In research on the topic of witchcraft of the early modern era, little attention in given to those deemed witches. Feminist versions of the witch trials hold that the accused were often merely mid-wives and healers of peasant society who were burned for “no good reason” or because of poorly explained “hysteria.” Others claim it was indiscriminate prosecution of pagans or an earlier version of the shadow language term “satanic panic”.
The gimmick being employed up to the present day (including Pedogate) involves acting incredulous and slinging neuro-lingustic programming terms like “moral panic” or “ignorant haters” at those who question accepted narratives. In fact, the entire Wikipedia page on Satanism is filed with whitewashed, moral-panic accusations, canards and doth-protest-too-loudly ad hominems against those exposing the iterations of the concept of Satanism, admitted witchcraft or other forms of skulduggery.
Generally, this is a pervert justice warrior (PJW), very low-value narrative that dismisses attempts to reveal and counter Satanism, or just flat out evil as discrimination, hatred and prejudice. It is astonishing how frequently this scam is incorporated any time the awakened are asked to deny their lying eyes about the slime creatures crawling under the rocks.
No, not much attention has been given to the behavior of accused witches. The term “witchhunt” used in current vernacular implies persecution for no valid reason. But was that the case with accused witches of that period?
The reasons the church and authorities focused attention on these individuals seems centered around Maleficium (hexic activities), which is causing harm by supernatural means. The modern version of this is psychological gangstalking.
It was no novelty for peasants and people of higher rank to suspect their neighbors of harming them by occult means. In the witch-burning era, there were groups of conjurers (grifters) preying upon the vulnerable. As far back as the sixth century, the Visigoths made laws to deal with tempestarii (storm makers) who were touring the countryside and intimidating the peasants. People were paying them to spare their fields and blast the next man’s instead.
White-magic witches, called berandantes, marketed themselves as hex and curse removal specialists and conjurers of good fortune. Black magic witches were available as poisoners and disrupters. Poisoning was common practice in those days and is today as well under the cover of Pharma.
Black magic witches laid curses aka damage charms on people, in a gangstalking mode. There was an underbelly of criminal parasites operating in the witch-fear business. Many thought of the benandante as good witches, who healed and protected the crops by going out on the Ember days to fight bad witches.
Most of both witch factions were lowlife swindlers, medical quacks and extortionists. That was a social reality. One white magic poser was burned in Nuremburg for false allegations against black magicians, and of selling magic wraps against sorcery. The drama in these cases can get very twisted.
Resistance toward the benandante grew due to the financial burden and anti-social rackets they placed on the community. When a desperate person desired for a loved one to be healed, the benandante may agree to heal them but only if provided some sort of payment. Of course, even with payment — since the white witches were often quacks — the person was likely not “healed.” As such, the benandante began being viewed as “clever swindlers.” In the documentation of accusations against witches (aka conjurers), it’s maleficium that predominates. Keep in mind that this was an era when criminals were hung for simple theft.
Sometimes, participating in-groups or sects engaged in Bacchic-type orgies, or devil worship, or a form of degenerate ultra-rebellion.
Heresy in and of itself was problematic during this period — but when fused with sorcery and perceived evil doings, it was a red flag and threatened the social order. Many ultra-rebellionist discordians, who rejected social and religious norms, went over to the dark side. The eccentric weirdness was noted, and these individuals sometimes self-identified as witches.
Martin Le Franc’s “The Defender of Ladies” describes the witches’ sabbath. It states, “Ten thousand old women in a troop were there, as in a great assembly in the shapes of cats or goats … pleased themselves in dancing, others still in banqueting and booze.”
Burning was also used as a form of eugenics to eliminate the criminally mentally ill, as well as ultra-rebellionists, vagrants and indigents. Those with a “malignant spirit” (demons) were targeted, and this included those with schizophrenia, disassociative identity disorder, hysteria and epilepsy. And it included nasty, mean, mentally unbalanced people. Not all accused witches were women. In Russia, the large majority of the condemned were male.
They also practiced necromancy. The “Oxford English Dictionary’s” first recorded the word “necromancy” in 1456. It’s the “practice of magic involving communication with the deceased – either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or raising them bodily – for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge, to bring someone back from the dead, or to use the deceased as a weapon.”
Since the first century, tales of witches using necromancy for power and insight have appeared in the lore of multiple cultures. Even medieval scholars and clerics believed necromancy could help them achieve many feats, including manipulating the minds of others.
