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Saga of Times Past >> History & Anthropology
malleus maleficarum, branding irons, false promises, witchhunter

The Burning Times

© 1994, Brisgamen
brought to you by the Children of Ra Temple

The enlightened emergence from the medieval Dark Ages. The Reformation. The
Renaissance. An undeniably high point of human evolution. Or so we are taught, and so many
believe, but to my people -- the Pagans, the Witches, the wise women and men, the healers,
the midwives -- it was Europe’s fall into paranoia and intolerance, the Inquisition,
the Burning Times, a Holocaust in which up to 9 million people (85% of them women) were
killed for the "sin" of Witchcraft.

In the year 1484, a papal bull by Innocent VIII declared Witchcraft a heresy. In 1486,
the Dominican Inquisitors Kramer and Sprenger published the Malleus Maleficarum
("The Hammer of the Witches"), which became the witchhunter’s manual for
the next two and a half centuries. Anyone -- especially a woman -- could be accused of
being a Witch, which was defined as a special crime to which the ordinary laws of evidence
did not apply. Once accused, the suspected Witch was subjected to torture --
euphemistically called "the Question" -- for weeks on end (except in England,
where torture was banned, but starvation, sleep deprivation and gang-rape where not
considered torture). Standard tortures on the continent included thumbscrews, bootscrews,
whips, branding irons, racks, strappado (a pulley to haul the victim into the air by her
arms bound behind her back, jerking her up and down until her shoulders dislocated), as
well as the English "non-tortures. The inquisitors’ role was to keep on
torturing until the victim named many "accomplices," who were then arrested and
tortured until more names were given, and so on until whole districts were found guilty.
Inquisitors were instructed by their handbooks to give false promises of mercy for the
sake of compliance and confession. Victims that didn’t die of gaol fever (typhus) or
torture were burned alive at the stake, pressed under rocks, or hanged.

What "sin" could millions of people commit to illicit such abominations
against their bodies? Church history is a history of persecution, but it has usually been
applied against alien ethnic-religious groups such as Jews, or heretic sects such as the
Waldenses and Albigenses. Witches, however, were accused of fantastic and bizarre feats
that contradicted reality: social and sexual intercourse with the devil, night flights,
turning people into animals, and charming away penises and hiding them in birds’
nests. Perhaps this quote from the era gives us a clue: "If a woman dare to cure
without having studied, she is a Witch and must die," (of course, women weren’t
allowed in medical school then). In addition, Witches had ergot for the pain of labor at a
time when the Church held that labor pains were the Lord’s just punishment for
Eve’s original sin. Traditional healers were, and are, religious leaders. As such
they upheld the values of worth inherent in nature and all living creatures -- values that
oppose exploitation. They were focal figures around which communities could organize
against Church and government oppression. Perhaps that, more than anything else, is the
"sin" inherent in Witchcraft.

The Witch persecutions on healers was an attack on a value system, the same value
system that modern Pagans are striving to renew. Although we disagree on many things, most
Pagans believe in a single golden rule: "Do what you will, harming none," based
on an awareness of the world and everything in it as alive, dynamic, interdependent, and

Suggested Pdf Resources

By contrast, Beyond the Burning Times represents dialogue with integrity and without compromise.
The Burning Times
The Myth of the Burning Times and the - Virtual World Project
Burning Times - the early-modern persecution of witches, i.e. women and marginalized persons, Wiccan subculture is the narrative of theBurning Times .
Never again the burning times: Paganism revived Loretta Orion, 1995
Never Again the Burning Times: Paganism Revived. Loretta Orion, 1995. Joanna Soltis.
The burning candle
Groups carry out the experiment and time how long the candle burns. 6.

Suggested News Resources

The Changing Face of the Burning Man Festival
Ron Lewis/San Mateo County Times, via AP By JESSICA BRUDER TENS of thousands of volunteers are gathering to build a city in a Nevada desert that is notorious for triple-digit temperatures, high winds and blinding plumes of dust.
Pasadena Freeway crash leaves good Samaritan neighbors in shock
Residents near treacherous curve are used to aiding crash victims, but failed attempt to rescue girl in burning car was especially heartbreaking.
Sideline Chatter: burning feet
By DWIGHT PERRY | The Seattle Times The 2004 US Olympic 100-meter champion arrived at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, suffering from frostbitten feet - courtesy of wearing wet socks inside a cryogenic chamber.
Burning Man festival sells out for the first time ever
By Mary Forgione Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger Has the counterculture Burning Man festival become a little too hot?
Fires Burning in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon
By IB Times Staff Reporter | August 26, 2011 10:19 AM EDT While states along the East Coast prepare for a possible hit by Hurricane Irene, the Northwestern US is battling widespread, lightning-caused wildfires.

Suggested Web Resources

The Burning Times - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Burning Times is a 1990 Canadian documentary, presenting a feminist revisionist account of the Early Modern European witchcraft trials.
The Burning Times Documentary - Part 1 - YouTube
Oct 2, 2008 This beautifully crafted film is an in-depth look at the witch-hunts that swept through Europe just a few hundred years ago.
The Salem Witch Trials and The Burning Times. In Memory of the
The Burning Times and Witch Killings.
The burning times: The Christian extermination of Witches and other
Dec 14, 1999 The burning times: The Christian extermination of Witches and other heretics. Women & Spirituality: Burning Times [VHS]: Women
The Burning Times is an in-depth look at the witch persecutions that swept through Europe only a few hundred years ago.