I wrote a paper about the Inquisition! Ten pages, but should have been 10,000. There's a lot of nasty shit to write about! Here are a few things most people probably don't know about the Inquisition (the period of European history between roughly 1300 and just past 1600 where you got arrested for being different than the Church and if you were lucky, had the option of repenting your "wickedness" and then you wouldn't get burned or flayed alive. But, not everyone had that option.)
NASTY FACTS ABOUT THIS NASTY TIME!!!
* More people were killed for being Jewish than for being Witches. Far more. The Jewish people were the most negatively impacted group during this period.
* As many Protestants were killed for being Protestants than for being Witches. In fact, many people accused of being Witches were actually just being Protestants.
* Many of the people accused of Witchcraft most likely suffered from senility, dementia or epilepsy. But many people back then didn't know what those things were and just took poor old grannies to the stake because clearly, inane babbling equaled a very dangerous Witch.
* One of the Church's main beefs with Witchcraft was that in many areas of Europe, laity were more likely to consult local soothsayers than take the Church sacraments. This the Church found irritating and sent the Inquisitors after these folks.
* Mortality rates were high and people were afraid of everything. A new person comes to town? Coincides with a spike in disease? Clearly, that person is a Witch who caused everyone to get rancid boils and fever. Burn 'em.
* Most people of the Inquisition era were not aware that it was happening.
I've been a big skeptic about the "Burning Times" for awhile. After writing that paper, I am still confident that the people killed during the Inquisition were not getting together over an bottle of mead and chanting "Isis, Astarte..." I do not believe it is accurate or productive for contemporary Pagans to claim the Inquisition as our own Holocaust. Yes, there were people accused of Witchcraft who were arrested, convicted and tortured. But no, it was not an all-out attack on folk Paganism and folk Paganism alone. The Inquisition was actually a systematized, violent suppression system against anyone who did not conform to the Catholic Church's authority: this extended to Protestants, Muslims, Jews and other radical fringe Christian groups. Those accused of or arrested for Witchcraft may have been Goddess worshipers, but were more likely to be persecuted just for being different enough to annoy the Church without quite conforming to the other labels. Maybe they also had psychic gifts that scared the crap out of local priests. But these people were in all likelihood not embracing the same Pagan practices we now enjoy. So, it's counter-productive to go around waving the Burning Times flag.
However. The Inquisition should still scare us. It's still happening only this time, it might just be including "Isis, Astarte" chanting Pagans along with all the others.
I am lucky. I can wear my pentacle out in New York City and very rarely do I ever get shit for it. I live in an area where it is safe to be an out Wiccan but as well all know, there are a lot of areas where that's not the case. Unfortunately, I'm starting to believe that it's becoming even less safe. We may be heading into a phase where things are going to get even scarier. While the Catholic Church may not be officially in charge of everything we serfs do, the ubiquitous, multi-denominational "Church" has gotten a lot louder, a lot rowdier, and a lot more intent on ridding our world of other mainstream religions, along with LGBTQ and yes, Witches:
Hey, look! Churchy-Church people ridding the world of Witches!!!
(I'd like to point out that these freaks are "exorcising" Witchcraft using..erm...Witchcraft techniques: standing in a Circle, chanting, raising energy, oy...)
These people met at Harvard over the first weekend in April. No, it wasn't an April Fool's joke, but it sounded like one. I'd like to laugh and say to not be scared, but really? It only takes one or a few nuts to get really hooked into this mentality and people could be subject to true, physical danger. The fact that these people got their conference at Harvard says they either a.) have influence b.) have lots of money or c.) have both. All three options SHOULD be scary. One thing I learned from writing a paper on Inquisitional Heresy is that what the Church (or its radical affiliates...I by no means hold the average Christian accountable for these individuals) deems heretical is but a reflection of a present, societal fear. It's like the NY adage: if you see one cockroach, there are 12 more hiding in the walls. I encourage us not to give into fear, but to start becoming aware and continue to work on educating the general public to the best of our abilities. I don't want to open the Times one morning and see that something happened in the US that happened in Kenya as well as other places in Africa:
"Witch" Burnings in Kenya (Please note, this is a very graphic video.)
Let's all also keep in mind that the vast majority of Christians are not out to burn and flay people. The people involved in this kind of horseshit are radical and unbalanced people, caught up in a fear-based campaign that happens to aligning itself under the label of the Christian religion. Yet, this kind of freaked-out mindset is a dangerous, dangerous thing.
Trickle down effect! Here's one way the radical nuts are coming after our young ones. Here's another.
So what do we do???
Here are a few ideas you are free to ignore, but I encourage you to consider:
Don't point fingers, as in blaming the decent Christian guy next door who has always been nice to you for the crap pulled by these fuckers. Blame the action. Blame the mentality. Blame the individuals involved. Don't blame the religion and its affiliates.
Do be an out Pagan, if you are in a part of the country where it is safe to be one. Be a good neighbor, a good co-worker. Buy the Girlscout cookies and wear the Pentacle while you do it. Make a good impression on the person next to you, and maybe they'll take in of their own accord to educate their ignorant relatives at Thanksgiving about the Nice Pagan Lady at the office or on the block.
Don't be weird and secretive. Hiding your practices and acting shady when people ask you questions makes you think you have reason to hide what you do. Of course, keep personal matters of your group private, but be open to answering questions about your practices. Maybe they'll still think you're weird. But at least they won't think you drink blood of virgin kittens or some shit like that.
Do invite people of other faiths to your open gatherings. Help make them feel at home. Explain what's going on and do your best to show them a good time. There's a good chance they'll go back to their own communities or congregations and say, "Hey! Pagans are nice and throw a good party!"
Don't use social networking sites or blogs to announce your plans to curse the idiot who pissed you off in gym class. You sound like an idiot and you don't scare anyone. What you have succeeded in doing is in making the rest of us look bad.
Do use social networking and blogs to talk about your spiritual beliefs and your community building endeavors. Particularly if you are in an area where it isn't safe to be an open Pagan, this is a great way to help educate others in a safe format.
Don't alienate yourself either within your own Pagan community, or even just within your own self. Find friends and build bridges with other communities who share the same goals that you have.
Do be aware of religious persecution, but don't be paranoid. It ruins your own life. As my mom likes to say, "Don't give out free rent in your head."
And....happy Full Moon! Enjoy this beautiful weekend!!!