The Right Waging Spiritual Warfare: You Too Could be a Witch
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.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.
4 Replies to “The Right Waging Spiritual Warfare: You Too Could be a Witch”
If one ascribes to the belief that the bible has many translation errors, it further muddies the waters. There are experts that contend that the original word translated as witchcraft was translated incorrectly into English. The words original meaning was poisoner. The basis of much of the bigotry and hatred of today is based on beliefs that could very well be wrong. This is why religious beliefs are dangerous. The fanatical do not want facts or different views to conflict with a chosen belief system.
From The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot.
Chapter I – The exposition of this Hebrue word Chasaph, wherein is answered the objection conteined in Exodus 22. to wit: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, and of Simon Magus. Acts. 8.
(page 64) Chaspah, being a Hebrue word, is Latined Veneficium, and is in English, poisoning, or witchcraft; if you will so have it. The Hebrue sentence written in Exodus, 22. is by the 70. interpretors translated thus into Greeke, [note: I’ll fill this in when I have a Greek font and more time], which in Latine is,
Veneficos (sive) veneficas non retinebitis in vita,
in English, You shall not suffer anie poisoners, or (as it is translated) witches to live. The which sentence Josephus an Hebrue borne, and a man of great estimation, learning and fame, interpreteth in this wise; Let none of the children of Israel have any poison that is deadlie, or preparted to anie hurtfull use. If anie be apprehended with such stuffe, let him be put to dfeath, and suffer that which he meant to doo to them, for whom he prepared it. The Rabbins exposition agree heerewithall. Lex Cornelia differeth not from this sense, to wit, that he must suffer to death, which either maketh, selleth, or hath anie poison, to the intent to kill anie man.
This word is found in these places following: Exodus. 22, Deut. 18, 10. 2 Sam. 9, 22. Dan. 2,2. 2 Chr. 33, 6. Eay. 47, 9, 12. Malach, 3,5. Jerem. 27, 9, Mich. 5, 2. Nah. 3,4. bis. Howbeit, in all our English translations, Chaspah is translated, witchraft.
Steve, thanks for contributing to the discussion. I think most people don’t realize when they read their Bibles what they are reading, particularly those who trust only the King James, by far the most inaccurate translation available. We don’t most of us read Greek or Hebrew and words don’t retain their meanings across centuries, and many cannot be accurately translated into modern English. We Heathens have that problem with translations of Old Norse (the Eddas and sagas). And looking out from a Christian thought bubble tends to lead people to look at things one way and forget there are other ways.
It seems that there is no line of thinking so twisted and illogical that at least one of the GOP’s lunatic fringe candidates of 2010 won’t embrace it. The importance of keeping these idiots from gaining any political power cannot be overstated.
Concocting potions and poisons was already a capital crime, well known in the England of that time.
The apothecary in “Romeo and Juliet” risks death when he gives Romeo poison.
King James, heir of Elizabeth, and well-known paranoid, ordered a select committee of his pet clergy to translate the Bible into an official version. Before this, they burned translators of the Bible at the stake.
Since he was king, (and was suspected of poisoning those who disagreed with him, as well as having an abhorrence of women) he decided the translation should not be ‘poisoner’, but ‘witch’. It gave him a biblical justification for killing witches, and covered his own little taste for sneak killing.
Neat trick, hm? And guess who got to define the term ‘witch?’ Jamie the nut case.
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