The witch craze was also fueled by serious social, economic, and political changes taking place across Europe. For instance, the bubonic plague, a widespread contagious disease that raged for about twenty years beginning in 1334, killed nearly three-fourths of the populations of Europe and Asia. In addition, a large percentage of men had died in wars, leaving more women than men in many European countries. There was also a high infant death rate. At the same time, women were increasingly being viewed with suspicion for their role in
One of the main deities (gods) found throughout the pre-Christian world was the horned god. Known as the god of hunting, fertility, luck, and winter time (when hunting was the primary means of survival), he was referred to by many names, such as Pan, Dionyssus, or Bachus, to name a few. Various cultures worshiped this god through ceremonies in which antlers or horns were worn by participants prior to major hunting expeditions. Relics from and drawings of the ceremonies have been found all over the world, with the common factor always being the existence of horns from the main herding animals of the region. Many historians and archaeologists believe that Christianity took the symbols of the old religion and altered their meaning forever by creating the image of the devil. The replica of the old horned god was given the added characteristic wings of the fallen angel, or the devil, and other elements relating to the Christian belief in heaven and hell. Christianity in essence stole the horned god, who had symbolized positive aspects of humanity's relationship with nature, and made it into the very representation of evil on Earth and the greatest enemy known to God. Contemporary words for the devil have no basis in Christianity itself. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term Ha-Satan simply means "an enemy." The same is true in the New Testament, in which the Greek word diabolos also means "an adversary." Ironically, witches did not even believe in the devil but they became closely and fatally associated with it through their connection to the old religion.
childbearing and for the mysterious functions of their bodies. Many rural healers and witches were unmarried women or widows who did not seem to fit into society, and church leaders became suspicious of the power they wielded in their communities. Some historians believe that misogyny (hatred of women) quickly replaced the old pagan respect for female qualities, as Christians came to associate women's sexuality and freedom with the work of the devil.
Simultaneously, the rise of the field of medicine, with its treatment of illness and disease through scientific meth-ods—and which was exclusively upper class, Christian, and male—edged out competition from village healers and other so-called "heathens" (non-Christians), such as Jews. For exam-
As a strange hatred for women replaced the old pagan respect, women were being viewed with suspicion for things as innocent as childbearing Reproduced by permission of Culver Pictures.
ple, Jews, followers of Judaism (a religion whose followers believe in one God and do not follow the teachings of Jesus, but rather the Old Testament of the Bible and the Talmud) were the only surgeons in Europe prior to this new movement. Eventually the medical establishment declared that it was illegal to perform any healing arts without "formal certification," thereby reducing traditional surgeons and healers to the status of criminals. Even village midwives who assisted in the birthing of babies were discredited and placed under deep suspicion.
Another factor was the new judicial system that arose in the twelfth century and considerably weakened the power of individuals and small communities. Prior to that time, the traditional legal system (known as lex talionis) had stated that an accuser must prove his or her accusation to be true or suffer the punishment that the defendant would have received if he were proven guilty. In other words, a person could not simply make an accusation with impunity (freedom from being punished if he were lying) but had to provide serious and con crete proof of a crime. The goal of the old system was community harmony and justice, and it discouraged the abuse of law and the courts. In contrast, the new system (which would play a major role in the witch craze) was based on Roman law and encouraged the use of heavy penalties, fines, punishments, and even death for those accused of major crimes. The goal was to protect the power and unification of the state and church rather than the small community. Depending on the status of the accused, it was sufficient in many cases for someone to be arrested and brought to trial simply on the basis of unproven charges.
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Spiritual healing is the ability of your mind and soul to repair your ailments. These ailments are not limited mere physical wounds, but can also relate to mental illness and self esteem issues. Many modern day physicians invoke the idea of spiritual healing along with western medicine as a means to promote the health of their patients.