History of the Craft Part 2: The burning times.

In the last post we talked about the development of the craft and some of the many divergences that we know about.  This one, however, is going to be about one of the worst times in our history.

Something changed between 5000 BC and 1 BC. It was a shift in pre Western culture that would change the world. Before this shift took hold man and woman were equal in their roles and part in society.  Women gathered while the men hunted.  But with the emergence of civilization, especially in the Middle East, people became more congregated in cities.  And with that change came necessary (or maybe no) evils such as finance, housing, law enforcement, etc. The men who had always protected the women became the protectors of cities, regions, countries, and eventually became the leaders of these territories.  In this new patriarchal society, women’s roles were reduced to those of caregiver, housewife, and baby maker.  Woman had become a second class citizen in the eyes of the law. In addition, the Seers and Wise women had been gradually loosing importance in these larger cities.  Men wanted more power and that to a single male ruler such as a king or emperor. From there is was a small leap to the elimination of the Goddess entirely.  In some cultures, the ruler even became the God of that community.

Roman Empire

Meanwhile the Roman empire had taken a note from Greece. It had adopted their politics and their Gods.  Same purpose different names.  They were very adept at incorporating parts of other cultures into their own. From 700 BC to 350 AD the Roman Empire was the strongest force in the world.  They conquered nations, built roads, shared philosophy, and created many other wonderful commodities that we enjoy today. They traveled over Britain, France, and even all the way to South Africa.  Part of the reason the Greek Pantheon is known so well is due to the Romans spreading their brand of it across their growing empire. By 150 AD, Rome controlled a quarter of the earths surface. By that point corruption was starting to set into the complacent nation.  As Rome fell apart Christianity had a chance to rise and thrive.  Monotheism had arrived.  By 389 AD, Theodosius the first declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.  And the last  Roman emperor died in 476.

It marked the end of the era and it took time for order and new civilizations to make order out of the chaos.  The Roads of the Roman empire became a pathway for the message of Christ.  People far and wide accepted this edict. I mean they were used to taking orders.  There were those however who did not accept this and were torn as the struggled to retain the old religion.

Pagans and Early Christianity

From 800 to 1500, there was a rise in judgments against pagans.  In 1198 the pope stated that the pope is God in Flesh and therefore any act against him was an act of treason. Thus it was decreed that any on who did not embrace the church must be judged. Trials were held and if you didn’t convince the judge of your innocence you were either killed or tortured. Supposedly this forced you to make a valid confession, one way or the other. Some were hanged, others were drowned, stoned, or even set on fire.

Witchcraft became an easy way for the church to condemn anyone they didn’t like or who didn’t fit in.  Take for example the Templars. For years their mission was to take back the Holy Land, but eventually they came into conflict with the church. What was the church’s response? Accuse them of Witchcraft and start the executions.  They were executed in mass, even though they had nothing to do with Witchcraft.  This eventually triggered the idea that Witchcraft was synonymous with devil worship.

The Inquisition and the Witches Hammer

In 1480 the pope spoke a decree that began the official Inquisition.  Then, in 1484, the Witches Hammer was published.  It was endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church. The book gave false evidence and testimony that the witches were involved with the Christian devil.  It said that our mission was to destroy all that was good and holy in the world.  It was used as a manual for the Inquisition as well.  How to torture a witch to prove their allegiance to the devil.  Or how to drive evil spirits out of the accused. Most resulted in death.

As far as I know they still teach this in world history.  How innocent women were drowned to prove their innocence. How if she floated, it proved the devil was causing her to defy the church.  Spikes were pounded into legs in a “boot” during questioning. Even if proven innocent it would destroy their leg for life.  Others were tortured with red hot pincers. Even more were subjected to the “pear”, a device shaped like a pear that was placed in sensitive areas (I’m sure you can figure it out) to destroy the issue.  And the worst was the Judas Spike, where an individual was hoisted up and lowered onto a large stake. Then their own body weight would bring them to their end or immense pain.

Inquisitors thought these were valid ways to prove someone a witch, and others saw it as a good way to get rid of the neighbor they didn’t like. Their justification was that if you were possessed you had to be saved and that if you weren’t you deserved to die. If you were innocent you would comply with the will of the church and be saved, even if you died or were maimed in the process.  And my favorite was that if you died in examination, you were better off in heaven or burning in hell as a witch.

The King James Bible

Even before I knew about the horrors of the Inquisition this was my least favorite edition of the bible. Something always rubbed me the wrong way and I really questioned a king having the bible rewritten.  Regardless, he probably saw it as a way to solidify his place in history. He really was an arrogant jerk among other things. Yes, we got our first bible in English, but at the cost of horrid mistranslations or purposeful mistranslations in honor of the King of England.

There are a number of articles out there on that and I’m fairly likely to do one myself in the future, so if you want further details there are plenty of great websites out there. If I have time I’ll post some in my resources section.

The one particularly relevant to this post is Exodus 22:18 which originally spoke of a sorcerer who interfered with the local affairs of a city or people. It said they were to be put to death.  When that was written down all of these words had separate meanings and here had been lumped and changed into one term, witch.  That change marked a death sentence for anyone who practiced the old religion and often a death for those who were found to not be Christian….particularly those of the Jewish faith.

To quote the author of the source book (see part 1) One has to wonder what Hebrew scholars thought of the Inquisition, which used the (originally Hebrew) text as a tool against the Jews as well. 

The Inquisition, or burning times started in the 1480s and lasted until the mid 1700s. That’s over 200 years of killing and many of them were never witches in the first place.  So much pointless death and destruction of lives and families. It seems so pointless and sad.  To think that it took nearly 300 years for the people to realize that too many people were being accused.  Often the victims were the disabled, old, the homeless, strangers, and the unwanted.

End Note

I have one more part I plan to write in this series, but I probably won’t get to it till next week. I think I’m going to slow the pace down and just put out an article every other day.  With two blogs, its hard to keep up with 10 articles a week and take care of the baby and do the other things I need to do. So bear with me as I figure out the best schedule for me and my family.

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