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The Burning Times Discussion

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
ok, anyone want to talk about the scholarly evidence of the "Burning Times" and the history of the idea that millions of witches were burned at the stake (or otherwise killed) during the middle ages.

I have no links
post #2 of 33
I don't have the links I used to have either, but Covenant of the Goddess used to have an article online outlining the more recent research demonstrating that Murray's 9 million number was not supported by the data. Records were kept by the courts, but apparently not much studied until the last several years.

In the meantime that number got enshrined in the common knowledge.

Atlantic Monthly ran an article in which the author tried to discredit Wicca as a legitimate religion because of the better understanding of history. She didn't count on the educated Pagan community being able to adapt to new knowledge with an shrug and an "okay, we can make the distinction between myth and fact." and move on with our lives and religion.:LOL
post #3 of 33
I don't have much to contribute, it's been a while since I did any research, mind if I just lurk?:
post #4 of 33
Thread Starter 
Oh yeah I agree with you. But sadly some of the more "creative" authors of years past are still quoted as good sources by many.

Hopefully someone will come along and bring some links

or maybe I'll get off my lazy butt and find some myself :LOL
post #5 of 33
Well, I think a lot of Pagans are defensive about the new research, as though fewer numbers mean Pagans weren't really persecuted, kwim? Like we needed that 9 million to justify the feelings many of us have toward Christianity.

Personally... having been born Jewish and steeped in holocaust studies in years of Hebrew School.. I think any religion sort of loses out if its whole identity... or a vast part of its identity.. is based on solidarity for having been persecuted. Religions need to offer more than that to be viable.

Now, that said... if even ONE witch was burned for her beliefs... that's enough to outrage me. I don't need the inflated figures to justify my anger at Christianity. Though I AM trying to work through that anger...
post #6 of 33
The other aspect of Wicca that the Atlantic Monthly article addressed was the age of Wicca itself. But maybe that's another thread? One of the things that leaps out at some sites that focus on the Burning Times is that some think it was Wiccans being tied to those posts. Nope. Pagans/nonChristians in some cases, but really it was mostly heretical Christians, ones whose form of faith didn't conform to Rome's dictates, and later to the local form of Protestantism...

Just as fewer persecuted doesn't equate to less validity, neither does recentness of beginnings.

post #7 of 33
Found it!!!!!

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2001/01/allen.htm

January 2001 edition, still online, Thank-you Mother!
post #8 of 33
Thread Starter 
Oh Meiri, I'd love to discuss the true history of Wicca and agree that is probably for another thread. I think we should have one on that though.

And Asherah, ITA with what you posted. I too do not need to have millions burned as witches to support my feelings about Christianity. Because there is much horrid history without the burning times stuff specifically.

Meiri, great article do you mind if I link to it in the pagan resources thread???

And I agree that recentness of history doesn't invalidate a religion. But I do feel that it is normal to be suspecious of groups that spread falsehoods to make themselves seem older, wiser or more important. Which is why we shouldn't shy away from good scholarship IMO.
post #9 of 33

just sort of venting I suppose

One of the things that irritates me about discussions of the Burning Times is the assumption (on the part of most of the pagans I have discussed this with) that the "witches" that were burned/hanged/etc. were self-identifying as such (when not under torture that is). From all the reading I've done, it would appear that the vast majority of the accused witches were Christians of the same branch as their accusers.

The witchcraft craze of Europe in the16th & 17th centuries are utterly deplorable. But I gnash my teeth every time I hear a neo-pagan claiming it as his or her own birthright to claim indignation over. (And I've heard it a lot IRL.)

I don't have any books right in front of me so I can't post figures right now.
post #10 of 33
Thread Starter 
Excellent point Karen. One I tend to forget alot too. That probably none of those that were perscuted were actually witches.
post #11 of 33
Arduinna, It's a public website, please post the link in the resources thread.

I did find one thing I disagree with when I reread the article. I agree that there's no evidence for the Spring Equinox being celebrated, particularly among the Celts. But it seems to me that the Irish holy days Imbolc and Beltaine very much fill the same role as modern Easter/Ostara. Imbolc is about the very first faint stirrings of Spring, and the coming of the Goddess Brigid to each home. Beltaine is the beginning of the light half of the year. These holidays are celebrated to this day, albeit in Christian garb in most homes...
post #12 of 33
very interesting discussion...im glad i decided to go ahead and visit this area.. altho i should be sleeping...

