Chapter 8 (The Witch Hunts) in -The Dark Side
of Christian History-, by Helen Ellerbe:
the 300 year period of witch-hunting from the
fifteenth to the eighteenth century, what R.H. Robbins
called "the shocking nightmare, the foulest crime and
deepest shame of western civilization", that ensured
the European abandonment of the belief in magic.
in the Bible such as "Thou shalt not suffer
a witch to live" were cited to justify the persecution
process of formally persecuting witches followed
the harshest inquisitional procedure. Once accused
of witchcraft, it was virtually impossible to escape
conviction. After cross-examination, the victim's body
was examined for the witch's mark. The historian Walter
Nigg described the process: "...she was stripped naked
and the executioner shaved off all her body hair in order
to see in the hidden places of the body the sign which
the devil imprinted on his cohorts. Warts, freckles, and
birthmarks were considered certain tokens of amorous
relations with Satan.
a woman show no sign of a witch's mark, guilt
could still be established by methods such as sticking
needles in the accused's eyes. In such a case, guilt was
confirmed if the inquisitor could find an insensitive spot
during the process.
the witch died during the torture, she was taken
to the stake. Since many of the burnings took place in
public squares, inquisitors prevented the victims from
talking to the crowds by using wooden gags or cutting
their tongue out.
mutilation of accused witches was not uncommon.
With the orthodox understanding that divinity had little or
nothing to do with the physical world, sexual desire was
perceived to be ungodly. When the men persecuting the
accused witches found themselves sexually aroused, they
assumed such desire emanated, not from themselves, but
from the woman. They attacked breasts and genitals with
pincers, pliers, and red-hot irons.
horror of the witch hunts knew no bounds. The
church had never treated the children of persecuted
parents with compassion, but its treatment of witches'
children was particularly brutal.
accounts hint at the extent of the
holocaust. Barbara Walker writes that "the chronicler
of Treves reported that in the year 1586, the entire
female population of two villages was wiped out by
the inquisitors, except for only two women left alive."
vast number of people brutalized and killed, as
well as the impact upon the common perception of
God, make the witch hunts one of the darkest chapters
of human histories.
Excerpt: "... From the late Middle Ages to the
early 18th century, vehement opposition to the
witch cult was demonstrated throughout Europe
in public 'trials' and executions, conducted on
the basis of the biblical injunction 'You shall not
permit a sorceress to live' (Ex. 22:18).
Many of those who denounced these measures,
pointing to psychological factors at the root of
alleged evidence, were themselves burned at the
Victims of the witchcraft trials have been variously
estimated to number from the hundreds of thousands
to the millions. ..."
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comment: Do you think christians are just
in calling God a 'God of Love' and in calling blind
faith 'moral' when blind faith has been used to
inspire such horrors -or- when a 'God of Love'
has allowed his followers to commit such horrors
in this real world we all share?
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"The Bible has been interpreted to justify such evil practices
as, for example, slavery, the slaughter of prisoners of war, the
sadistic murders of women believed to be witches, capital
punishment for hundreds of offenses, polygamy, and cruelty
to animals. It has been used to encourage belief in the gros-
sest superstition and to discourage the free teaching of
scientific truths. We must never forget that both good and
evil flow from the Bible. It is therefore not above criticism."
-Steve Allen, "Steve Allen, on the Bible Religion & Morality"
"Fear paralyzes the brain. Progress is born of courage.
Fear believes -- courage doubts. Fear falls upon the earth
and prays -- courage stands erect and thinks. Fear re-
treats -- courage advances. Fear is barbarism -- courage
is civilization. Fear believes in witchcraft, in devils
and in ghosts. Fear is religion -- courage is science."
-Robert G. Ingersoll, "The Ghosts", 1877
"I should have no compassion on these witches; I should
burn them all."
"When I was a child there were many witches, and they
bewitched both cattle and men, especially children."
"[The] feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women.
