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warlok

Witch burning and witch trials

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warlok

Hi everyone it’s been ages since I’ve posted any topics on the forum but I’ve been thinking of this one for a while. I read a lot of witchcraft blogs, pagan and spirituality blogs and watch YouTube videos of others crafts and practice, and one thing I’ve noticed a lot is a view of the witch trials and burnings of the 16/17th centuries as implying a type of religious persecution or holocaust. Have to say I’m very sceptical of any from of theories of hidden paganism or  oppression or persecution of witches as a religion or cultural event. I don’t believe in the Witch-cult theories or underground continuation of ancient paganism or a universal pagan religion.  I don’t believe that the men and women executed at the time were actually witches in the modern religious sense or in any sense really. I don’t believe that it was anything  other than Protestant Puritan extremism. You could argue for oppression against women but isn’t that that reading back into history a modern ideology or morality? 

I guess what I’m seeking is understanding as to why there’s this huge thing placed on this point in history by the pagan and witchcraft communities? And what do others in this forum think about it? 

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Moonsmith
1 hour ago, warlok said:

I guess what I’m seeking is understanding as to why there’s this huge thing placed on this point in history by the pagan and witchcraft communities?

I don't think that there is such a "huge thing" among informed Pagans.  There will always be those who wish to dramatise their viewpoint.

....but then ......

I am not a Witch.

Probably the one book owned by more Pagans than any other is "Triumph of the Moon" by Ronald Hutton.  If those who own it have read it then they will have found that he gives a measured view of these events.

Some aspects of paganism seem to want to promote themselves either by demonstrating  persecution or antiquity.  My own path has not experienced the former and does not require the latter.  Again, Hutton has been influential in my thinking.

In England women found guilty of witchcraft were mostly hanged.  In Scotland I'm told it was a different matter.  Again in England, the most common verdict of a trial for witchcraft alone was "Not Guilty".  The judiciary wasn't stupid back then.  The actions of vigilantes however are rarely rational nor humane.

I find that Paganism is a useful way of thinking about the universe.  My lifetime and my experience is sufficient to validate it to myself.

Edited by Moonsmith
to alter an altered alteration.
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Veggie dancer

Here is a little bit about the witches of Belvoir (near where I grew up) (we did a performance about them at school in my performing Arts a level)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-24748721

there is an interesting book all about what they were accused of and their trial written at the time. 

I think most of the hype about the witch trials generally comes from film and TV though. after all it makes for an exciting story. But there were people who really died because of their alleged witchcraft we should not forget that happened  

Edited by Veggie dancer

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Jon

Protestant puritan, how about the old catlick mob, admittedly we from britain did set fire to Joan of arc, but generally it was a guilty due to accusation approach on the continent, the general definition of witch in recent years is one that has changed meaning again, but if we go back a few hundred years, excluding common reasons such as being named by someone under inquisition torture or having been named by someone just because they had a grudge etc, there were some spectacular confessions recorded which mostly seem to be people becoming very inventive storytellers just to avoid the torture bit going on, witchcraft was possesion by demons such as any mental ilness, knowledge of medicines or just anything that didn't fit a rigid narrow monotheistic church education, actual number of real witches? Probably not very many, number of people caught up in hysteria, jealousy, or just unlucky, most of them, the inquisition was still at it in Spain in the 20th century, which often gets overlooked, they also have an office just around the corner from the Vatican today.

The emphasis in modern general sense is, so there is a claim of persecution and a general sense of a depth of time in certain circles. Persecution also allows for drama and allowing some to make strange and wonderful claims, as an aside Did I mention men were and are witch's as well, 

Edited by Jon

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Moonsmith
3 hours ago, Jon said:

as an aside Did I mention men were and are witch's as well, 

......as of 1957?

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Jon

;-) as an aside i mentioned the men bit, as the general presumption and purely political in a modern sense idea is that all witchs are and were women through history, pre and post 1457 let alone 1957. a bit of a modern political gender thing going on in that part of the ever ongoing burning times nonsense.

