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Paganism and the Middle Ages
03-19-2010, 12:27 PM
Post: #1
Paganism and the Middle Ages
I've been told by 'neo-pagans' (if that's the right term) they can trace their tradition to the persecution of alleged witches during the middle ages. From my limited research into this time, many of the confessions of so called witches and pagans were extracted under less than friendly circumstances and this has led many scholars to discount these claims, arguing these people basically said whatever the authorities wanted to hear and these testimonies are unreliable in terms of painting a picture of non-Christian communities and practices in the middle ages.

Things like night flights with Satan, imitations and defecations of the Eucharist, books of black magic, sacrificing unbaptized babies to Satan and feasting on their flesh, and curses and hexes on neighbors or livestock really don't resemble the nature centered pagan movements of today.

Why do some pagan groups claim ancestry or at least relation in practice to those accused of witchcraft and heresy in the middle ages? Is there any support, textual or otherwise, for these claims that pagans turn to?

If truth is one, it is not possible for something to be scientifically false and religiously true.

-Baha'u'llah
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03-19-2010, 07:57 PM
Post: #2
RE: Paganism and the Middle Ages
(03-19-2010 12:27 PM)karma_sleeper Wrote:  I've been told by 'neo-pagans' (if that's the right term) they can trace their tradition to the persecution of alleged witches during the middle ages. From my limited research into this time, many of the confessions of so called witches and pagans were extracted under less than friendly circumstances and this has led many scholars to discount these claims, arguing these people basically said whatever the authorities wanted to hear and these testimonies are unreliable in terms of painting a picture of non-Christian communities and practices in the middle ages.

Things like night flights with Satan, imitations and defecations of the Eucharist, books of black magic, sacrificing unbaptized babies to Satan and feasting on their flesh, and curses and hexes on neighbors or livestock really don't resemble the nature centered pagan movements of today.

Why do some pagan groups claim ancestry or at least relation in practice to those accused of witchcraft and heresy in the middle ages? Is there any support, textual or otherwise, for these claims that pagans turn to?

Sounds like you've had some encounters with fluffies. It was something that was hotly debated at one point, and there are still some that believe Margot Adler's and Margaret Murray's idea of a "great-witch cult", which has generally speaking, been dismissed.

There are some families, who have properly authenticated texts from the 17th-19th centuries, obviously with quite a few missing, but these do not often intersect with "neo-pagan" lines. Witchcraft is not by definition a religion or paganism, for that matter. Hell, most of the witches in my family are Christians, with an odd pagan or agnostic thrown in.

Neo-paganism is by definition modern. Often the people who claim initiatory line or relation to old paganism want to play they witchier than thou game, and generally don't know what they're talking about. Not saying that all of them don't, but the great majority. A big hint is if they claim some "ancient" version of the rede or somesuch, or the "Charge of the Goddess".

One of my pet peeves. I could go on for days, but...I'll spare you.
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03-20-2010, 06:19 AM (This post was last modified: 03-20-2010 06:58 AM by lastmikvehlastDay.)
Post: #3
RE: Paganism and the Middle Ages
Quote:Hell, most of the witches in my family are Christians

Okay!

This is not what you asked but a similar topic. Please indulge my little factoid on one-of the signs that there is a devil in your minest . Remember In the infamous "Salem" witchcraft trials , one of the signs of witchcraft ,(at work), was disease,. Disease played a main character. Blamed on Satan. From broader Folkloric data, diseases were often considered "spirits". You see similar beliefs in many parts of the world (Central American Indian tribes for example). Common knowledge during that time witches were seen to be in league with the Devil. And, Christians upon reading the Book Of Job may have interpreted 'Satan' as the ultimate author of most 'Diseases'. Making a slight distinction with the Plague. That coupled with folkloric 'speculations' might warrant an exorcism. Or some presumptuously barbaric 'test' to determine if you were dealing with a 'Witch' That by no means sums it all up.
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03-20-2010, 11:36 AM
Post: #4
RE: Paganism and the Middle Ages
Thanks for your replies, guys.

