XXXVII: On Witches


To those who may be receiving one of these post-notifications for the first time: This is not a blog; it’s actually part of a book, and will make little sense to you without knowledge of what has come before—which you can easily obtain, along with a goodly amount of satirical theatre as matters progress, by simply entering ttgftyri.org into your web browser, opening the menu, and starting at page one. J.J.


Scene 5

And subsequently picking up an old donkey track, they follow it along the coast until after several days, they come upon another delta—if one noticeably smaller, flatter, and less populated than the first.

“Okay, I think we’ve fled about far enough,” Atum eyes the first comfortable looking hamlet that they come to, “for all three of us.”

Then he goes about the whole area, crying, “Behold, this woman is with child—and I, a man, am responsible!”

And lo, the startled strangers who come running up to him demanding to know more about that!

* * *

Then he teaches them that copulation is about a lot more than just pleasure—but in fact, power.

That this power has to do with pro-creating the next generation; while indeed, both sexes contribute to that.

That one’s own sex organ makes so little sense without the complementary one as to be absurd—or at most, a toy—and hence from one’s first blush to one’s final orgasm, in sex one would ultimately seek a sense of self-completion.

That the male’s role in procreation is clearly supreme, since he’s the one who provides the seed—but not absolute, since the female provides the field to be sown and the sole means of nurturing the resulting fruit .

That under the circumstances, the meaning of the word ‘virgin’ would now be expanded to include any woman who hasn’t yet been penetrated by a man.

That the natural state of anyone past puberty is mariage—a purely personal, spiritual bond, but also a social, practical undertaking that the new couple might like to acknowledge in some public ceremony.

That this last, perhaps focusing on some exchange of vows such as, Where thou art the field, I will be the plow and seed, and, Where thou art the bull, I will be the cow, should culminate in the man placing a ring on the woman’s second longest finger—her needs and desires from this moment forward being second to his—followed by their first kiss as a secure, contractually bound pair.

That the bride, thereafter known as the man’s wife or ‘helpmeet’, should ultimately commit herself to his overall success in the world; while he in turn should carefully ‘husband’ her as his personal piece of the Action.

That since she was obviously limited to one pregnancy at a time, she should expect him to acquire as many other pieces as he might reasonably be able to handle—because after all, as a man, the idea was for him to generate as many children as possible.

And finally, that at least one of his wives should bear him a son who would someday inherit all his success, build on it, eventually pass it on to his own son, and so forth.

Scene 6

And then placing his hand over his own wife’s swollen womb, Atum vows that before the child therein would be born, he shall build a new great civilian in this place, developed according to these principles and ultimately consecrated to the Great Father.

“But then, just where is this Great Father?” someone calls out puzzledly. “I mean, if the sky is our Divine Mother, is he, then, the opposing earth?”

“Lord, don’t be a fool,” someone else quickly scoffs, “—everyone knows that the earth, above all, is maternal in spirit!”

“Oh don’t be so sure,” Atum cautions, “—because way out in the desert, where the earth is but shifting sands, some people regard it as nothing more than a reasonably stable platform provided by the Great Mother in the Sky for all their herds, tents, and trading caravans; and as such, they view it as male.

“Nonetheless, I must say that most of us view it as female,” he continues hastily—noting that the Earth-mother’s local priest hadn’t seem particularly anxious to share his venue with some new, male cult, even such a small one. “That is, the Earth-mother may long ago have been superseded by others in our worship, but she’s still our old familiar Earth-mother.”

“Well then, with whom does she consort in creation,” another wants to know, “—perhaps some River-god?”

And now it’s the River-goddess priest’s turn to be upset.

“Oh, I think one might make a case for that,” Atum replies as the other turns away as though to leave, “—although I certainly don’t know why the River-goddess shouldn’t be able to co-exist with the River-god out there, since they’re obviously as sister and brother and their precious river only turns out to derive from rain anyway.

And then holding up his hand against further speculation, lest things get further out of hand, he announces crisply, “No, I’m afraid that when all’s said and done, the Earth-mother’s consort in all this turns out to be the Sky-father!”

Scene 7

At which point, this older man draws him aside and advises him, “As a priest of the well-known Sky-mother—with a considerable following—I must warn you that this looks like war!”