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Nomis

The reason is probably down to a 'bit of this and a bit of that'. There is no doubt that the persecutions had a lot to do with a 'property grab' and also rather like these days the victims were just 'scapegoats'. A person to take the blame for some local tragedy.  But history is always written by the 'victor' and the baddies were the witches. 

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DavidMcCann

I'm a bit late here, but I would like to make a few points. Belief in "witchcraft" in the sense in which it was used in the witch trials is a world-wide thing, all too prevalent in modern Africa, for example. In the Middle Ages, the Church kept it in check. After the Reformation, Protestants could and did go witch-hunting without restrictions. The references to the Inquisition are quite off the mark. They stuck to the traditional view that belief in witches was a "peasant superstition", as one pope had put it, so they never executed witches: not one person was ever condemned as a witch in Italy or Spain. As for the idea that witch-hunting was a form of persecution of women, that doesn't hold up either. Most allegations against witches were actually made by women, according to the records.

 

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Bel04

I am by no means an expert but as part of my Histroy A Level I covered the ‘witch craze’ as we called it. Although puritans were a big factor in the witch trials because they believed in predestination and would be seen to be predestined to go to Heaven if evil were inflicted on them (by witches- so they would make accusations, effectively to make themselves look like they were being targeted by evil because they were ‘pure’) there were lots of other reasons. In Germany in particular lots of wealthy men and women were accused because after they were tortured and executed all their property, money and other assets would become the accusers. Also, a mini ice age at this time meant that crops and cattle were dying and many people were literally starving. Because of the lack of scientific explanation, many historians feel that people were inclined to accuse ‘witches’ who were generally just ordinary people in their village, of causing the food shortage. Also, in a few cases, the cunning folk or those who practices ‘white magic’ which would usually entail healing people with natural remedies would be persecuted. People were very fearful and there were also acts against witches passed in Law. Another big driving force was James the I of England and Scotland. He even wrote a book about witches, how to spot them and why they were so ‘dangerous’ etc. He was a suspicious man and felt the ‘witches’ were out to get him if you like. He sent his men round to find and execute witches. Also, the judges of this period would have been biased because if they prosecuted the accused as witches then they were more likely to be favoured by King James and be promoted to be a Judge in london. 

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Pomona

I admit to being really pretty sceptical about the whole thing and the “we are the daughters of the witches you couldn’t burn” sentimentality.  In the vast majority of cases the accused were entirely innocent of the charges of witchcraft (unless you have a wiiiiiiiiide definition of the term) and were the victim of petty neighbourhood squabbles. I’m also convinced that the accused and executed would be pretty damn pissed off at their guilt being posthumously attributed to them for the sake of notoriety or “wokeness”. I’ve been to Salem a couple of times and the witchcraft industry that’s built up around those probably entirely Christian people is quite disgusting. The victims have been turned into a commodity and I’m certain they’d rather be left in peace. 

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Veggie dancer

Well said Pomona 

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Moonsmith

:o_claps:

Good to see you!

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Ellinas

From "The Devil's Dictionary", I think the following definitions, taken together, adequately explain the concept of witch trials, and hint at their true nature:

WITCH, n. [1.] An ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil. [2.] A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.

ARREST, v.t. Formally to detain one accused of unusualness.

God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh.
—The Unauthorized Version

TRIAL, n. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless characters of judges, advocates and jurors. In order to effect this purpose it is necessary to supply a contrast in the person of one who is called the defendant, the prisoner or the accused. If the contrast is made sufficiently clear this person is made to undergo such an affliction as will give the virtuous gentlemen a comfortable sense of their immunity, added to that of their worth. In our day the accused is usually a human being, or a socialist, but in mediæval times, animals, fishes, reptiles and insects were brought to trial...

EXECUTIONER, n. A person who does what he can to abate the ravages of senility and reduce the chances of being drowned.

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