The 5 million witches of the DaVinci Code

Thomas

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Recent research has made it possible to revise the figures relative to the persons executed as witches. According to Danish scholar Gustav Henningsen, in the course of four centuries, when active persecution of witchcraft was practiced, some 50,000 people were killed -- and not 5 million as Brown maintains -- of whom close to 20% were men.

The figure in general was lower in Catholic countries, which were not undermined by the Protestant Reformation.

In Spain, Italy and Portugal of the mid-16th century to the end of the 18th century, there were 12,000 prosecutions against alleged female and male witches; only 36 people in these thousands of trials, were subjected to capital punishment.

In Rome, fewer than 100 people died for the offense of witchcraft. The first case of which we have knowledge was in 1426 and the last in 1572. The vast majority of the trials of the Roman Inquisition concluded for lack of evidence.

During the prosecutions against female witches, tremendous errors were committed, but this does not justify, on the historical plane, the spread of a black legend, as Brown has done, which sees "the Church" as the only one responsible.

http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=90538
 
Thomas said:
During the prosecutions against female witches, tremendous errors were committed, but this does not justify, on the historical plane, the spread of a black legend, as Brown has done, which sees "the Church" as the only one responsible.
Mmmm ... perhaps not, but I think the smear campaign that was most certainly launched against the Pagan religions - DOES need to be brought to light. This includes the fact that the Church (I do not insist on splitting this word as some do - for me, it includes RCC, Orthodoxy and Protestantism, etc.) twisted & distorted various symbols, such as the five-pointed star ... with its correspondences to the Planet Venus, with the Sacred Feminine, and in fact, with highest DEITY.

The Church - often the RCC, as a matter of fact - turned the MOST SACRED UNION OF ALL ... the act of procreation, or SEX ... into an act of shame, and taught us to conceal this shame. NOT some kind of made-up story about Genesis and the Garden of Eden (for this has been distorted, and the allegory has been literalized), but the errors of the `fathers' has led us to the edge of the precipice upon which we now stand, assembled as lemmings, gaping into the chasm below.

Our paternalistic, imbalanced society - where the masculine has trounced the feminine - stares into the face of oblivion ... and folks like Dan Brown are sending forth a WAKE-UP CALL. I for one, am grateful. And ya know something, if he happens to get a number wrong here & there, I think I can forgive him. THAT'S NOTHING as compared to what 1500+ years of Church influence (indeed, much of it thanks to the RCC) has done!!! When all is said and done, the Dan Brown's will but need to cough and say `sorry 'bout that' - while the good ol' RCC and other branches/arms of Christianity ... dear god, they might as well start the confessing now.

IT'S GONNA TAKE AWHILE!!!

Nope. You're right, Thomas, et al. It's not for me to sort out. And so I try not to concern myself, actually. And I would much more prefer looking at the GOOD that is being done.

But Dan Brown, plaigiarist or otherwise, and certainly Michael Baigent, are serving a vital, necessary Purpose in doing what they're doing, in saying what they're saying. If the foundation is strong, even to strike at the cornerstone will be of no avail. But if the house of cards is indeed one whose days of jealous, zealous protection are numbered ... well then, we'll just have to see.

Okay, he miscounted. 5 million, 50,000, does it really matter if it was just 500???You're essentially saying, "Stop exaggerating, THEY DIDN'T KILL THAT MANY!" I mean, you know, maybe Hitler only gassed a few thousand Jews!!! C'mon, stop yer griping - you're blowing this thing way out of proportion! RIGHT??? :(

The blood isn't on your hands for being Catholic/German/etc. It's on OUR hands for being Human. Either we face and accept that ... or we're living in denial. Karma is not guilt. It's Responsiblity. Better to DO something about it - than proclaim one's innocence, or argue for being less guilty.

taijasi
 
Taijasi, THANKS!

This is not a topic I will research but having a rep of the RCC say it didn't do anything wrong--well, 500 innocent women killed for loving life more than the local priests--that is 500 too many. Were they innocent? Of one thing we are certain: They did not openly kill their neighbours like the church did in killing these women. In fact, I think their purpose of operation was to preserve life. That these round-bellied, fat-cheeked men were particular in what way they preserved life might say more about the men than it does about so-called witches. Anyway, what's wrong with witches?
 
I appreciate the point you're trying to make - it would be interesting to see whether the Danish research is sustained.

