One question might be, why did the great witch hunt of Europe ever end if people’s thinking is so primitive as it had to be. The book Witchcraft by Roger Hart just came to my attention listing it for sale on Amazon.com. It is a book on a shelf of books that I was not intending to sell so I took another look at it before deciding to sell it. It is a book filled with period illustrations, mostly contemporary wood cut drawing prints that often are of a cartoon or comic book nature. One does not have to read the book to see that these pictures were once taken seriously by well meaning people who had as their life work and intention the need and desire to search for witches and destroy them. It is a very sad history and one that The Church and States of Old Europe have never adequately apologized for. I am not taking the point of view of a witch but of a human seeing the illustrations of suspected witches tortured, hung drowned , burned alive at the stake,dismembered, impaled and worse. The only requirement to be suspected of witchcraft or being a witch was somebody’s finger pointing at you.
The graphic comic book nature of the illustrations in this book are scary as hell because the comic book readers of those times actually believed what they saw in the comics. Well meaning people were educated in seminaries by priests in means of defining ridding the earth of anything or anyone associated with the devil or dark powers. Priests and Royalty even pushed for wholesale witch trials where thousands and thousands were put to death or forced to admit they were witches and accept some exorcism like procedural process to remain alive. Gold Old King Henry the Eighth was one Royal figure who dictated a legal statute against witches. Witch craft was one of the charges leveled at Ann Boleyn the mother of Queen Elizabeth. Henry the eight and Queen Elizabeth both pressed for the reformation and would have suffered burning at the stake in a Spanish Inquisition of the time, were still happy to go about weeding out witches and disloyal Catholics for destruction.
After reading a book like this one, it makes a lot of sense out a television program like the X-files which really is sort of a parody of what was going on in Europe at the time of the great witch hunt. Well meaning people who wanted to rid the world of the influence of the devil and darkness actually would go to school to learn how to identify and find witches and then the proper way to give a trial and then to destroy the adulterated flesh of those under the influence. Just imagine a TV program made in the year 1530 that might be called the W-files with episode after episode of strange phenomena that identified people as witches. Some people were so suspect they were never given the chance to confess and others were given the right to confess and be spared. It was a combination of the best art and science of the times. The way people of Europe saw the witch problem was sort like a real life version of the Men in Black Movie where instead of finding under cover aliens everywhere in real life, like that talking pug dog in the movie, but in real life Europe people experienced Men in Black nonsense as if it were real. The old hag living in the cottage was fair game to go after, ridding her of her body it would only be fair that a non devil possessed individual should get to keep her cottage and property. Greed was a real big part of what kept the witch hunts going. The famous Salem witch trials in colonial America followed the exact same pattern including the greed only it happened after the witch trials in Europe began to subside. In Europe and America it became a crime to feel the sympathy of the victims. The authorities were watching.
The authorities were not just hacks they were trained specialists. Just like the men in black and just like the researches in the X-files. I would like to do the script for that movie just to show people what the Inquisitions and witch hunts of grand old Europe were really all about. Tourists flock to the old medieval churches like Notre dame in Paris, they look at the gargoyles and are told by the tour guides that the gargoyles were carved out of limestone to scare away evil spirits from the cathedral and the people in it. One sees these figures and does not necessary realize that people really believed that. What exactly ever was holy about nasty looking devilish creatures like gargoyles and why were they actually carved into the surface of a holy place like Notre dame cathedral. When you transpose yourself back to the era when people were burned at the stake in the plaza outside of Notre dame on days that were not the Sabbath, then that puts the gargoyles in more perspective. You begin to notice that there are no carvings of nasty gargoyles on the interior of the building where the sacred religious iconography is found starting with the apostles of the entry doors. It took evil on the outside of cathedrals to counteract that might want to enter the building. Notre Dame predates the grand witch hunt . Wood cut cartoons in the book show very early examples of captions of what people are saying in the picture in speech bubbles. some of the images how people exhaling the devil himself. in good old witch hunt days Europe it did not pay to be ugly or disfigured or crippled in any manner because that was one more sign of witch craft and devil worship according to the official tracts on how to identify and destroy witches in the community. Other illustrations show strange animals associated with people that are signs that they are likely witches. Fascinating little book it is. It makes me think about how television in today’s world can make people superstitious or feed their fears of superstitions. The book also gives a little more sense of continuity between old Europe and Adolph Hitler reading between the line as people by classification were sought out to be harmed.
The interesting thing about a real history book like this one, compared to the Harry Potter series notions of witches really makes those Potter books and movies seem dangerous as there are probably people who believe everything they have seen in movies or read in books. Today we have popular fascination with aspects of witch craft that just may not always discern the line between fiction and reality.