But Atum just pulls him further aside and proposes, “Do you suppose she might like to get married? I mean, to the Sky-father—thus legitimizing their common venue up there while publicly acknowledging his superior position in everything; of course, promising to honor and obey him, same as his first wife the Earth-mother; and well, otherwise sparing herself an almost certain black eye!

“Because either that,” he cooly informed the other, “or I’m going to brand your outmoded Mother some mere witch and have this enthralled mob drive you and your whole antiquated cult away from here as dangerously uncooperative.”

And the other not only agreed to this alliance, but offered Atum one of his own daughters as a second wife—in view of Dawn’s present condition, he said.

And the latter, as the senior wife there, promptly led the younger woman away for proper training, while their husband now got on with the next important step in all this.


To be accused of being a witch anywhere in the world has never been a matter to be taken lightly; nor by any means does one actually need to be a practictioner of witchcraft to learn this—just ask France’s martyred Joan of Arc; or any of the fifteen women and four men who were hanged as ‘witches’ a few centuries ago at Salem, Massachusetts, right here in the U.S.

Still, the non-Christian world has a far worse record of dealing with such accusations than the Christian; for instance, in such countries as Ghana, Malawi, Cameroon, Tanzania, Kenya, Tibet, and India—where accusations of witchcraft sometimes turn out to be linked to personal disputes, jealousy, religious rivalries, conflicts between family members over inheritance, or occasionally neighbors over land—hundreds of people accused of witchcraft are legally put to death or simply killed by panicky villagers each year; while even in advanced third world countries such as Saudi Arabia, practicing witchcraft still remain a crime punishable by death—witness the last five such Saudi executions, carried out as recently as 2011, 2012, and 2014. (Wikipedia, Witchcraft, Violence in Relation to Accusations) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft

But of course, all this doesn’t mean that our own Judeo-Christian society hasn’t suffered its share of people seeking to rid themselves of rivals by simply bearing false witness against them—and of panicky mobs determined to rid the world of those who’d appear to threaten them with supernatural powers.

But again, we would let the record speak for itself . . .

