How religious fanatics declared War against Women 300 years ago

Remembering the Horror of the 17th Century Witch Burning Times

While writing Ama my Historical Fiction Book, set in the 17th century China my research took me into this most interesting of times in Europe, the time of the Witch Hunts, when men of reason seamed to be prosecuted and singled out for their sanity.

You must have heard, been deeply shocked and gasped in misbelief many a time, when you learned of a war against women that was executed at the edge of the Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, when educated classes, government officials and legal entities have decided to follow religious fanatics and proclaimed a hunt against midwifes, healers, and independent women. These horrifying times ended with many victims, the estimates vary from a conservative 100,000 women killed to as many as 9 million burned, tortured or hanged.

Scottish witch face digitally constructed Lilias Adie

Historian Louise Yeoman and forensic artists at a Scottish university digitally reconstructed the face of Lilias Adie, who died in jail 300 years ago after confessing to being a witch… Adie’s skull was photographed in the 1800s, allowing forensic artists to reconstruct her face. A wise woman face, this is what we see…

The Papal Inquisition executing the Hunt

A small historical reminder of a few facts that led to this mad war against women - the papal Inquisition was created by Pope Gregory IX in 1231, as a medieval church court active for far too long, around 6 centuries, a symbol of cruelty, intolerance, and religious fanaticism. By the power of this Court, heretics were imprisoned, tortured, books burned, the property confiscated, and many families doomed. After the 15th century, the Inquisition’s major work was in the hunt of witches with the peak of its activity around 1500 - 1650, the times known as Witch Craze, the Burning Times, or a “mass hysteria” that was one of the best organised Holocausts supported by all that were in power at the time.

The man in the street actually believed in a conspiracy of the devil to destroy the Christian kingdoms through magick and poison. Brain-washing the uneducated flock, Christians were deeply involved in identifying potential witches. The Church spread all sort of stories about the witches that fly at night, drink blood, kill babies, copulate with Devil. Witch hunts were often instigated by hysterical children who accused their neighbours of various crimes.

The government officials, Kings and Courts that supported this craze developed a whole body of "scientific" methods and institutions to facilitate the hunts.

Malleus Maleficarum Witch Hunting Manual

Malleus Maleficarum

The official start to this madness was in 1484 when Pope Innocent VIII issued the Witch Bull, the law for all of Europe, the legal basis for the Inquisition to punish witches.

“it has recently come to our ears, not without great pain to us, that many persons of both sexes, heedless of their own salvation and forsaking the catholic faith,

give themselves over to devils male and female,
and by their incantations, charms, and conjurings,

...by virtue of our apostolic authority, that it shall be permitted to the said inquisitors in these regions to exercise their office of inquisition and to proceed to the correction, imprisonment, and punishment of the aforesaid persons for their said offences and crimes,…”

This was a preface to another book called Malleus Maleficarum that was published three years later, the Witches' Hammer, written by two German Dominican monks, Henry Institoris and Jacob Sprenger. For nearly 250 years the Witches' Hammer was the guidebook for the hunters of how to find, torture and persecute the witch.

"All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman. ... What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature, painted with fair colours. ... Women are by nature instruments of Satan -- they are by nature carnal, a structural defect rooted in the original creation." Malleus Maleficarum

Until 1699 this witch hunter manual was reprinted in 28 editions. After Bible it was the most popular book of its times. The handbook in details explained why women are by nature evil, and why men should declare a war against them. Both Catholic and Protestant states followed. An open hunting season against women was declared legal.

Ama Alchemy of Love “the  Witches' Hammer became the bestseller, the hit amongst different classes, and was passed from hand to hand, read aloud in Churches, and on the village squares, stored in special places, with the Bible, consulted in the dark corridors of the torture chambers. The best Hunters would know it by heart, reciting it as a deepest wisdom against poor women. Printed, reprinted and translated into German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, English, Portuguese, it outsold all other books except the Bible!” (a quote from A-Ma Alchemy of Love, my spiritual historical fiction book, that explores the 17th century China).

Witch Craze, the Burning Times, or a “Mass Hysteria” 

Just to give you an idea of how crazy this hunt was, in 1609, the French witch hunter Pierre de Lancre accused all 30,000 citizens of Labourd, in France, to be witches, priests included. He tried to execute them all but managed to torture and burn around 600 inhabitants, mostly women.

None was spared from the madness, even children were executed - the youngest accused witch was a girl of four – her name was Dorcas Good, prosecuted in the Salem trial.

The town of Baden, Germany, burned 200 witches from 1627 to 1630.

The tiny town of Ellwangen, Germany, burned 393 witches from 1611 to 1618.

The Catholic prince-bishop of Würzburg, Germany, burned 600 witches from 1628 to 1631.

The Swiss canton of Vaud executed about 1,800 witches from 1611 to 1660.

There is a saying that Elizabeth I executed 800 witches per year.

In Southwest Germany alone, 3,229 people were executed for witchcraft between 1562 and 1684

Nicholas Rémy, attorney general of Lorraine, burned 900 witches in a single decade from 1581 to 1591.

Ferdinand von Wittelsbach, Catholic prince-archbishop of Cologne, Germany, burned 2,000 during the 1630s.

A freelance witch-finder, an Englishman Matthew Hopkins “hunted” 200 from 1645 to 1647.

During these “Burning Times” unlimited use of torture produced an ever-expanding wave of accusations. A large witch-panic could start with one obscure suspect and spread through all the town. In the years of the witch-hunting mania, people were encouraged to inform against one another. 

"Ama is a witch, Fra Thomas claimed, but we will see for how long this absurd accusation will hold.

An absurd accusation indeed, but this was the century when absurdity was the middle name of much that was happening. The 16th and 17th century tip-toed through the Earth with a clumsiness of a Giant, shaking the roots of all past beliefs, leaving huge finger prints all throughout the scientific work, and religious structures. These centuries saw changes in knowledge, culture, and conscious behavior; our unconsciousness, habits, and good old superstitions stayed within our make-up for a while longer, lingering there, waiting for some other spiritual revolution to happen hundreds or maybe thousands of years later... Read More - A Chapter from Ama on Goodreads"

from Ama Alchemy of Love by Nataša Pantović Nuit

Spiritual Writing the Most Read Genre of All  Article by Nuit

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