WITCHCRAFT IN THE LATE 1500S AND EARLY 1600S

Witchcraft is a religion. Is it not a devilish sect or a twisted cult, but rather, a pure and uncorrupted religion based on the spirituality of the self rather than the material possessions and buildings of this world. This has slowly become much clearer since the Shakespearean witchcraft beliefs of the late 1500s and the early 1600s.

However, today I will focus on these archaic beliefs of witchcraft: the ragged, filthy hags every person has unfortunately come to know as the typical witch. Many women were burned at the stake in medieval times, accused of being witches, when they were simply women who didn’t fit in like the rest, or weren’t as good-looking. These often innocent victims were frequently tortured to make them confess to their wicked ways. Then they were killed, usually by being burned alive, as I mentioned before, at the stake.

Christianity was the cause of this mentality, which eventually caused these killings, along with a generous amount of ignorance. Unfortunately, both of these elements still exist today, but the new mentality of the human race has, thankfully, opened our eyes to witchcraft to let us see that it is merely another belief.

Like I said, witchcraft is not an evil cult. It was, in fact, used for good. The words witch and wizard come from the Anglo-Saxon word wicca meaning wise. The reason for this is because traditionally, witches were doctors and medical advisors, linked with learning, medicine, astrology and clairvoyancy. This is why, when Christianity came along, witches were condemned, as the wisdom of witchcraft was a great threat to the profit-sucking, brainwashing ways of Christianity.

This is what gave witches a bad name. The priests told the townsfolk that the witches and wizards they were going to for advice were advocates of the devil! As a result, the public was infuriated. They felt tricked. In fact, these people would have wanted to kill them! And that’s what happened. In this way, the mark of witches was forever tarnished. This was what happened in the first instance.

The people then decided that they could use this as an excuse. If there was a woman (or man) in their village that didn’t quite fit in, or showed incredible strengths by challenging the ideas of the time, they were pronounced a witch or wizard, and instantly burned at the stake with no trial. It was quite a sad experience, and the “innocent before proven guilty” rule just didn’t exist. People were suspected, and therefore, guilty.

A prime example of this is the story of Joan of Arc. You may recall that she was a young, powerful woman of the 15th century, who demonstrated incredible leadership skills in a time where women had no power. She was inspired by her own religious illumination. A higher being inspired her to organize French resistance to the English, saving thousands of lives. She had Charles VII crowned king. The community of the time had never seen such a display of heroinism, and therefore, judged her to be a witch, out of the community’s own fear and lack of awareness. The powerful leaders of the time were dismayed by her strength and feared the loss of their governing authority. She was tried for heresy, and ironically, after the society she saved labelled her a witch, she was betrayed by the king that she had crowned and was murdered. On May 16, 1920, Pope Benedict XV of the Catholic Church canonized her, whereby she became known as Saint Joan of Arc.

An estimated fifty thousand to two hundred and fifty thousand people were murdered in criminal ways. Among the forms of torture: people’s limbs were torn off, skin ripped from their bodies, covered in boiling pitch (the equivalent of napalm), nails ripped off, appendages ripped off and crushed, including genitals, or in the case of girls, jagged irons and other sharp objects shoved up their genitals, or raped to death by teams of Inquisitors and/or horses.

It’s horribly paradoxical. The truly good witch doctors, guides, astrologers, numerologists, advisors, and experts in alternative remedy; the ones truly involved in making a difference in society, helping people, trying to vanquish closed-mindedness and ignorance, were the ones who were proclaimed evil. And the torturers, paedophiles and priests, interested only in instilling fear in people out of their own fear and hunger of power and worldly possessions, were considered to be good, in their desire to eliminate all wisdom and respect of the self. Society was really becoming twisted, though on the surface, it was not readily seen… except for by the witches.

Was God really about love? Was his love really unconditional? No. His love was conditional. If his commandments were not followed, you would be sent to hell. You call that good? You call that loving and true? The witches and wizards were the good ones. The ones that didn’t fit in, did they do anything to eliminate those they didn’t like in society? No. They were the pure of heart, interested in the good of humankind, interested in channelling great forces that the townsfolk and priests had not even knew of or considered.

It was all about one thing: fear. Fear drove the priests to damn the wise witches, because the priests knew that the witches would advise people to seek truth and wisdom within themselves, rather than look to a higher being, thus deterring villagers from becoming Christian. Fear of the unknown drove the villagers to exclaim when somebody was different. The sad thing is that traditionally, the witches were accepted. But Christianity took that all way, and destroyed the loving force of light which everybody had come to accept, and proclaimed it evil! Herein lays the paradox: even today, most natural remedies proven to work by the wiser natural healers (once known as “witches”) are not endorsed by the fearful, wider community.

But it is certain that this is far off the topic: witchcraft. It must be said that witches have generally had bad publicity. If you ask the next person you meet if witches are evil, you can be sure that they will say yes, even though the fact remains that they are not. I call to you to open your mind, and become more accepting of others. They are not witches: they are just different. The gist of my speech today is simple. Witches and wizards were good, and whoever murdered them was horribly evil. And it’s a great triumph that people who are discovering this today are sprouting like flowers from a field of tanbark. I thank you all for listening to my speech. Good morning/afternoon, class.

By STEFANO PERFILI

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