You too could be a witch. All it takes is an accusation.
Why is it as the year 2010 draws to a close that we find ourselves talking about Witchcraft? I don’t mean Wicca, the religion that sees historical witchcraft as survivals of ancient Pagan religion, but of the medieval ideas about witchcraft, the sort circulated in the 13th century, the sort of nonsense you’ll find in Heinrich Kramer’s 1486 classic, The Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches).
What is ironic is that both witches and Christians agree that witches exist. The medieval Christian mindset was so determined that witches existed that it gave birth to the book named above, which was a treatise designed to refute claims that witches did not exist. It was a sort of Dummies Guide to Witchcraft for authorities; it told them how to find and convict this pernicious societal cancer.
Some delightful irony: Kramer was himself denounced by the Inquisition in 1490.
The book was as popular as the idea of witchcraft itself. It was published thirteen times between 1487 and 1520 and sixteen more times between 1574 and 1669. I mean, this was one popular book. Witches must have been everywhere. Conservatives will no doubt see it as the good old days; I’m quite surprised it hasn’t been recently re-imprinted by Regnery or the Heritage Foundation. It would seem like killer timing, if you’ll pardon the pun.
The Malleus fueled the European witch-hunts, which killed tens of thousands of people. Will the figure of 9 million that has obtained almost mythical status is almost certainly an exaggeration, author Robin Briggs estimates that there were roughly 100,000 trials between 1450 and 1750 and something like 40,000 to 50,000 executions, roughly a fifth to a quarter of them men. Historically, Christians have loved to believe in witches. As Carl Sagan points out in his Demon-Haunted World (1996), “even humanists such as Desiderius Erasmus and Thomas More believed in witches.” “The giving up of witchcraft,” said John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, “is in effect the giving up of the Bible.” It’s almost as if you don’t believe in witches, you don’t believe in the Bible.
Can we blame Wesley for saying that? After all, it is in the Bible that we find, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18).
If the Bible is the literal word of God, then witches must be real.
Witchcraft is all the craze again, and we can’t blame Bill Maher for it, or even Christine O’Donnell. After all, it was Sarah Palin back in 2008 who found a video of her receiving blessings against witchcraft being administered flying around the internet. And who should be doing the blessing but a genuine, witch-hunting pastor from Africa, Pastor Thomas Muthee, who in true Malleus-fashion accused a woman of causing car crashes through witchcraft. Substitute a horse drawn wagon and old Thomas would fit right into the Salem community.
Muthee didn’t hang the poor girl, but he chased her out of town.
Great to know we’re living in the 21st century, but somebody forgot to tell the Fundamentalist Christians.
Now we’ve got some nonsense in Hawaii. Bad enough O’Donnell goes and makes out that witches are Satan worshipers (they’re two different things altogether) but now we have Republican candidate for governor James “Duke” Aiona wanting to get truly medieval on witchcraft’s ass. I mean, hard-core Malleus medieval.
According to Talk to Action’s Bruce Williams, Aiona is a member of “Transformation Hawai’i is a local chapter of an entity called the International Transformation Network, whose leaders appear fixated on fighting gay marriage and burning “idols”, “witchcraft items”, Books of Mormon, statues of Catholic saints, and native art.”
Yeah, the native art has gotta go.
You want to know how Malleus proficient the Transformation folks are?
“If you have any idols in your home, we’re gonna burn ’em! If you have any witchcraft items in your home, we’re gonna burn ’em!” — Cindy Jacobs, faculty member, International Transformation Network
That’s hard core. It’s also a violation of the Constitution. According to the Constitution, people have a right to be witches if they want. They can even run for and hold public offices according to Article Six, Section 3. Holy Witches Hammer, Batman!
That won’t stop these fearless crusaders from the Religious Lunacy Zone. I mean, O’Donnell isn’t a witch:
And Aiona isn’t a Transformer-whatever…
But witches they say are real, and again, I am not talking about Wicca or Wiccans, but about medieval-style witches of the fevered Christian fundamentalist imagination, and the people in the Religious Lunacy Zone are still waving their copies of the Malleus around and waging spiritual warfare against people both science and Wiccans say do not exist. And they want to pull the rest of us into their dark fantasies and make us participate.
Keep in mind, when you vote on November 2, that a vote for these people is a vote for the Malleus. Remember what happened to Paul Ingram, upstanding local Republican Party leader and sheriff’s deputy who 1988 ended up being charged with belonging to a Satanic cult and abusing his daughters. Ingram went to prison for 20 years. A good old fashioned Malleus-inspired witch-hunt began and as Carl Sagan says, “If it was the sixteenth century instead of the twentieth, perhaps the whole family would have been burned at the stake – along with a god fraction of the leading citizens of Olympia, Washington.”
Think about Ingram. If they get their way, to steal a phrase from O’Donnell, he could be you.