It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that
encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children,
practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
-Fundraising letter from Pat Robertson that was an in-kind
contribution to the Iowa Committee to Stop ERA, as
reported in The Washington Post, August 23, 1993
"Witches are today being burned in South Africa."
-Carl Sagan, "The Demon-Haunted World"
"In Italy, the Inquisition was condemning people to death until
the end of the eighteenth century, and inquisitional torture was
not abolished in the Catholic Church until 1816. The last
bastion of support for the reality of witchcraft and the necessity
of punishment has been the Christian churches."
-Carl Sagan, "The Demon-Haunted World"
"During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so.
The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to
live. Therefore the Church, after doing its duty in but a lazy
and indolent way for 800 years, gathered up its halters,
thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy work
She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries
and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes
and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world
clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that
there was no such thing as witches, and never had been.
One does not know whether to laugh or to cry."
-Mark Twain, Bible Teaching and Religious Practice essay,
"Europe and Elsewhere", 1923
"Thou shalt not suffer a WITCH to live."
-Exodus 22:18 (Bible, King James version)
"There shall not be found among you any one that
maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the
fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times,
or an enchanter, or a WITCH. Or a charmer, or a
consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a
necromancer. For all that do these things are an
abomination unto the LORD: and because of these
abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them
out from before thee."
-Deuteronomy 18: 10-12 (Bible, King James version)
"For rebellion is as the sin of WITCHCRAFT, and
stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou
hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also
rejected thee from being king."
-1 Samuel 15:23 (Bible, King James version)
"Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the
wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of WITCHCRAFTS,
that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families
through her WITCHCRAFTS. Behold, I am against
thee, saith the LORD of hosts; and I will discover thy
skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy
nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame. And I will
cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile,
and will set thee as a gazingstock."
- Naham 3:4-6 (Bible, King James version)
[summary/assessment by Wicasta Lovelace]
of the death toll during the Inquisition
worldwide range from 600,000 to as high as
9,000,000 (over its 250 year long course); either
is a chilling number when one realizes that nearly
all of the accused were women, and consisted
primarily of outcasts and other suspicious persons.
Old women. Midwives. Jews. Poets. Gypsies.
Anyone who did not fit within the contemporary
view of pious Christians were suspect, and easily
branded "Witch". Usually to devastating effect.
It must also be noted that the crime of Witchcraft
was not the only crime of which one could be
accused during the Inquisition. By questioning
any part of Catholic belief, one could be branded
Scientists were branded heretics by virtue of repu-
diating certain tenets of Christian belief (most notably
Galileo, whose theories on the nature of planets and
gravitational fields was initially branded heretical).
Writers who challenged the Church were arrested
for heresy (sometimes formerly accepted writers
whose works had become unpopular). Anyone who
questioned the validity of any part of Catholic belief
did so at their own risk.
the Malleus itself cannot be blamed for the
Inquisition or the horrors inflicted upon mankind
by the Inquisitors, it certainly played an important
role. Thus has it been said that The Malleus Male-
ficarum is one of the most blood-soaked works in
human history, in that its very existence reinforced
and validated Catholic beliefs which led to the pro-
secution, torture, and murder, of tens of thousands
of innocent people.
lasting effect of the Malleus upon the world can
only be measured in the lives of the hundreds of thous-
ands of men, women, and even children, who suffered,
and died, at the hands of the Inquisitors during the
At the height of its popularity, The Malleus Malefi-
carum was surpassed in public notoriety only by The
Bible. Its effects were even felt in the New World,
where the last gasp of the Inquisition was felt in the
English settlements in America (most notably in Salem,
Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials).
Maleficarum -- Table of Contents
The First Part - Treating on the three necessary
concomitants of witchcraft which are the Devil,
a witch, and the permission of Almighty God.
The Second Part - Treating on the methods by
which the works of witchcraft are wrought and
directed, and how they may be successfully annulled
The Third Part - Relating to the judicial proceedings
in both the Ecclesiastical and Civil courts against
witches and indeed all heretics.
Further documentation of Christian church history:
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