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Witchcraft in Preliterate Societies. Functions as a common and socially accepted way of managing tension resolving social conflict leveling disparities in wealth and status explaining the otherwise unexplainable. Saul and the Witch of Endor Cornelisz Jacob van Oostsanen (1470-1533).

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witchcraft in preliterate societies
Witchcraft in Preliterate Societies

Functions as a common and socially accepted way of

  • managing tension
  • resolving social conflict
  • leveling disparities in wealth and status
  • explaining the otherwise unexplainable

Saul and the Witch of Endor

Cornelisz Jacob van Oostsanen (1470-1533)



The Ghost of Samuel Appearing to Saul

William Blake (1757-1827)

Apparition of the Spirit of Samuel to SaulSalvator Rosa (1615-1673)

witchcraft in european history
Witchcraft in European History

was part of the Church’s efforts to stamp out heterodoxy and heresy

  • witchcraft was a response to social upheavals related to both religious and political changes
  • witchcraft was dealt with in a similar manner to the ways that the Church dealt with other non-sanctioned beliefs
rome becomes catholic
Rome Becomes Catholic
  • 313 – Constantine issues Edict of Toleration

Christians no longer persecuted

  • 346 – Christianity becomes official religion of Rome
  • 379 –Emperor Theodosius accedes to the throne
catholicism made exclusive
Catholicism Made Exclusive

380 – general decree against heretics

It is our will that all the peoples who are ruled by the administration of Our Clemency shall practice that religion which the divine Peter the Apostle transmitted to the Romans…

Theodosian Code, XVI, 1, 2

catholicism made exclusive1
Catholicism Made Exclusive

We command that those persons who follow this rule shall embrace the name of Catholic Christians. The rest, however, whom We adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of Our own initiative, which We shall assume in accordance with the divine judgment.

Theodosian Code, XVI, 1, 2

other beliefs restricted
Other Beliefs Restricted
  • 388 – Intermarriage between Jews and Christians prohibited
  • 392 – traditional pagan religion prohibited
  • 429-439 – app. 150 laws issued defending and defining the Catholic faith
  • 438 – gladiatorial combat prohibited
arian controversy
Arian controversy
  • Since the Son and the Holy Spirit were created by God the Father, they must be subordinate to him
  • Visigoths converted from paganism to Arianism because of first contact


(250 or 256 – 336)

arian controversy1
Arian controversy
  • Roman acceptance of Catholicism thus linked to rejection of Barbarians
  • Not resolved until ca. 500, when the Franks converted from paganism to Catholicism
albigensian heresy
Albigensian Heresy
  • Followed Manichean ideas
    • the world as a place of constant struggle between a God of good and a God of evil
    • God of good = God of New Testament
    • God of evil = God of Old Testament
  • 1207 – Pope Innocent proclaims a Crusade against them
the inquisition
The Inquisition
  • Permanent tribunal established in 1231 by Pope Gregory IX to combat heresy
  • Removed pursuit of heretics from bishops and entrusted this to the Dominicans and Franciscans
excommunicamus february 1231
Excommunicamus(February 1231)
  • Life imprisonment as a salutary penance for repentant heretics
  • Capital punishment for unrepentant heretics
  • Right of appeal to Pope denied (there were other informal possibilities)
  • Headed by two judges (Inquisitors)
  • Initially a circuit court
  • Later acquired the power to summon accused persons to them
tribunal procedures
Tribunal Procedures
  • A judge could bring charges against anyone, based on mere rumor
  • Accused was obliged to take an oath to tell the truth
tribunal procedures1
Tribunal Procedures
  • Accused did not know who the witnesses for the prosecution were and no opportunity to challenge or confront them
  • Defendant’s sole tactic was to reveal the names of his or her enemies
tribunal procedures2
Tribunal Procedures
  • Testimony for the prosecution was accepted from criminals, excommunicated persons, and other heretics
  • Lawyers and clerks were not allowed to defend an accused person, lest they be regarded as accomplices
tribunal procedures3
Tribunal Procedures
  • Individuals were summoned at home by the parish priest, who repeated the summons at High Mass the following Sunday
  • Accused questioned by the court with two witnesses present
tribunal procedures4
Tribunal Procedures
  • Accused was given a summary of charges against him/her
  • Refusal to take an oath to tell the truth was taken as a presumption of guilt
  • Testimony of two witnesses (who must agree) was sufficient proof
minor infringements
Minor Infringements
  • Scourging, which included an obligation to appear in church, rod in hand, for public scourging
  • Pilgrimages
  • Wearing the “cross of infamy” (of yellow cloth) on the front and back of outer clothes
major infringements
Major Infringements
  • Life imprisonment – often commuted for lack of funds or enthusiasm
  • Capital punishment – public burning, carried out by secular authorities
famous victims
Famous Victims
  • Giordano Bruno – executed 16 Feb., 1600
    • for teaching Copernicus’ ideas (and other crimes)
  • Galileo Galilei – condemned in 1632 for teaching Copernicus’ ideas, placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life (died 1642)
the great witch craze
The “Great Witch Craze”
  • 15th – 17th centuries
  • Widely varying estimates of numbers of victims
    • fewer than 100,000 to more than 500,000
  • Associated with Black Death and with Reformation and other similar movements, i.e., times of social stress and crisis
  • Usually elderly women, often widowed
  • Typically of poor and low status
  • Quarrelsome, assertive, argumentative, willing to verbally defend herself
  • Midwives and similar occupations
  • Most were marginal and/or ambiguous figures
  • Woman as “temptress”
  • Men rarely accused
    • Relatives of female suspects
    • Criminals
spanish inquisition
Spanish Inquisition
  • Established in 1478 by Pope Sixtus IV
  • Replaced earlier Inquisition
  • Was an instrument to aid in the Reconquista
spanish inquisition1
Spanish Inquisition
  • Non-Christians were given the choice of
    • Expulsion
    • Conversion (anusim, “forced converts”; Hebrew)
  • Gained in influence when the Reconquista achieved its goal of reconquering Moslem-held territories
    • Spain 1492
    • Portugal 1497
three principle targets
Three Principle Targets
  • Moriscos – Moslems
  • Conversos, aka marranos, “pigs” – Jews who had converted to Christianity
  • Alumbrados – mystics from all 3 religions
spanish inquisition2
Spanish Inquisition
  • Exported to the Americas, where it was especially focused on indigenous peoples
  • Franciscan strategy in California known as reducción
  • Missions secularized by Mexico in 1827
  • Permanently suppressed on 15 July, 1834
who are the witches of today
Who are the “Witches” of Today?
  • People of different cultures & religions
  • Members of non-mainstream religions
  • Groups and individuals who do not conform to majority views
  • “Conservatives”, “Liberals”, “tea baggers”,
  • And?
warning signs of a bad religion
Warning Signs of a “Bad Religion”
  • The organization is willing to place itself above the law (probably the most important characteristic).
  • The leadership dictates (rather than suggests) important personal (as opposed to spiritual) details of followers' lives, such as whom to marry, what to study in college, etc.
  • The leader sets forth ethical guidelines members must follow but from which the leader is exempt.
  • The group is preparing to fight a literal, physical Armageddon against other human beings.
  • The leader regularly makes public assertions that he or she knows is false and/or the group has a policy of routinely deceiving outsiders.
so watch out
So Watch Out!