All the books ive read on the burning times including videos ive seen has said that 9 million "people"... not pagans, not wiccans, not christians but people... yes probably the majority of them were christian who "thought outside the box".... yet i do believe that there were probably some pagans... especially in the country side... but i have read that people moved underground with their beliefs... not jus pagans but christians who didnt agree completely with the doctrine of that time....

also every time i tend to hear something about the burning times.. it comes off like it was jus a few years but in actuality was a few hundred years and becuz record keeping wasnt too big back then i dont believe we will ever know how many people actually died...

im probably not making sense any more... but now i am going back to the library to research some more... i jus finished a good book on the burning times a few months back but cannot remember the name... supposedly there were actual pictures of court documents back then and diaries...


ok im off to bed... dont even know if my above post made any sense...
post #13 of 33

Re: just sort of venting I suppose

Quote:
Originally posted by karen ann
I gnash my teeth every time I hear a neo-pagan claiming it as his or her own birthright to claim indignation over. (And I've heard it a lot IRL.)
Why?
post #14 of 33
Thread Starter 
I'm guessing she is referring specifically to those that claim that the witch trials were of actual witches. There seems to be a very commonly held belief by some that those persecuted at that time were practicing wiccans and so they claim the victims as part of their legacy. Alot of people want to forget that Wicca is not a ancient religion.

Only speaking for myself, but I am more outraged at the missionary work and conversions that resulted in the loss of the traditional tribal polytheistic cultures of Europe ect.
post #15 of 33
I know that most persecuted during the burning times were Heretical Christians, scapegoats and simply independent women, not wiccans. But, didn't the persecutions of so called witches serve to villify witches?
I don't identify as a wiccan, and so I don't know what exactly certain wiccans identify as their birthright, but simply being outraged at this villification seems justified.
I also feel more saddened by the systematic wiping out of the Euorpean polytheistic cultures, tho.

hope this makes some sense, it's late. . .
post #16 of 33
Actually Tricia, the church courts kept very good records. Very few bothered to look at them in this context until the last several years. 9 million is an unsupportable number even when one takes into account the 2 or more centuries in which burnings and hangings and whatnot went on.

That anyone would be tortured, hanged, burned, whatever for not agreeing with the authorities' religion is something to be angry about, but at this point we're not going to change that history. Given that this went on in parts of continental Europe, I think anyone of European descent can claim something of the heritage, IF they choose. All we can do is learn the facts as scholars uncover them and learn what we can do to change the attitudes that make such events possible.

Those attitudes, sadly, still exist.
post #17 of 33
Quote:
Originally posted by Meiri
Actually Tricia, the church courts kept very good records. Very few bothered to look at them in this context until the last several years. 9 million is an unsupportable number even when one takes into account the 2 or more centuries in which burnings and hangings and whatnot went on.

That anyone would be tortured, hanged, burned, whatever for not agreeing with the authorities' religion is something to be angry about, but at this point we're not going to change that history. Given that this went on in parts of continental Europe, I think anyone of European descent can claim something of the heritage, IF they choose. All we can do is learn the facts as scholars uncover them and learn what we can do to change the attitudes that make such events possible.

Those attitudes, sadly, still exist.

Small christian towns in the country rural areas who participated in the burnings, hangings, etc did not keep quite as good records...and quite a few of these things happened off the record as it turned that some citizens were soo fearful they would do it themselves without going through a trial... but all this can be debated...as i was not there i will not begin to speculate on numbers...

