Sunday, 19 January 2014

Random Mediæval Witchcraft Question

Actually, the great Witchcraft scares mostly weren't Mediæval. They were more what we'd call "Early Modern". But I just wanted to use an "ash" in the title. It was just a random question that always strikes me when seeing the typical witch-trial / burning scenarios in films, TV programmes and what have you. If the witches really were in league with the Dark Powers, able to unleash evil at will - how come they were always easily captured by yokels with pitchforks and torches? And since the obvious answer to that question is - because they weren't anything of the sort - then why wasn't the mere fact of their arrest proof of their innocence? I know why - all about the elimination of dangerous outsiders, elimination of the weird, the search for scapegoats and the perceived danger of independent women. But still - surely it must have occurred to someone?>


  1. Witches were responsible for floods until the gays took over. And the whole thing is fueled by prejudice but also by an icy determination of some of those in power to keep that prejudice going because it's extremely useful to them. And once we see one group in a new light we're quick to find another one to blame.
    There's a religion somewhere that is supposed to deal quite effectively with scapegoating... but I fear it has become one of the worst scapegoaters.

  2. The issue for the witches being caught so easily was the extra nipple under the left arm, which their black cats were liable to suck at inconvenient moments, such as when the Witch Hunter General popped in for a so called social visit and spotted the obvious.

    Another handicap was being elderly(ish) with the occasional wart on their nose and wearing dark clothes and pointy hats - oh, oh, that could apply to an Arch Druid or to a Bishop???

    I wonder if once we see the consecration of Women as Bishops in the CofE that the next new appointment at Lambeth Palace will be a cultural one of Witch Hunter Corporal (General is to high for the CofE who are all snobs) who will be running witch craft tests on any female candidates for the Episcopate :(

  3. It probably did occur to some people, but they had more sense than to go against the mob and actually say it out loud. No-one wants to be next....

  4. As you so rightly said, most of the wiccaphobic activities took place in the Interregnum (and I hope you will be holding your commemoration of Charles, King and Martyr again this year, as I have put both my Cavalier King Charles Spaniels on a strict fitness regime since Christmas for your spaniel-racing events, though they did manage to run amok in the food recycling bins last week, which set them back a little).

    Under the ironically titled "Commonwealth" (in which Oliver Cromwell liquidated what remained of the country's assets after his namesake had done to the monasteries what the cavs did to the food bins) as a young and comely witch I suffered rather a lot of impertinence from the Impuritans, who seemed to be keen to look for third nipples all over the place.

    I must agree with your correspondent who described them as rather thick. First they would duck me, in the belief that the innocent would sink, and the guilty float (duh), then try to set fire to me while I was soaking wet (double duh), when in the interests of historical accuracy, they should have hung me out to dry.

  5. People almost always discard the most obvious answer, it's in our nature. Didn't yer man Occam have something to say on this? :)

  6. I blame the wealthy and powerful.
    I looked into the history of the last witch burning in an area of East Berkshire where I lived and it was heavily hinted at in the parish records that her land went to the Lord of the Manor and the vicar didn't approve.
    My pony always spooked when we went past where her house once stood, I would joke that he saw the ghost of 'Mabel Modwyn, widow about 68 years old.' She died in 1655.


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