Thursday, June 30, 2011

Where There's Smoke: Witchcraft, Paganism, Christianity, and the Burning Times

I am going to try an experiment: using this blog to write a book. The central idea of this book is to expand upon what Carlo Ginzburg has called "the core of truth" in Margaret Murray's thesis.

This core of truth is simply stated: (1) the targets of the Burning Times were Pagans, and they were targeted as Pagans, and (2) the perpetrators of the Burning Times were Christians, and they acted as Christians.

The working title is Where's There's Smoke, with the subtitle: Witchcraft, Paganism, Christianity, and the Burning Times. Here is a very broad outline of what I have in mind:

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

Part One:
The Prehistory of the Burning Times

Paganism B.C. (Before Christianization)
Christianity B.C. (Before Constantine)
Paganism versus Christianity (4th - 8th Centuries)
European Christendom: The Birth of a Persecuting Society
The Incomplete Christianization of Europe
The Renaissance: Prelude to the Firestorm

Part Two
A Narrative History of the Burning Times, 1500-1700

Part Three
Points of Contention: Definitions & Other Moving Targets
Witches, Hexen, Streghe, Sorcières, Brujas, etc.
Pagans, Heathens, Hellenes, Infidels, Kafirs, Unbelievers, etc.
Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Heretics, etc.
What Constitutes a "Witch Hunt"?
Inquisitors and Witch Hunters
The Burning Times By The Numbers
Jacob Grimm on Witches as Priestesses
Charles Godfrey Leland and "The Old Religion"
Margaret Murray and "The Society of Witches That Never Was"
Gerald Gardner: "There Have Been Witches In All Ages"
Contemporary scholarship that supports of the general notion of The Old Religion: An Annotated Bibliography

Honoring Our Pagan Ancestors

"The More Women, The More Witches."

For now at least, this will be the last installment of excerpts from William Perkins' Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft. To complete the circle, so to speak, this section ends where the section quoted in Part One of this series begins.

I come now to shew who is the practiser hereof, whome the Text principally aimeth at, namely, the Witch, whether man or woman. A Witch is a Magician, who either by open or secret league, wittingly, and willingly, consenteth to use the aide and assistance of the Devil, in the working of Wonders.

First, I call the Witch a Magician to shew what kind of person this is: to wit, such a one as doth professe and practise Witchcraft. For a Magician is a professor and a practiser of this art, as may appeare, Act. 8. 9. where Simon a Witch of Samaria is called Magus, or Simon the Magician. Againe, in this generall tearme, I comprehend both sexes or kinds of persons, men and women, excluding neither from beeing Witches.

A point the rather to be remembred, because Moses in this place setting down a Judiciall Law against Witches, useth a word of the feminine gender [mecashephab] which in English properly signifieth, a woman Witch: whereupon some might gather, that women onely were Witches. Howbeit Moses in this word exempteth not the male, but onely useth a notion referring to the female, for good causes; principally for these two.

First, to give us to understand, that the woman beeing the weaker sexe, is sooner intangled by the devils illusions with this damnable art, then the man. And in all ages it is found true by experience, that the devil hath more easily and oftener prevailed with women, then with men. Hence it was, that the Hebrewes of ancient times, used it for a proverb, The more women, the more Witches. His first temptation in the beginning, was with Eve a woman, and since he pursueth his practise accordingly, as making most for his advantage. For where he findeth easiest entrance, and best entertainment, thither will he oftnest resort.

Secondly, to take away all exception of punishment from any party that shall practise this trade, and to shew that weakenesse cannot exempt the Witch from death. For in all reason, if any might alledge infirmity, and plead for favour, it were the woman, who is weaker then the man, But the Lord saith, if any person of either sexe among his people, be found to have entered covenant with Satan, and become a practiser of Sorcery, though it be a woman and the weaker vessell, she shall not escape, she shall not be suffered to live, she must die the death. And though weaknes in other cases, may lessen both the crime and the punishment, yet in this it shall take no place.

The second point in the description, is consent to use the helpe of the devil, either by open or secret league, wittingly and willingly: wherein standeth the very thing, that maketh a Witch to be a Witch: The yielding of consent upon covenant. By which clause, two sort of people are expressely excluded from beeing Witches, First, such as be tainted with phrenzy or madnesse, or are through weaknesse of the braine deluded by the devil. For these, though they may be said after a sort to have society with Satan, or rather he with them, yet they cannot give their consent to use his aide truly, but onely in imagination; with the true Witch it is farre otherwise.

