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BURNING TIMES BULL By David Wright Tillman
If you've read The Old Religion page, Triumph Of The Moon by Ronald Hutton, or Crafting The Art of Magic by Adian Kelly then you know Wicca isn't thousands of years old, but started in the 20th century. When faced with this, many Wiccans are faced with giving up one of their most cherished myths: millions of Wiccans being killed during the witch hunt era (called the "Burning Times). Since Wicca didn't even exist until around 1954, and the witch trials were over by the 18th century, one has to realize no Wiccans were killed unless they hopped in a time machine!
The Wiccan Burning Times Myth has been a part of Wiccan lore for 60 years or more, and this is due to misinformation presented by Wiccan authors. Gardner forged the Book of Shadows to make it sound as though it was written by someone during the witch hunt era, and the lie has stuck. It's still being repeated now...to even younger believers. Here's a few examples from Wiccan authors if you don't believe me (I'm agnostic myself these days, so don't email me).
“Burning Times: You will hear this often. It is in reference to a historical time from about 1000 [A.D.] through the 17th century when it is said that over nine million people were tortured and burned by church and public officials on the assumption that they were the Christian version of Witches [sic]...” (Silver Ravenwolf, page 19 Teen Witch. The implication here is that Wiccans were the ones executed during the witch hunt era, when in fact none were, and almost all of the people killed were actually Christians. Also, the figure is closer to 40,000 over a 500 year period. This book was published in 2001, showing many prominent Wiccans still don’t accept the fact their religion is a modern invention. )
Today all "xtian" churches get the blame for the witch burnings, even though the vast majority tried and executed by civil courts, not by any church. Switzerland, Germany and France were the countries where the bulk of these trials were held. Ireland , supposedly some kind of a hotbed of Wicca and Druidism during these times, had only 4 witch executions. Even in these 4 trials the words "Wicca" "Goddess" or "Druid" are never mentioned in the records.
Even Russia, known for it's many pogroms and being serfdom holdout into the 19th century, had just 10 (yes, ten) witch executions in its history! The witch trials largely escaped the Orthodox Church countries because confession, repentance, and exorcism were the usual remedies for witchcraft there. The countries where witch trials took place where countries where Roman Catholic and Protestant conflicts were taking place, with much social upheaval to fuel the fire of witch hysteria. Ignoring these facts, Wiccans have promoted many fraudulent claims, such as the execution of 400 women in one day in France (or Germany, Switzerland, or Italy depending on the version you read) that simply never happened!
The falsehood was first written in a French book titled Langon's Histoire de l'Inquisition en France, written in 1829 by Etienne Leon de Lamothe. Scholars doing research on the subject noticed no other French historian had noted these supposed witch trials that executed so many hundreds of people at a time, such as the 400 in one day mentioned. It turns out it never happened. Hansen included large sections of Lamothe-Langon's work in his book on medieval witchcraft. Later historians cited Hansen's book, and Lamothe-Langon's fictional French trials became a part of the Wiccan "Burning Times" baloney. Hansen had previously been an author of horror stories, and apparently turned his talents for scary fiction into fraudulent history.
The period between 1400-1800 A.D. in which people were executed for witchcraft (not Wicca, but sorcery) has been called "The Burning Times". The term was coined by Gerald Gardner, Wicca's founder, and it's been used by Wiccans ever since.
The actual number of people killed was probably some 40,000 to 65,000 according to the most recent estimates. Some figures put out by the Roman Catholic church even put it as low as 3,000. This is a lot of people, but one must remember this took place over a 500 year period. The 9,000,000 figure cited by most Wiccans is derived from faulty data from the 19th century. In The Power of the Witch, Laurie Cabot claims the figure might have even been 13,000,000, but of course does not cite the source. Gerald Gardner himself coined the phrase "The Burning Times" to describe this period, and it has stuck every since. Wiccans despise Christians for these "burning times"...yes, including the Christians alive today who have never killed anybody. The reason is Wiccans feel that it was their fellow Wiccans who were killed during this era. Of course, when the history of this period is examined, this idea is ridiculous!
Forty percent of the people excuted during the witch hunt era were men. This shows it wasn't something directed against women (supposedly midwives in particular) since there was a large number of male victims involved.
Some of the people killed were probably sorcerers of some sort as in the cases of Thomas Weir and Madame LaViosin. These type of people were Satanists; they were not Neopagans or the members of some surviving goddess cult. Then there were probably some sorcerers who did some sort of spell or practiced fortune telling, but were not true Satanists. There probably were a few people executed who were healers... perhaps a person who's homemade remedy for gout might have accidentally caused death for instance... but most seem to have been unattractive and unpopular or anti-social types.
By and large, the majority of people executed were probably innocent of any occult activity, and just happened to get on the wrong side of the authorities. So in other words, the majority of people killed during this time were not sorcerers of any kind...they were Christians. It is a sad chapter in Christian history, but it is not a valid reason for Neopagans to hate "xtians". If they want to hate someone, why don't they hate Nazis? Or why not hate Communists, who have slaughtered even more people than the Nazis? Why don't we see catchy little bumper-stickers like "Never Again The Great Leap Forward", "Never again Dachau" or "Never Again The Killing Fields of Khmer Rouge"? Well the reason is, they need a scapegoat to vent their frustration on, and Christians fit the bill.
Are the Burning Times going on today? A popular internet rumor perpetuated ironically by the so-called "Ontario Consultants For Religious Tolearnce" (a front for the Church of Scientology run by militant athiests and Neopagans) mentions on their website a quote from a Wiccan who said a friend told him a story about a Wiccan who was "lynched by Christians" in the 1980's. But not the name of the person who told the story, the name of this mythical Wiccan who was lynched, the year, town, state, nor even the country are mentioned. The only source for this urban legend is none other than the OCRT website when Googled. Even when it is pointed out to the OCRT, they still want to hold on to the myth. The total number of Wiccans killed by Christians to date is zero.
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