For easy women…

And cult leaders!

Time Magazine

December 4, 1978



Cynthya Jensen, Ph.D.

March 21, 2013

nin khur sag

Figurine of Astarte with a

horned headdress

Connected with fertility, sexuality and war. Known as Aphrodite and Artemis in Greece. Venus to the Romans and Ashteroth in the Hebrew Bible.

Her symbol is the crescent moon, which is depicted in this picture and is used as a symbol in today’s Wicca.

  • Enki was considered a god of life and replenishment, and was often depicted with two streams of water emanating from his shoulders, one the Tigris, the other the Euphrates.
  • Alongside him were trees symbolizing the female and male aspects of nature, each holding the female and male aspects of the 'Life Essence', which he, as apparent alchemist of the gods, would masterfully mix to create several beings that would live upon the face of the earth. Also known as Neptune.
goddesses from around the world
Goddesses from Around the World

Old Babylonian period “Ishtar, Queen of Night” relief.

goddesses from around the world1
Goddesses from Around the World
  • This is Inanna on the Ishtar Vase in the French Museum Louvre.
  • She was the Queen of Heaven, Goddess of Love, War, Fertility and Lust
goddesses from around the world2
Goddesses from Around the World
  • Venus of Wellendorf, estimated to have been carved 24,000-22,000 BCE
goddesses from around the world3
Goddesses from Around the World
  • The Venus of Dolni Vestonice, one of the earliest known depictions of the human body, dates to approximately 29,000-25,000 (Gravettian culture of the Upper Paleolithic era)
goddesses from around the world4
Goddesses from Around the World
  • Statuette of Mut, mother, often interpreted as representing one of the earliest mother goddesses of Egypt
goddesses from around the world5
Goddesses from Around the World
  • Roman view of Isis – Worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the patron of nature and magic.
goddesses from around the world6
Goddesses from Around the World
  • The goddess Isis
  • She is portrayed as a woman wearing a headdress shaped like a throne, sometimes she is also shown with birds wings.
  • She is the Goddess of motherhood, magic and fertility
goddesses from around the world7
Goddesses from Around the World
  • Goddess Durga as seen as the supreme mother goddess by some Hindus.
triple goddess
Triple Goddess

The Greek goddess Hekate

  • Portrayed in triplicate, representing the maiden, mother and crone.
triple goddess1
Triple Goddess
  • The Tridevi – the conjoined forms of Lakshmi, Parvati and Saraswati (triple goddesses), again representing the maiden, mother and crone.
american goddess
American Goddess

Statue of Freedom


Sits on top of the Capital Building in Washington, D.C.

american goddess1
American Goddess

Statue of Liberty

Welcomes Immigrants to the United States

Sacred Image of American Power

mother mary
Mother Mary

Painting of Jesus’ mother Mary.

Mary, the mother always depicted in blue.,_the_mother_of_Jesus

other mary
Other Mary

Painting of Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene always depicted in red.,_the_mother_of_Jesus

gerald gardner
Gerald Gardner

Gerald Brosseau Gardner

(13 June 1884 – 12 Feb 1964)

symbol of wicca
Symbol of Wicca

The pentacle, depicts a pentagram, or five-pointed star, used as a symbol of Wicca.

seasonally based sabbats
Seasonally-Based Sabbats

Imbolc – “Candlemas”

Beltaine – “May Eve”

Lughnasadh – “Lammas”

Samhain – “Halloween”

lesser sabbats
Lesser Sabbats

Yuletide – “Christmas”

Ostara – “Easter”

Litha – “Summer Solstice”

Mabon – “Autumn Equinox”

pow wow
Pow Wow

Native American Female Shaman, Circa 1880