Secondly, all such superstitious persons, men or women, as use Charmes and Inchantment for the effecting of any thing upon a superstitious and erroneous perswasion, that the Charmes have vertue in them to doe such things, not knowing that it is the action of the devil by those meanes; but thinking that God hath put vertue into them, as he hath done into herbes for Physicke. Of such persons we have (no doubt) abundance in this our Land, who though they deale wickedly, and sinne grievously in using Charmes, yet because they intend not to joyne league with the devil, either secretly, or formally, they are not to be counted Witches. Nevertheless, they are to be advertised in the meane time, that their estate is fearefull. For their present ungodly practices have prepared the already to this cursed trade, and may bring them in time to be the ranekest Witches that can be. Wherefore I advise all ignorant persons, that know not God nor the Scriptures, to take heed and beware of this dangerous evil, the use of Charmes. For if they be once convinced in their consciences, and know that God hath given no power to such means, and yet shall use them, assuredly they doe in effect consent to the devil to be helped by him, and thereupon are joyned in confederacy with him in the confidence of their vine hearts, and so are become Witches.

The third and last thing in the description is the end of Witchcraft; The working of wonders. Wonders are wrought three wayes (on hath beene shewed,) either by Divination, or by enchantment, or by Jugling: and to one of three heads all feates and practices of Withcraft are to be referred. Now if any man doubt; whether these be such Witches indeed as have been described let him remember, that besides experience in all ages and countries, we have also sundry examples of them even in Scriptures. In the old Testament we reade of Baiaam, Num. 23. who though he be called a Prophet, because he was so reputed of men, yet indeed he was a notorious Witch, both by profession and practise, and would have shewed his cunning in that kind upon the Israelites, if God had not hindered him against his will. Of the same kind were the Inchanters of Egypt Exod, 7. the Witches of Persia, Dan. 2. and the Pythonisse of Endor, knowne for a renowned Sorcerer over all Israel: and therefore Sauls servants being asked, could presently tel of her, as we read, Sam. 28.

In the new Testament, mention is made of Simon, whose name declared his prosession; his name was Magus; and the text saith, that he used Witchcraft, and bewitched the people of Samaria, calling himselfe a great man; Act. 8. 9. Whence it was that after his death, there was a statue set up in Rome in honour of him in the daies of Claudius Cæsar, with this inscription; Simoni Deo Sancto. And it is not unlike, but Bar-iesus the false Prophet at Paphus, was a man addicted to the practices of Witchcraft, and for that cause was called by a kind of excellencie, Elymas the Magician, Act. 13. 6.8. that is, the great or famous Sorcerer. Lastly, the Pythonisse at Philippi, that gather master much advantage by divining Act. 16. 16. And all these used the helpe of the devil, for the working of wonders.

Of Witches there be two sorts: The bad Witch, and the good Witch: for so they are commonly called. The bad Witch, is he or she that hath consented in league with the devil to use his helpe, for the doing of hurt only as to strike and annoy the bodies of men, women, children, and cattle with diseases, and with death it selfe: so likewise to raise tempests, by sea and by land, & c. This is commonly called the binding Witch.

"The Good Witch Must Also Die"

Nergal Back In Court Over Bible Desecration Case

BEHEMOTH Frontman Back In Polish Court Over Bible-Tearing Incident - June 29, 2011

Behemoth Singer Faces Charges of Insulting Roman Catholics in Poland

Warsaw Business Journal:
Death-metal singer returns to court over criticism of Church, ripping up Bible

Behemoth’s Nergal Back In Court Over Bible-Destroying Incident

And follow this link for other stories, mostly in Polish:
google "news" search on "Nergal Ryszard Nowak"

For general background on this case here are four links from last year:
(1) From Blabbermouth (June 28, 2010):
BEHEMOTH Frontman Off The Hook In 2007 Bible-Tearing Case
(2) From MetalObsession (May 4, 2010):
Behemoth – Adam “Nergal” Darski (interview with Nergal)
(3) From Blabbermouth (April 20, 2010):
Polish University Professor Discusses Charges Against BEHEMOTH Frontman
(4) From RadioMetal (April 19, 2010):
Behemoth On The Burning Stake Of The Inquisition

And here's a whole shitload of blog posts from last year relevant to Nergal and this case:

What they mean by "dialogue", Part Three

The Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches (representing "mainline" Protestants), and the World Evangelical Alliance (representing the Sarah Palin/Pat Robertson crowd) recently got together to draw up "Recommendations For Conduct" for Christian missionaries.

The "recommendations" begin with a preamble that outlines the "Basis for Christian witness". The fourth point of these bases states:

"4. Christian witness in a pluralistic world includes engaging in dialogue with people of different religions and cultures (cf. Acts 17:22-28)."

In the passage of the Book of Acs cited above, Paul "engages in dialogue" with the Pagans of Athens by telling them, "you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you." And then, in verse 30, Paul further clarifies what his idea of "engaging in dialogue" is: "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."

For more on the Christian conception of "dialogue" see these other posts from this blog:

And for more on Christian missionary activities in general, check out these: