church's attempt to destroy the Old Religion.
--Excerpt from the Malleus Malificarum--
must not be too quick to subject a witch to examination, but must pay
attention to certain signs which will follow. And he must not be too
quick for this reason: unless God, through a holy Angel, compels the
devil to withhold his help from the witch, she will be so insensible to
the pains of torture that she will sooner be torn limb from limb than
confess any of the truth.
the torture is not to be neglected for this reason, for they are not
equally endowed with this power, and also the devil sometimes of his
own will permits them to confess their crimes without being compelled
by a holy Angel."
In 1541, Witchcraft was made an illegal offense in England, and in 1604
a law decreeing capital punishment for Witches and Pagans was adopted.
years later, the New England colonies also made death the penalty for
the suspicion of Witchcraft. By this time, the true followers who
remained loyal to the Old Religion were in hiding and Witchcraft had
turned into a secret underground religion after an estimated one
million people had been put to death in Europe and more than thirty
condemned at Salem, Massachusetts, in the name of Christianity.
clip from the book of Exodus states , "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to
live". This quote, alone, sealed the fate for many of the accused as
well as the true followers of the Olde Ways. However, this is a false
translation. What has been translated as "witch" comes from the Hebrew
chaspah, a "poisoner" or murderer.
verse can be reinterpreted to mean not to tolerate people who
poison--or murderers. This is very different from condoning the brutal
murder of witches. Regardless, the witch hunters were able to claim the
backing of God in their tasks, and the support of towns folk that would
not question their methods.
reasoning behind why the Witch Hunters were so interested in their
"work" was largely due to their financial gain. The estate of a
convicted witch was confiscated, and so more witches would mean more
wealth. Torturers, executioners, and others involved in the
persecutions benefitted as well.
costs of torturing, imprisoning, and executing the accused came from
the accused's own purse. Additional money was made from the selling of
charms and amulets to ward of the curses of witches; and even a person
who did not buy such a trinket would fall under suspicion.
in 1711, the General Court reversed twenty-two of the thirty one
convictions. It was not until 1957 that the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts reversed the remaining guilty verdicts finally
acknowledging the errors of Salem Witchcraft Trials.
when the persecutions finally ended in the 18th century, the
stereotype of Witches, Wiccans and Pagans as devil worshippers,
muderers,etc sadly remained for those who practiced within the true
teachings of Witchcraft.