Thomas said:
In Spain, Italy and Portugal of the mid-16th century to the end of the 18th century, there were 12,000 prosecutions against alleged female and male witches; only 36 people in these thousands of trials, were subjected to capital punishment.

It is worth remembering, though, that a big part of these inquisitions wasn't the end resulting of obtaining deaths, but of spreading fear through wide-scale torture.

2c.
 
Sorry to post at length - but I think its worth it:

http://dir.salon.com/story/books/review/2005/02/01/witch_craze/index.html?pn=1

"For years, feminist scholars have argued that witch hunts were inspired by a reactionary, misogynistic church. But new scholarship, like Lyndal Roper's "Witch Craze," reveals that the real villains were the neighbors."


"Witch hunts lie at the dark heart of Western culture, so much so that they've become synonymous with any kind of vicious, dogged and irrational persecution, from McCarthyism to the ritual child abuse panics of the 1980s.

"No wonder the history of the original European witch hunts of the late 16th and early 17th centuries has become politicized. By the early 1900s, they were seen as outbreaks of hysteria fostered by a sinister and oppressive Catholic Church. Then, about 30 years ago, revisionist historians began to claim that the trials constituted a more systematic campaign by the patriarchal church to extinguish the remnants of goddess-worshiping pre-Christian religions by wiping out the people who preserved them: women, specifically folk healers and midwives.

Both views are wrong, but as far as popular conception goes, the second has triumphed.

For a summary of this now-widespread misperception of the "Burning Times," we need look no further than a passage from the best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code": "The Catholic Inquisition published the book that arguably could be called the most blood-soaked publication in human history. 'Malleus Maleficarum' -- or 'The Witches' Hammer' -- indoctrinated the world to 'the dangers of freethinking women' and instructed the clergy how to locate, torture and destroy them. Those deemed 'witches' by the Church included all female scholars, priestesses, gypsies, mystics, nature lovers, herb gatherers, and any women 'suspiciously attuned to the natural world.' Midwives were also killed for their heretical practice of using medical knowledge to ease the pain of childbirth -- a suffering, the Church claimed, that was God's rightful punishment for Eve's partaking of the apple of Knowledge, thus giving birth to the idea of Original Sin. During 300 years of witch hunts, the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women" (internal quotations original, source unidentified, but definitely not "Malleus Maleficarum").

This is an impressively erroneous passage, incorrect almost from beginning to end, but it is contaminated by one morsel of fact: The "Malleus Maleficarum" is indeed a spectacularly misogynistic and twisted book, compiled by the Dominican inquisitors Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, published in 1486 and an essential guidebook and inspiration for witch hunters throughout Europe."

And later:

In the past two or three decades, however, many historians have turned their attention to more reliable source materials on the witch hunts -- the local records of trials and executions stashed away in hundreds of small towns across Europe and Great Britain. Jenny Gibbons' essay "Recent Developments in the Study of the Great European Witch Hunt," this is hard work, sifting through vast amounts of dull documents written in archaic and often frustratingly obtuse language, but it's the sort of thing real historians do. And it's given us a radically new picture of what Europe's witch hunts were like.

Lyndal Roper's "Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany", Robin Briggs' "Witches and Neighbors" and Brian Levack's "The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe" are two of the best known -- it is crammed with little stories: squabbles among neighbors, resentments within families, disagreeable local characters, the machinations of small-time politicians and the creepy psychosexual fixations of magistrates and clerics.

What comes out, in short, is the following:

"The Inquisition was not greatly involved in witch burnings; it had its hands full with Protestants and other heretics, whom the church shrewdly perceived to be a far more serious threat to its power. In fact, while the justification for condemning witches was religious, and some religious figures joined in witch hunting campaigns, the trials were not run by churches of any denomination. They were largely held in civil courts and prosecuted by local authorities (some of whom were also religious leaders) as criminal cases."

(my emphasis)

also:

"And if the victims of witch hunts were disproportionately older women, their chief accusers, and the initiating force behind many of the trials Roper details, were often women, too. Young mothers, overwhelmed by the demands of newborn infants and raised in a world where everyone believed that angry or negative thoughts could cause serious physical harm, cast about for someone to blame when something went wrong. In an old woman they saw someone with cause to resent their good fortune as well as a reminder that their youth and fecundity, too, would someday be gone. In some cases, a midwife was simply the old woman most likely to have had contact with a new mother and her child, and therefore a prime target.