You are completely correct in the fact we must uncover what we can in the past and hopefully one day we will learn from it... and it is quite sad that viewpoints like these still exist in todays society... unfortunately there is still people who attack pagans, and others of different religions because they feel they are superior and the one true way to "God"...
post #18 of 33
kama'aina mama:

To answer your question as to why.
You may or may not know, but I was raised by Wiccans, so I grew up knowing a lot of pagans of various flavors. More often than not, the ones I've known in real life have been angry former monotheists (usually Christian) with a big ol' chip on the shoulder about how evil "the church" is and always has been forever and ever amen. One of their sketchy claims is that those nasty ol' Christians committed a genocidical purging of pagans through the witch trials (I'm paraphrasing one of my parents' more vociferous friends there, but I've heard varying degrees of that sentiment throughout my life). Many modern pagans also feel a sense of persecution -- sometimes due to actual persecution or prejudice, sometimes just paranoia or reading too much into benign instances. As justification for this feeling of persection, some have used the "Your people have been doing this to us since the Burning Times" fallacy. Basing fears and assumptions on shoddy scholarship grates me.


tricia80:

This quote taken from http://www.illusions.com/burning/burnwitc.htm?

Quote:
Interestingly, it is possible to document that of all the trials, only one set (in 1390 Milan) involved women tried for practicing rites led by the pagan Goddess Diana. The bulk of the trials between 1400 and 1700 involved diabolism, Luciferianism, and acts relating to the Devil. Before 1400, the majority of trials were focused on the use of magics to harm others, to practice treasonous divination and spells against a monarch.

It is therefore a reasonable assumption to make that the trials and persecutions of the "Burning Times" were not aimed at actual practicing "pagans," but rather at a whole other class of people.

Some were guilty. Most were probably innocent and Christian. A few were "satanists," most were not. Some were just senile. Or too ugly. Or too pretty. Or just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

<snip>
This document is © copyright 1990, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 W.J. Bethancourt III
Portions of this document were first released to the PODS Net as ASCII text, used as a part of the "Pagan 101-201" informational disc, and included in the "Riders of the Crystal Wind" BoS. Note that ANY exchange of money for a copy of the "Riders of the Crystal Wind" BoS is a violation of copyright. Any usage of this document, in this or any previous form is a violation of copyright unless the copyright attribution is included. Access to this document is free, provided that the user observes my copyright. If you are being charged for accessing them (or even using someone's "14-day free trial"), or have purchased a CD that includes portions of this information you are being defrauded and may be subjecting yourself to a charge of copyright violation. If you see this material on ANY other website, or on a commercially available CD, and the copyright information is NOT included, that website or commercial seller is violating my copyright. Please e-mail the website owner or commercial seller, with a copy to me, and remind them that violation of copyright is theft, and can be prosecuted.

(Sorry for the long copyright info but it had to be included for legal purposes )

I don't charge that ALL the accused were not (what we would now call) pagans or witches. I just said the MAJORITY, which is what all the evidence I've read bears out. If I find substantive evidence of the contrary my position will change.

The site I linked above seems very well researched and annotated. I highly recommend it to any interested in the subject.

\|/Karen Ann
post #19 of 33
So it is, for you anyway, both an issue of accuracy and an issue of them projecting their personal issues without much basis? Okay. Thank you for explaining. I have a number of very dear friends who are pagans and when I have heard them mention the burning times it is not usually with a ton of weight or venom... more, "well, there's this in our collective history" and they seem quite aware of teh irony that virtually none of the "witches" killed were witches.... which is of little comfort now that I think about it. Anyway... thank you for clarifying. I appreciate it.
post #20 of 33
Karen Ann.. and I say this gently.. you sound incredibly angry... to a point that feels to me a little out of proportion.
I can't help wonder if some issues you have with your parents color your view of this?

In any case, what I mourn is also the loss of the polytheists.. and the loss of so much knowledge and tradition. It is why so much Paganism is neccessarily re-constructionist.

And I really don't have to cite "the burning times" to express my overall disgust with much of what Christianity has wrought... (sorry, but I think we are allowed to be truthful in this part of the forum?)
I have PLENTY of other things to talk about if I want to go there.
And I also do feel that if people are "burned AS witches..." it says something about prejudice.. and it doesn't much matter if they actually WERE witches, in the sense we speak of witches today.

That said... MY Paganism is NOT a response to Christianity at all.
I have never BEEN a monotheist.

I came to Paganism when I was called by the Goddess, as I searched for the sacred feminine.

I am sorry for whatever upsets you, Karen Ann. And maybe all the Pagans you knew were exactly as you described.
But I certainly do NOT want to be lumped in with them.
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