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The burning times

The extermination of Witches and other heretics

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Overview:

We are not going to win many friends in the Neopagan communities with the following essay. However, we believe it to be accurate. It is a story that needs to be told.

The facts are that almost all of the information that is generally accepted as truth by the Neopagan community about the "burning times" is wrong:

bulletThe total number of victims was probably between 50,000 and 100,000 -- not 9 million as many believe.

bulletAlthough alleged witches were burned alive or hung over a five century interval -- from the 14th to the 18th century -- the vast majority were tried from 1550 to 1650.

bulletSome of the victims worshiped Pagan deities, and thus could be considered to be indirectly linked to today's Neopagans. However most apparently did not.

bulletSome of the victims were midwives and native healers; however most were not.

bulletMost of the victims were tried executed by local, community courts, not by the Church.

bulletA substantial minority of victims -- about 25% -- were male.

bulletMany countries in Europe largely escaped the burning times: Ireland executed only four "Witches;" Russia only ten. The craze affected mostly Switzerland, Germany and France.

bullet Eastern Orthodox countries had few Witch trials. Stephen Hayes writes:
"In parts of the Orthodox East, at least, witch hunts such as those experienced in other parts of Europe were unknown...."The Orthodox Church is strongly critical of sorcerers (among whom it includes palmists, fortune tellers and astrologers), but has not generally seen the remedy in accusations, trials and secular penalties, but rather in confession and repentance, and exorcism if necessary...." 1

bulletMost of the deaths seem to have taken place in Western Europe in the times and areas where Protestant - Roman Catholic conflict -- and thus social turmoil -- was at its maximum.

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Topics included in this section:

bullet

Description of the phenomenon

bullet

Witch burning timeline

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Related essay on this web site:

bulletAre all Witches equal? The Harry Potter books and how they highlighted public confusion over the meaning of "Witch" and "Witchcraft."

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. , "Christian responses to Witchcraft and sorcery," at: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/
  2. Cornell University has a "Witchcraft Collection" with over 3,000 titles documenting the history of the Inquisition and the persecution of witches. "It documents the earliest and the latest manifestations of the belief in witchcraft as well as its geographical boundaries, and elaborates this history with works on canon law, the Inquisition, torture, demonology, trial testimony, and narratives. Most importantly, the collection focuses on witchcraft not as folklore or anthropology, but as theology and as religious heresy." See: http://historical.library.cornell.edu/
  3. Hugh V. McLachlan, "The Kirk, Satan and Salem: A History of the Witches of Renfrewshire," Grimsay Press, (2006) This book describes the witchcraft allegations and prosecutions in Renfrewshire, Scotland, in the 1690s. It covers points of similarities between this case and the more famous Salem case. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

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Site navigation:

Home page > Laws & religion Genocide > here

or: Home page > Religious violence >   Genocide > here

or: Home page > World religions > Wicca > here

or: Home page > Christianity > Christian relations > here

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Copyright © 1999 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-DEC-14
Latest update: 2011-OCT-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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