Sometimes making a blood sacrifice alongside desired food and drink would encourage the entity to feed off of those offerings instead of the necromancer’s soul. It became a thin line between necromancy and Jeffrey Dahmer like necrophilia.
Necromancers addressed the dead in “a mixture of high-pitch squeaking and low droning” that was comparable to the trance-state mutterings of shamans.
Were Witches Mostly Just Depraved Criminals?
The necromancer might also surround himself or herself with morbid aspects of death, which often included wearing the deceased’s clothing and consuming foods that symbolized lifelessness and decay, such as unleavened black bread and unfermented grape juice. Some also engaged in necrophilia, with the belief that sex and sexual secretions could reanimate the dead. Some necromancers even went so far as to take part in the mutilation and consumption of corpses. These ceremonies could carry on for hours, days or even weeks leading up to the eventual summoning of spirits. These went on in melancholy places, cemeteries and near battlefields or conflict zones.
All of these morbid practices were just a warm up for the eventual summoning of the spirit. To raise a physical body from the other side, the process had to occur within one year of the death, otherwise the necromancer would only be able to evoke the ghost, not the real person.
The witch-burning era was rife with warfare. The peak of burnings was during the 30 Years War (1618-1648) in Germany and Central Europe. The necromancer witches were very interested in the “restless dead,” or those who did not receive a proper burial or who died violently or too young, and who were believed to be readily accessible for necromantic rites. Necromancers preferred to summon the recently departed based on the premise that their revelations were spoken more clearly.
As a result, battlefields and wrecked towns during the 30 Years War were a boon to necromancers, who could easily recover body parts of the restless dead for their magical workings. Body snatching occurred on a vast scale. And looting the possessions of the fallen was also a prime preoccupation for zombified people otherwise impoverished and debauched by the economic breakdowns and desolation of war.
There were also incredible numbers of civilians and soldiers left dead to be defiled, snatched and looted in the 30 Years War. Such behavior was frowned upon in villages and considered a severe sin by church authorities. An apprehended perp could be burned as necromancer witch. Stripping and looting dead bodies who fought and fell for their side angered both the Protestant and Catholic factions to no end.
Smithsonian magazine in an article on a recent mass grave excavation at a battle site:
Figuring out just who the soldiers were has proved particularly difficult because it is believed the inhabitants of the Lutzen area did a thorough job of stripping the corpses of any clothing or identifying marks. Impoverished by the long-running war, Gannon reports the locals likely had little reverence for the 9,000 soldiers that died on both sides of the conflict. Killgrove reports that even the body of Sweden’s king Adolphus, whose forces had won the battle, was stripped of clothing and jewelry by the time he was found several hours after the end of the fighting.
This activity dissipated once peace was restored in 1648 and after a number of bad actors in the death business had been executed. The greatest concentration of witch burning and civilian war casualties very much overlap as seen in red on the second map below.
The witch trials were greater and more frequent in Germany and Switzerland, where religious contests and war were the most heated. More than 40 percent of Europeans executed for witchcraft were in Germany. In Catholic strongholds — where Inquisitors were busily persecuting “heretics” — witches were mostly ignored. The Spanish Inquisition executed no more than two dozen alleged witches; Portugal put to death around seven.
In the eyes of most Christians, bringing back non-living spirits was nothing short of demon-summoning. They believed that regardless of any perceived benefit, raising the dead flew in the face of God’s authority and only led to suffering. The medieval world typically believed the resurrection of the dead required God’s help, thereby labeling all other kinds of divination as “demon magic.”
With these bizarre-acting, ghoulish people in operation and the value of life diminished, there was heightened awareness of evil within the culture. And it’s no small wonder that the Reformation and Counter-Reformation conflict became a catalyst for the witch hunt by increasing the fear of Satan.
Early modern Europeans believed “the danger that Satan presented to a person was both physical and spiritual. Everyone, even the holiest individual, could be deceived and ensnared by the cunning treachery of Satan.”
Winter Watch Takeaway
One study found that witchcraft beliefs are associated with the acceleration of antisocial attitudes and lower levels of trust in society. It wasn’t just scapegoating poor innocent pagan witches. The more extreme and twisted behaviors of witches came from the famine, deprivations and wars of that era, as did the reactions against the witches. This was a cauldron and a prime example of the nature of war and murderous conditions in which all sorts of criminal behavior emerged from many parties. Net-net, then as now, it represents a low-point in the human spirit of these impacted locales.