_________________________

  • In the Old Testament, Exodus 22:18 prescribes, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” (Wikipedia, Witchcraft, Abrahamic Religions) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft
  • That appears to have been the sentiment in ancient Rome as well, where some twenty-four hundred years ago, one hundred seventy women were executed as witches in connection with a city-wide epidemic. According to contemporary historians, witches had been executed in Rome before—but never on such a scale. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • About a hundred fifty years later, the Roman senate issued a decree more or less describing the mostly female followers of Dionysus, the Roman god of drunken revelry, as witches. Two years afterward, they executed two thousand of them; and over the next several years, another three thousand. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • Some time around 340 BCE, Greece executed Theoris of Lemnos along with her children for supposedly casting harmful incantations and dabbling in poisonous drugs. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • During the last century of the pre-Christian world, Rabbi Simeon ben Shetach of Ashkelon, Judea sentenced eighty women to death for witchcraft in just one day. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • In 354 CE, the Roman Emperor Tiberius Claudius had forty-five men and eighty-five women executed as witches. Persecution of witches abated in the Roman Empire only with the establishment of Christianity as the Empire’s official religion in 380. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • Not that everyone in Christianity was thrilled with that. The now-sainted Augustine of Hippo and some other early Church theologians who not only believed in witchcraft, but promulgated elaborate demonologies, including the belief that humans could enter pacts with demons—a stance that would be used much later to justify witch hunts—condemned witchery as just another form of paganism. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Middle Ages) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • Nonetheless, early Christian Councils imposed certain ecclesiastical penances for devil-worship, but otherwise reflected a general desire of the young Church to check people’s near-fanatical belief in witchcraft. In 785, the Council of Paderborn explicitly forbade condemning anyone as a witch, and condemned to death anyone who might still dare to burn somebody as one. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Middle Ages) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • Around 900, the Church’s Canon Episcopi declared that witchcraft did not exist and that to teach people that it did was a false and heterodox teaching. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Middle Ages) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • Around 1020, the Bishop of Worms altogether rejected the possibility of many of the alleged powers with which witches were popularly credited, such as nocturnal riding through the air, the changing of a person’s disposition from love to hate, the control of thunder, rain and sunshine, the transformation of a man into an animal, the sexual seduction of women by ghosts and spirits, and other such superstitions. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Middle Ages) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • In 1080, Pope Gregory VII wrote to King Harald III of Denmark forbidding that witches be put to death upon presumption of their having caused storms, failure of crops, or pestilence. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Middle Ages) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • Whatever the position of individual clerics, witch hunting seems to have persisted as a human phenomenon. Or was it only that? Arguably, the first famous witch hunt in early Christendom was the mob abduction, torture and execution of Hypatia, a renowned female philosopher and mathematician who in 415, had simply dared become a threat to the influence of another of the Church’s ‘saints’, Cyril of Alexandria. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Middle Ages) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • And then, King Olaf Trygvasson of Norway is reported to have furthered the Christian conversion of his own country by luring witches and other pagan types to his hall under false pretenses, barring the doors, and burning them alive. A few who managed to escape were later captured and drowned. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Middle Ages) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • In 1320, the Inquisition that had been commissioned the century before to deal with the Cathars of Southern France completed their task and moved on to witch hunting, per the authorization of Pope John XXII—no matter that during the preceding century, Pope Alexander IV had instructed the Inquisitors not to bother with witchcraft cases unless they were somehow related to heresy. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Middle Ages) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • In 1431, the politically motivated trial of the French warrior Joan of Arc by an English church court during the so-called Hundred Years War between England’s ruling House of Plantagenet and the French House of Valois over who would rule France ended with her being convicted as a witch—they really couldn’t come up with anything else, and of course it didn’t hurt that she was a woman—and ultimately being burned alive. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Middle Ages) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt (Wikipedia, Trial of Joan of Arc) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_of_Joan_of_Arc
  • In 1563, a pamphlet called The True and Horrifying Deeds of 63 Witches recorded the first major persecution of witches in central Europe, when that many women were tried, convicted, and burned alive in southwestern Germany. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Early Modern Europe) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • Following the Protestant Reformation of Denmark in 1536, the Danish king Christian IV, in particular, encouraged the burning of witches, and several hundred people were consequently put to death during his reign.(Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Early Modern Europe) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • In 1542, England passed the Witchcraft Act that stipulated various penalties for practicing witchcraft. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Early Modern Europe) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • In 1590, when James VI of Scotland set sail for Copenhagen to meet his betrothed Anne of Denmark and encountered such bad weather along the way that he was finally forced to turn back, no less than seventy ‘witches’ were subsequently accused of having caused the storm; while a widely circulated pamphlet, News From Scotland, reported that he personally presided over the torture and execution of one Doctor Fian, who’d been made to confess. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Early Modern Europe) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • Indeed, James later published a witch-hunting manual, Daemonologie, which contained the famous dictum: “Experience proves how loath they are to confess without torture.” (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Early Modern Europe) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • Between 1644 and 1647, during the English Civil War, a Matthew Hopkins and his accomplices hired themselves out to various communities that had responded to his published offer to ferret out their witches—for a hefty fee, of course. His spree was brief but significant, with some three hundred convictions and executions attributed to his work. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Early Modern Europe) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • In 1647, Hopkins published a book about his methods bearing the title The Discovery of Witches, which overnight became a kind of legal text and was used as a guide to identifying such individuals in the American colonies; when during that year, Margaret Jones became the first of seventeen people—fifteen women and two men—to be executed for witchcraft in the Massachusetts Bay Colony over the next several years. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Early Modern Europe) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt
  • In 1692-93, the infamous Salem witch trials claimed nineteen more—fourteen women and five men—who in their case, were hanged, with at least five more dying in jail, and one man finally pressed to death for refusing to plea either way to the insane charge. (Wikipedia, Witch-hunts, History, Early Modern Europe) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt (Wikipedia, Salem Witch Trials) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_witch_trials
  • According to surviving court records from the period 1300-1850, Switzerland tried no less than 9,796 people for witchcraft—the second most in all Europe—ultimately resulting in the conviction and execution of 5,681, or 58%: the highest percentage in Europe. Meanwhile Germany, its neighbor to the north, tried 16,474—by far the most people anywhere—but was able to execute ‘only’ 6,887, or a little less than 42%; about the same as Belgium, which executed 378 out of a possible 887. France obtained death warrants for 1,663, or about 40% of those tried. England, 367, or 37%. Norway, 280, 32%. Hungary, 474, 29%. Finnland, 115, 16%. The Netherlands, 46, 13%. Italy, 60, 10%. Scotland, 190, 4%. And Spain, would you believe, exactly one conviction and execution—out of 1,949 trials. (Statista https://www.statista.com/chart/19801/people-tried-and-executed-in-witch-trials-in-europe/
  • The days of executing people for witchcraft in Europe and the U.S. are now long over; but in other parts of the world, it remains a different story. Today in the Central African Republic, hundreds of people accused of witchcraft are annually kidnapped by Christian militia and then, in public ceremonies, ‘tried’, convicted, and burned at the stake—or in some cases, buried alive. (Wikipedia, Witchcraft, By Region, Africa, Central African Republic) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft
  • Back in 2002, USAID funded a short film about the fact that over the past several years, more than 25,000 children in the former French colony now the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been branded enfants sorciers, or ‘child witches’ by self-styled Christian pastors who upon finding themselves unable to convert the children to Christianity, had subsequently taken them from their homes and subjected them to violent abuse during exorcisms in a concentrated effort to ‘rid them of the Devil’. (Wikipedia, Witchcraft, Democratic Republic of the Congo) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft
  • In 2008, amidst much panic in the streets of Kinshasa—also in the ROC—police arrested several men accused of using witchcraft to shrink other men’s penises and then offering to perform a curing ‘spell’; of course, for a fee. (Wikipedia, Witchcraft, Democratic Republic of the Congo) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft
  • About the same time, twelve alleged penis-shrinkers were beaten to death by a frightened mob in Ghana. (Wikipedia, Witchcraft, Ghana) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft
  • Also in Ghana, where women accused of witchcraft are often attacked and sometimes killed by neighbors, for well over a century now there has existed somewhere out in the wilderness at least six state-protected camps to which women suspected of being witches can be sent for safety. Currently housing about a thousand, there are no similar camps anywhere else in Africa; and Ghana has recently announced plans to close theirs. (Wikipedia, Witchcraft, Ghana) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft
  • In Malawi, where it’s also common practice to accuse children of witchcraft and many children have been abused or even killed as a result, both traditional African healers or ‘witch-doctors’ and their Christian counterparts are currently making themselves a comfortable living out of exorcising children; that is, after sizing up the wealth and problem children of the families in a given area, they simply point out to the parents which and how many of their children would ‘obviously’ require their paid ministrations. (Wikipedia, Witchcraft, Malawi) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft
  • In the course of exorcisms, accused children are sometimes starved, beaten, mutilated, set afire, forced to drink acid, or in the end, may even be buried alive. Indeed, in Nigeria, where there are numerous churches and the competition for congregations is particularly fierce, some pastors actively seek a reputation for being able to detect these ‘possessed’ children following some local death, job loss, or would you believe, an accusation of financial fraud against the pastor himself—and while some church leaders and Christian activists have spoken out strongly against this practice, so many Nigerian churches are involved in it that the remaining ones are usually afraid to even admit knowledge of it.
  • In Nigeria, several Pentecostal pastors have mixed their evangelical brand of Christianity with the traditional African belief in witchcraft to benefit from the lucrative witch-finding and exorcism racket—which in the past, had been the exclusive domain of the witch-doctors. Many of these pastors have themselves been involved in the torturing and killing of children and others accused of witchcraft. Over the past decade, around 15,000 children have been accused, and more than 1,000 murdered. (Wikipedia, Witchcraft, Nigeria) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft
  • It’s estimated that from pre-Christian times to about 1750, when witch hunting pretty much came to an end in the Christian world, at least a few hundred thousand people—about 80% of them women—were either strangled, hanged, beheaded, burned alive, buried alive, or drowned after being ‘convicted’ of witchcraft. (Christian Atrocities, Witches, citing N. Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons: An Enquiry Inspired by the Great Witch Hunt, Frogmore 1976, p. 253; R. H. Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, New York 1959, p. 180; J. B. Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, Ithaca NY 1972, p. 39; and H. Zwetsloot, Friedrich Spee und die Hexenprozesse, Trier 1954, p. 56) https://stellarhousepublishing.com/victims/
  • For a long list of individuals who are still remembered by local historians as having been executed for witchcraft in Europe and the U.S.—including when, where, the method of their execution, and even the story behind it if you click on their name—see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_executed_for_witchcraft

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