What Were the Burning Times?

What Were the Burning Times?

Facts and Fiction About the European Witch Hunts

We’ve all seen the bumper stickers and the t-shirts: Never Again the Burning Times! It’s a rally cry for many born-again Pagans and Wiccans, and indicates a need to reclaim what’s ours – our rights to worship and celebrate as we choose. The phrase Burning Times is often used in modern Paganism and Wicca to indicate the era from the Dark Ages to around the nineteenth century, when charges of heresy were enough to get a witch burned at the stake.

Some have claimed that as many as nine million people were killed in the name of “witch hunts.” However, there’s a lot of discussion within the Pagan world about the accuracy of that number, and some scholars have estimated it significantly lower, possibly as few as 200,000. That’s still a pretty big number, but a lot less than some of the other claims that have been made.

For the past thirty years or so, scholars – as well as many members of the Pagan and Wiccan communities — have debated the validity of the astronomical numbers of victims cited during the Burning Times. The problem with the early estimates of numbers is that, much like in war, the victor writes the history. In other words, the only documentation we have about the European witch hunts was written by the people who actually conducted those same witch hunts!

Jenny Gibbons’ thesis, Recent Developments in the Great European Witch Hunt, goes into great depth about some of these inflated numbers. Essentially, Gibbons states, bigger numbers of witches looked better for the witch hunters, who were the ones keeping track of things in the first place.

As time progressed, countries like England eventually repealed their proscriptions against witchcraft, and the Neopagan and Wiccan movements later moved into place both in Britain and the United States. As feminist writers latched on to the Goddess-centered movement, there was a tendency to portray the healer-midwife-village wisewoman as an innocent victim of evil patriarchal Catholic oppressors.

In the past, Wiccans and Pagans were often the first to point out that the European witch hunts targeted women – after all, these poor country girls were simply the victims of the misogynistic societies of their times. However, what is often overlooked is that although overall about 80% of the accused were female, in some areas, more men than women were persecuted as witches. Scandinavian countries in particular seemed to have equal numbers of both male and female accused.

Timeline

Let’s look at a brief timeline of the witch craze in Europe:

  • 906 C.E. The Canon Episcopi is written by a young abbot named Regino of Treves. Regino’s treatise reinforces the Church’s existing stance on witchcraft, which is that it doesn’t exist.
  • Around 975 C.E. The Church decides that the penalty for witchcraft – which apparently does in fact exist, despite the Canon Episcopi’s assertions to the contrary – is fairly mild. A woman convicted of the use of “witchcraft and enchantment and … magical philters” shall be sentenced to a year-long diet of bread and water.
  • 1227 C.E. Pope Gregory IX announces that it’s time to form an Inquisitorial Court to weed out heretics, who are summarily executed.
  • 1252 C.E. Pope Innocent III carries on the Inquisitions. However, he discovers that a much higher rate of confession is obtained if torture is permitted.
  • 1326 C.E. The Church authorizes the Inquisition to go beyond the investigations of heresy. Now they are encouraged to ferret out people practicing Witchcraft. The theory of demonology is created, establishing a link between witches and the Christian Satan.
  • 1340’s C.E. Europe is pummeled by the Black Plague, and a significant amount of people die. Witches, Jews and lepers are accused of spreading disease intentionally.
  • 1450 C.E. The Catholic Church announces that witches eat babies and sell their souls to the Devil. Witch hunts begin in earnest throughout Europe.
  • 1487 C.E. Publication of Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches’ Hammer). This book describes all sorts of vile activities allegedly practiced by Witches, and also details some creative methods of getting confessions out of the accused.
  • 1517 C.E. Martin Luther leads the way to the Protestant Reformation, which in turn causes a decrease in the number of witchcraft convictions in England – because the Protestants won’t allow torture.
  • 1550 – 1650 C.E. Trials and executions reach their peak. Many of the people accused of witchcraft are actually being targeted in battles between Catholics and Protestants, and others are landowners whose property has been seized by the Church.
  • 1716 C.E. The last accused witches – Mary Hicks and her daughter Elizabeth — are executed in England. Other countries eventually follow suit and stop executing people for witchcraft.

 

Article found on & owned by About.com

What Were the Burning Times?

What Were the Burning Times?

Facts and Fiction About the European Witch Hunts

By , About.com

 

We’ve all seen the bumper stickers and the t-shirts: Never Again the Burning Times! It’s a rally cry for many born-again Pagans and Wiccans, and indicates a need to reclaim what’s ours – our rights to worship and celebrate as we choose. The phrase Burning Times is often used in modern Paganism and Wicca to indicate the era from the Dark Ages to around the nineteenth century, when charges of heresy were enough to get a witch burned at the stake. Some have claimed that as many as nine million people were killed in the name of “witch hunts.” However, there’s a lot of discussion within the Pagan world about the accuracy of that number, and some scholars have estimated it significantly lower, possibly as few as 200,000. That’s still a pretty big number, but a lot less than some of the other claims that have been made.

For the past thirty years or so, scholars – as well as many members of the Pagan and Wiccan communities — have debated the validity of the astronomical numbers of victims cited during the Burning Times. The problem with the early estimates of numbers is that, much like in war, the victor writes the history. In other words, the only documentation we have about the European witch hunts was written by the people who actually conducted those same witch hunts!

Jenny Gibbons’ thesis, Recent Developments in the Great European Witch Hunt, goes into great depth about some of these inflated numbers. Essentially, Gibbons states, bigger numbers of witches looked better for the witch hunters, who were the ones keeping track of things in the first place.