Witchcraft is indeed not a religion or paganism, and that's why I always felt the connection wishful thinking. The medieval conception of witchcraft was more a diabolic pact with Satan than it was anything else. Magic or supernatural events may have been involved, but these were also ascribed to diabolic influence.

lastmikvehlastDay, that's a good point. I remember hearing a similar case, also in colonial America, maybe even the same area, except it had to do with vampires. I can't remember what the disease was, but it was spreading through the community, and people were identifying it with vampirism. People began to think the young woman who first died of it was now a vampire and feeding on new victims. She was recently buried, so they dug up her grave, and were freaked out to see her skin flush. Turns out the disease was responsible for this following her death, but they had no way of knowing this, so they mutilated her corpse thinking it would spare their town. I really wish I could remember what the disease was now, but it's another good example of confusing disease with the supernatural.

If truth is one, it is not possible for something to be scientifically false and religiously true.

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03-20-2010, 11:58 AM
Post: #5
RE: Paganism and the Middle Ages
If the duck weighs more than the witch...............then burn her............simple
Monty Python
Excuse my levity

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03-20-2010, 04:43 PM
Post: #6
RE: Paganism and the Middle Ages
(03-20-2010 11:36 AM)karma_sleeper Wrote:  Thanks for your replies, guys.

Witchcraft is indeed not a religion or paganism, and that's why I always felt the connection wishful thinking. The medieval conception of witchcraft was more a diabolic pact with Satan than it was anything else. Magic or supernatural events may have been involved, but these were also ascribed to diabolic influence.

lastmikvehlastDay, that's a good point. I remember hearing a similar case, also in colonial America, maybe even the same area, except it had to do with vampires. I can't remember what the disease was, but it was spreading through the community, and people were identifying it with vampirism. People began to think the young woman who first died of it was now a vampire and feeding on new victims. She was recently buried, so they dug up her grave, and were freaked out to see her skin flush. Turns out the disease was responsible for this following her death, but they had no way of knowing this, so they mutilated her corpse thinking it would spare their town. I really wish I could remember what the disease was now, but it's another good example of confusing disease with the supernatural.

Magic in general was ascribed to diabolic influence.

And the vampire you're referring to is the Mercy Brown case, in Rhode Island in 1892, and the disease was TB (consumption).

Although saying that the medieval idea of magic was all about a diabolic pact with satan either isn't exactly true. Alchemy started in the middle ages, and quite a few grimoires and Kabbalah studies happened during that time, setting up the occultism that flourished during the Renaissance.

Quote:This is not what you asked but a similar topic. Please indulge my little factoid on one-of the signs that there is a devil in your minest . Remember In the infamous "Salem" witchcraft trials , one of the signs of witchcraft ,(at work), was disease,. Disease played a main character. Blamed on Satan. From broader Folkloric data, diseases were often considered "spirits". You see similar beliefs in many parts of the world (Central American Indian tribes for example). Common knowledge during that time witches were seen to be in league with the Devil. And, Christians upon reading the Book Of Job may have interpreted 'Satan' as the ultimate author of most 'Diseases'. Making a slight distinction with the Plague. That coupled with folkloric 'speculations' might warrant an exorcism. Or some presumptuously barbaric 'test' to determine if you were dealing with a 'Witch' That by no means sums it all up.

What does this have to do with the Christian witches in my family? Not that it isn't interesting, just that you quoted and bolded, and that usually means you see something probative in it.

Quote:If the duck weighs more than the witch...............then burn her............simple
Monty Python
Excuse my levity

Only if she is made of wood!
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12-02-2010, 06:35 AM
Post: #7
RE: Paganism and the Middle Ages
I wish you'd stop this labelling everything "Paganism" which of the faiths are you referring to?

Most of the northern European folk religions have been nearly wiped out. Anyone who claims to be a celtic pagan for example.

Perhaps the most prevalent of religions is Asatru, which has potentially been contaminated by a Christian viewpoint, as the Edda's were wrote down Snorri who was an Icelandic Christian monk.

However, this is all people have that remains, apart from archaeology and studying rune stones. I doubt many people can trace their linage back to the middle-ages. I know as a British person I can't.

Does that make Asatru and the other folk religions any less important? I don't think so. But then I am a little biased as I lean towards an Agnostic Asatru religion.
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12-02-2010, 06:47 AM
Post: #8
RE: Paganism and the Middle Ages
8 mths old mate

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12-02-2010, 07:00 AM
Post: #9
RE: Paganism and the Middle Ages
I know. But I thought I'd post it anyway.
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12-02-2010, 07:12 AM
Post: #10
RE: Paganism and the Middle Ages
that's cool I just thought I'd point it out, just in case. Smile

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