None of this excuses the Catholic and Protestant churches for the many atrocities they've perpetrated over the centuries, against "witches" or anyone else who earned their disfavor. But it's also a caution against idealizing a pagan past about which we know next to nothing. The pagan cultures that have left records have proven themselves every bit as capable of misogyny and of senselessly brutalizing outsiders and misfits. As human beings, pagans were just as capable of barbarity as monotheists; and as human beings, women can be just as wicked as men, given half a chance."

I recommend the article.
 
Hi taijasi -

C'mon, stop yer griping - you're blowing this thing way out of proportion! RIGHT???

I thought you were a theosophist?

Is not the motto - 'There is no religion higher than truth'?

+++

Okay, he miscounted. 5 million, 50,000, does it really matter if it was just 500??? You're essentially saying, "Stop exaggerating, THEY DIDN'T KILL THAT MANY!" I mean, you know, maybe Hitler only gassed a few thousand Jews!!!

This is an interesting and illuminating statement: It is a commonly used stratagem of the propagandist in which one attempts to associate a truth which one is trying to undermine with a lie, and thus the one gets damned with the other.

This is what intelligence circles call 'black propaganda' - it's insulting and offensive - and a crude demonstration of your own agenda with regard to the Church.

Thomas
 
to give wiccans and neopagans their due, many of them are no longer uncritically accepting the "burning times" mythology, given the lack of unequivocal historical evidence. nonetheless, it still seems that you can't be a proper religion or ethnic group nowadays without your own genocide - and the human race being what it is, you often don't have to look very hard. no doubt an airline and beer will follow in due course.

i myself would counsel a word of warning, however - be careful with your terminology. some people prefer to be called neo-pagans, some prefer to describe witchcraft, suitably capitalised, as a religion in its own right, others prefer the label of wiccan, sometimes prefixed with gardnerian/alexandrian/dianic/eclectic or any number of other qualifiers. don't just use "pagan" as a synonym for non-christian/muslim/jewish, because it can cause offence. bgruagach, the mod on the neo-paganism board, will be happy to answer questions over there i dare say.

and, needless to say, don't bother relying on dan brown for research or accuracy!

b'shalom

bananabrain
 
Thomas said:
This is what intelligence circles call 'black propaganda' - it's insulting and offensive - and a crude demonstration of your own agenda with regard to the Church.

Thomas
Yes indeed, Thomas ... I want to stamp it right out!!! Bad, bad church - nothing redeemable, utterly a loss, let's toss the baby right out with the bathwater. :rolleyes:

I'm afraid I can't begin to take this any more seriously right now than ...

Noooooobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!!
AMONGST our weaponry are such diverse elements as:
fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms -
Oh damn!

taijasi
 
Hard to believe we are still shocked there are untruths in fiction.

And feel the need to defend against what is written in such.

Or that 50,000, 5,000 or 5 is an acceptable number.

If 50,000 becomes an acceptable number, seems we have Dan Brown to thank for diluting us further in that regard... proving yet again the value of hyperbole.
 
Thanks for the commentaries, Thomas - it certainly makes for an interesting subject.

I remember reading up on witch trials quite a few years back, and the impression then was certainly in agreement with the assessment that it was petty squabbles and vindictive neighbours who powered the accusations of witchcraft, often to a ridiculous degree to a modern point of view. The point is, these would normally have no outlet for murderous expression, but were empowered to do so with the authority and approval of the Mediaeval churches.

Additionally, while the accusations may have originated locally, regional and national authorities not simple encouraged their reporting, but also actively sought them out under certain environments, not least in England under the infamous Matthew Hopkins "Witchfinder General".

Furthermore, I think a point worth underlining is that even if most such trials were carried out in civil courts, the social structure of the Mediaeval period meant that society and Christianity were often mixed to the point of being indistinguishable, and that civil courts were often run under local church authority. My limited understanding of "church courts" as we might understand it were effectively for internal matters - excommunications, etc - so the word "civil courts" as applied today as a secular instrument would not reflect the Mediaeval reality of Western European legal systems.

I can't say I have any particular bias to seeing the mediaeval church in any critically feminist or antagonistic neopagan view - my opinion is from a general reading of Mediaeval European history - in which case, I should caution that in attempting to disarm any misconceptions about the Witchcraft period, should not be seen to create new misconceptions either.

2 opinionated cents. :)
 
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