As time progressed, countries like England eventually repealed their proscriptions against witchcraft, and the Neopagan and Wiccan movements later moved into place both in Britain and the United States. As feminist writers latched on to the Goddess-centered movement, there was a tendency to portray the healer-midwife-village wisewoman as an innocent victim of evil patriarchal Catholic oppressors.

In the past, Wiccans and Pagans were often the first to point out that the European witch hunts targeted women – after all, these poor country girls were simply the victims of the misogynistic societies of their times. However, what is often overlooked is that although overall about 80% of the accused were female, in some areas, more men than women were persecuted as witches. Scandinavian countries in particular seemed to have equal numbers of both male and female accused.

Timeline

 

Let’s look at a brief timeline of the witch craze in Europe:

  • 906 C.E. The Canon Episcopi is written by a young abbot named Regino of Treves. Regino’s treatise reinforces the Church’s existing stance on witchcraft, which is that it doesn’t exist.
  • Around 975 C.E. The Church decides that the penalty for witchcraft – which apparently does in fact exist, despite the Canon Episcopi’s assertions to the contrary – is fairly mild. A woman convicted of the use of “witchcraft and enchantment and … magical philters” shall be sentenced to a year-long diet of bread and water.
  • 1227 C.E. Pope Gregory IX announces that it’s time to form an Inquisitorial Court to weed out heretics, who are summarily executed.
  • 1252 C.E. Pope Innocent III carries on the Inquisitions. However, he discovers that a much higher rate of confession is obtained if torture is permitted.
  • 1326 C.E. The Church authorizes the Inquisition to go beyond the investigations of heresy. Now they are encouraged to ferret out people practicing Witchcraft. The theory of demonology is created, establishing a link between witches and the Christian Satan.
  • 1340’s C.E. Europe is pummeled by the Black Plague, and a significant amount of people die. Witches, Jews and lepers are accused of spreading disease intentionally.
  • 1450 C.E. The Catholic Church announces that witches eat babies and sell their souls to the Devil. Witch hunts begin in earnest throughout Europe.
  • 1487 C.E. Publication of Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches’ Hammer). This book describes all sorts of vile activities allegedly practiced by Witches, and also details some creative methods of getting confessions out of the accused.
  • 1517 C.E. Martin Luther leads the way to the Protestant Reformation, which in turn causes a decrease in the number of witchcraft convictions in England – because the Protestants won’t allow torture.
  • 1550 – 1650 C.E. Trials and executions reach their peak. Many of the people accused of witchcraft are actually being targeted in battles between Catholics and Protestants, and others are landowners whose property has been seized by the Church.
  • 1716 C.E. The last accused witches – Mary Hicks and her daughter Elizabeth — are executed in England. Other countries eventually follow suit and stop executing people for witchcraft.

How Witchcraft Works – The Witch Hunts

How Witchcraft Works

by

Witch Hunts

Once Christianity took hold in the late Middle Ages, the witches who performed magic were seen as devil worshippers who held Black Masses, hexed people and flew around on brooms. This was also the time of the Reformation, which began as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church but resulted in the creation of Protestant churches. Although it occurred primarily in the 16th century, it had its roots in the 14th century — about the time when the witch hunt craze started.

Witch hunts in Europe and in the European colonies began around the 1450s and lasted until the 1750s. Because there were so many epidemics (like the Black Plague) and natural disasters, outbreaks of mass hysteria lead to pinpointing witches and witchcraft as the culprits.

During the various witch trials, prosecutors often used extreme torture to extract “confessions” from presumed witches. Innumerable witches were executed by public hanging or burning.

The Salem Witch Trials

In 1692, in Salem, Mass., there was an outbreak of witch hunts and witch trials that all started with some strange behavior from two young girls. The girls were having convulsions and screaming that they were being pinched or bitten. The doctor who examined them eventually decided they were under some sort of spell or bewitchment. One by one, women in the town of Salem and even in surrounding areas began being accused of witchcraft.

The servant of one of the girls’ families was West Indian and admitted in court to dealings with the devil, flying on “sticks,” and being upset because “they” made her hurt those girls. This testimony clinched the hysteria that was already building. Salem residents were then certain that the devil was alive and very active in their land — and who knew what would happen next.

Over a period of nine months, more than 100 people were imprisoned for being witches, and 20 were executed. Finally, a new court was constituted to replace the General Court, which had been holding the trials. This court, the Superior Court of Judicature, reversed the policy of the previous court. From this point on, only three more people were found guilty of witchcraft, and those three were later pardoned.

Theories today are varied regarding what was actually wrong with the two young girls who started it all. Some say they were good actresses, and once they had started it and saw all of the attention they were getting, they had to keep it up. Another theory is that they actually had clinical hysteria, which would explain the convulsions.

Source:

howstuffworks

 

TO BE A WITCH

Witchy Comments
TO BE A WITCH

To be a witch is to love and be loved.
To be a witch is to know everything, and nothing at all.
To be a witch is to move amongst the stars while staying on earth.
To be a witch is to change the world around you, and yourself.
To be a witch is to share and give, while receiving all the while.
To be a witch is to dance and sing, and hold hands with the universe.
To be a witch is to honor the gods, and yourself.
To be a witch is to be magick, not just perform it.
To be a witch is to be honorable, or nothing at all.
To be a witch is to accept others who are not.
To be a witch is to know what you feel is right and good.
To be a witch is to harm none.
To be a witch is to know the ways of old.
To be a witch is to see beyond the barriers.
To be a witch is to follow the moon.
To be a witch is to be one with the gods.
To be a witch is to study and to learn.
To be a witch is to be the teacher and the student.
To be a witch is to acknowledge the truth.
To be a witch is to live with the earth, not just on it.

To be a witch is to be truly free!

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