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Witches, Heretics, and Inquisitors

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Witches, Heretics, and Inquisitors

Paganism, Wicca, and Magic

The establishment of Wicca

Chelsea Muncy

23 June 2016


 “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (KJV) Exodus 22:18.

The start of witchcraft practices dates back farther than 560 B.C. during Biblical times. The “Law of Moses” [1] which includes the above passage and others, assume the existence of witches and insists that they be killed. It is presumed that these passages were likely written in what is present-day Iraq. According to the University of Missouri at Kansas City, the passages were most likely written to urge Jewish worshipers to adhere to their own religious practices and not fall into the temptations of other tribes.[2] The Pagan religion dates back long before the existence of Christianity. According to the Pagan Federation, paganism refers to “a follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshiping religion.

Paganism is an “umbrella” term. Originally, the term “pagan” meant someone that lived in a rural area. After the spread of Christianity in the 4th century, it came to mean, anyone that did not worship the god of Abraham. It is a relatively vague term, encompassing many religions. It encapsulates Persian, Egyptian, Roman, and Greek religious ideologies, as well as the religious views of the barbarians. It follows three basic principles: respect of Nature, Polytheism, and worship of Goddesses.[3]

Nature plays a large role in the practices of Paganism. The cycles of the year, brought by seasons, have difference emphasis placed upon them.[4] It is seen as spiritual growth, and is marked by festivals in which it is possible to contact divinities according to their affiliation with different times of the year. In fact, the ancient Greeks believed that the Earth itself was sacred, and would offer their first glass of wine to it.[5] 

The many gods and goddess connected to Paganism are an appreciation of the diversity of nature. Such gods like Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, Danu, the Irish mother goddess, Kali, the Hindu goddess of time and death, Selena, Green Goddess of the moon, and many, many more. Followers of Wiccan-based Paganism see the deities as one large god, known as the Great God and Great Goddess.[6] Their interaction to each other and connection to all of the individual gods and goddesses is thought to be the secret to the universe. Some pagans, such as Emperor Julian, who restored Paganism after it was nearly destroyed by the growth of Christianity, believed in an abstract Supreme Principle, which explain the origin of all things.

According to the Pagan Federation, a religion without goddesses can hardly be classified as Paganism. Some denominations of Paganism, such as Odin, have a supreme alliance to a one male god, but still recognize the importance of other gods and goddesses.[7] Some even include ancestral deities, including those that traced their lineage back to gods, or those that have newly passed.

Since the spiritual world is thought to always be connected to those that practice Paganism, magic is something that is thought to be completely feasible. There are many different uses for magic in within Paganism, all of which include helping people, never to harm. Magic was used by ancient Roman marriage traditions to ward off famine, or to protect children against harmful spirits. It is also believed that particular people specialize is areas, like animal whispering, and healing. [8] 

The transition from the acceptance of Paganism to the persecution of witchcraft in Europe in the 15th century was derived from the lack of science, education, and naïvetés. It was generally accepted that “good” magic could be used to make crops grow, have a plentiful hunt, and heal the sick and injured.[9] With this came the assumption that there must also be “bad” magic that could harm people, causing them to get ill, or even die. The belief that God had an enemy, the Devil, who was particularly powerful, was a terrifying thought for Christians. It was believed that there were “fifth columnists” [10] that had made a pact with the Devil and were secretly witches, which was terrifying to people. Becoming an ever growing epidemic among the Christian population in central Europe, Germany, France, England, Russia, and eventually Southern Europe, witch hunts became popular as well.[11] In the middle of the night, an accused witch was captured, taken away somewhere, and likely brutally tortured, until she confessed to her sin(s).

Several books were written about witchcraft. The most popular of them being the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches).[12] Published in 1486, by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, two Dominican men, this book set many presidents about witchcraft, once the information was spread.[13] It was believed that witches held secret, night time meetings called Sabbats, where they would do terrible things, like dancing naked, possibly around a fire, having orgies, poking fun at Catholic mass, supposedly kidnapping, killing, and eating human babies, and flying.[14] Stonehenge, is built according to astronomical alignments. The evidence suggests that the ancient forebears of European Paganism had a clear understanding of gods and goddesses, generally aligned with aspects of the natural world, to whom they would offer sacrifices, pour libations, and conduct ceremonies, presumably to curry the favor of the gods.[15]

Some people believed all of these to be fact, and others didn’t even believe in witches at all. Among those that did, it was believe that to become a witch, not only did someone have to swear an allegiance to the Devil, but supposedly the Devil would tough them, leaving a mark, which may or may not be visible to the naked eye, on their body.[16] Some defendants even told prosecutors that they had repeatedly kissed Satan’s anus as a display of the loyalty. Some admitting to casting storms, beastiality, allowing the crime of witchcraft to take shape.[17]

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