Many Pagans/Wiccans/Witches love to talk about The Burning Times. Actually, many of them probably just like the “Never Again the Burning Times” graphics and enjoy spouting that slogan, especially when they feel they are being “persecuted” for their beliefs. Many Witches/Wiccans/Pagans, etc. perceive any objections to their beliefs as a “Witch Hunt”, and for the most part, that is just not true. Most people really don’t care.
What we know as The Burning Times began in the thirteenth century and reached its peak in the pobably around the sixteenth century. During this period of history, the established Church committed horrible atrocities against people who were suspected of witchcraft. These people, however, were not Wiccans, as Wicca didn’t come along until the 1950s. In fact, the majority of people who were tortured and murdered at this time were, in fact, Christians.
Many of these people were outcasts, people who were a bit “strange”, and most were women. Woman were considered far more susceptible to the Devil’s wiles and sweet talk, being so much weaker of mind and character than men. This knowledge is what lead some people to believe that those killed during this time were practitioners of an older, earth-based, Goddess-centric religion. The truth is, however, that most of the people were Christians. They were persecuted by their fellow “Christians”, accused of being in league with the devil, tortured, and killed. Why? Well, people were dying by the hundreds of thousands. There were wars and the Black Death. What could cause such an evil to overtake humanity? It certainly couldn’t be lack of cleanliness! So a suitable scapegoat was sought - the Witch. The Witch, who is sold her soul to the devil and practices profane rites and gruesome sacrifices must be the reason so many people are dying, right?
This witch hunt had nothing to do with paganism. Catholics accused Protestants. Protestants accused Catholics. Sure, there were some non-Christians involved, but we’ve already established that they were not Wiccan.
So, let’s recap, shall we? Yes, religion was a factor in these Witch Hunts, but the majority of people were Christians (and no, I am not going to argue with people who say those people were just pretending to be Christians, but were in fact Pagans). Europeans needed a scapegoat, someone to blame for the death that was going on around them. People were not as educated at the time, and superstitions got the best of them. They decided Satan-worshiping Witches were to blame. Honestly, if you were a Christian in the thirteenth century, wouldn’t that make as much sense as anything else? It was simply the worst thing they could think of. Men, women and children were killed. So were a bunch of cats. In Salem, no one was burned. People accused of witchcraft were hanged. Also, property was one of the factors at Salem.
So, if you are new to the whole Pagan path, please do some research. Don’t just go around talking about how “your people” were slaughtered during The Burning Times. Hardly anything marks a wide-eyed, uneducated novice more than remarks like that. It didn’t happen, people. No Wiccans were harmed during this period of time, or in the writing of this article.
If you feel like doing some research, here are a few sites:
http://www.spotlightministries.org.uk/burningtimes.htm (Yes, a Christian site. Just read it.)