“. . . millions of witches, sorcerers, possessed and obsessed were an enormous mass of severe neurotics [and ] psychotics. . . for many years the world looked like a veritable insane asylum. . . .” (Gregory Zilboorg).
“. . . the witch-craze was neither a lynching party nor a mass suicide by hysterical women. Rather, it followed well-ordered, legalistic procedures. The witch-hunts were well-organized campaigns, initiated, financed and executed by Church and State. . . .” (Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English)
I. Introduction: The Apparatus and the Witch
In the study of cultural phenomena, cultural studies has often focused on the notion of the Cultural
Apparatus (C.W. Mills), or the Ideological State Apparatus (L. Althusser), as a motor of cultural change, a regulator of cultural maintenance, and even a powerful eugenic mechanism that the State deploys to discipline individuals and to shape them psychologically into obedient, docile citizens who can toil their whole lives trying to be good souls and prepare to inhabit paradise after death!
We’ve all seen the bumper stickers and the t-shirts: Never Again the Burning Times! It’s a rally cry for many born-again Pagans and Wiccans, and indicates a need to reclaim what’s ours — our rights to worship and celebrate as we choose. The phrase Burning Times is often used in modern Paganism and Wicca to indicate the era from the Dark Ages to around the nineteenth century, when charges of heresy were enough to get a witch burned at the stake. Some have claimed that as many as nine million people were killed in the name of “witch hunts.” However, there’s a lot of discussion within the Pagan world about the accuracy of that number, and some scholars have estimated it significantly lower, possibly as few as 200,000. That’s still a pretty big number, but a lot less than some of the other claims that have been made.
The Malleus Maleficarum, a Latin book written in 1486 and 1487, is also known as “The Hammer of Witches.” This is a translation of the title. Authorship of the book is credited to two German Dominican monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. The two were also theology professors. Sprenger’s role in writing the book is now thought by some scholars to have been largely symbolic rather than active.
After decades of campaigning by the suffragettes, a 1918 Act gave a limited cohort of women the right to vote in parliamentary elections
Image courtesy of the National Print Museum
A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Eric Hobsbawm, the late eminent left-wing historian, and took the opportunity to ask him what he believed was the most significant revolution of the 20th century. Without hesitation he answered: “Undoubtedly, the women’s revolution.”
The region of Prussia in Central Europe is a unique place due to the large number of cultures which have resided and met there. These lands were also a hotbed for witchcraft and a cruel fate for those who dared to dabble in the practice.
A Mixture of Faiths
Witchcraft may have existed in this area since the settling of Eastern and Western Prussia. Before the baptisms of these regions, the territory of historical Prussia was pagan. The faith of the inhabitants was mixed and dependent on the tribe they were related to, but it was generally a combination of Baltic religions with inflated mythologies.
While the Polish authorities focus on fighting an imagined threat to children from what they call the “LGBT lobby”, progress on combating pedophilia inside the Catholic Church, a well-documented phenomenon, remains slow.
Afew days after receiving her first communion in May last year, nine-year-old Julia told her mother she was sick and refused to go to church for further ceremonies planned in relation to this key moment in a Catholic family’s life.
The Catholic Church in India is only beginning to deal with the kinds of sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the institution elsewhere. A bishop in the state of Kerala has been charged with raping a nun, and other women have come forward with similar complaints.
It was the Catholic priest and leader of the Italian People’s Party, Luigi Sturzo, who first coined the term ‘clerico‐fascism’, rather than ‘clerical fascism’, back in 1922. He applied it to former members of his party, almost all laymen, who were either drawn directly into the Fascist movement – the Partito Nazionale Fascista – or set up ‘flanking’ organisations, like the Unione Costituzionale, the Unione Nazionale or the Centro Nazionale Italiano in order to rally Catholic support for the anti‐communist and pro‐Catholic policies of Mussolini and his first Fascist government. Some later stood in Mussolini’s National Block of candidates in the 1924 general elections.1However, from that very same period, the term clerico‐fascist was also used in the Italian political context to designate individual members of the clergy who were supporters of Fascism, like Franciscan friar Agostino Gemelli, rector of the Catholic University of Milan and a vociferous supporter of Fascism on such issues as the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 and the introduction of the Racial Laws in 1938, and Father Brucculeri, who supported Fascist policies in the pages of the authoritative Jesuit fortnightly, La Civiltà Cattolica.2The papacy, and thus the church in Italy, was an essential component of the ‘block of consensus’ on which the Fascist regime depended during its nearly 21 year existence, hence raising the issue of the institutional church as a form of ‘clerical fascism’, a point to which we will return later.
Wer heute Martin Luther verehrt, der durch die Übersetzung der Bibel ins Deutsche und den Anschlag seiner 95 Thesen in 1517 in Wittenberg berühmt wurde, dürfte sich wohl kaum bewusst sein, dass dieser Mann wiederholt zu Mord und Totschlag aufrief, Frauen missachtete, als Hexen verbrennen ließ und übelsten Antisemitismus predigte. Auch wenn man meinen könnte, Luthers radikale Äußerungen gehören allesamt der Vergangenheit an, so gab es doch 1944 ein trauriges Wiedererstehen, als seine Hetzreden auszugsweise zitiert und damit versucht wurde, den Mord an Millionen Menschen auf absurde Weise ideologisch zu rechtfertigen.