Burning times

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Under the Moon (1991); The Goddess in the Office: A Personal Energy Guide for the Spiritual Warrior at Work (1993); The Goddess in the Bedroom: A Passionate Woman's Guide to Celebrating Sexuality Every Night of the Week (1995); The Grandmother of Time: A Woman's Book of Celebrations, Spells, and Sacred Objects for Every Month of the Year (1989); Celestial Wisdom for Every Year of Your Life: Discover the Hidden Meaning of Your Life (2003); and Summoning the Fates: A Guide to Destiny and Transformation (2nd ed. 2007). Her novel Rasta Dogs was self-published in 2003.

The impact of Dianic Wicca may be seen in the increase of literature and college courses devoted to the Goddess and women's spirituality. Budapest termed religion as the "supreme politics" because it influences everything people do. Patriarchal monotheism has worked to the detriment of women; it has glorified war and has permitted suffering for all. Her vision for the future is that of peace and abundance, expressed in female values, to dominate the world's consciousness. Then, Budapest said, "both sexes will be free to flourish according to their natural inclinations and abilities. Global Goddess Consciousness means acknowledging the oneness of all as children of one Mother, our beloved blue planet, the Earth."

burning times A term used by Wiccans and Pagans to refer to the period in Western history of intense witch hunting and executions, generally the mid-15th to mid-18th centuries.

Burning, one of the most extreme forms of execution, was urged by St. Augustine (354-430), who said that pagans, Jews and heretics would burn forever in eternal fire with the DEVIL unless saved by the Catholic Church. During the Inquisition, charges of wiTCHCRAFT were used against heretics, social outcasts and enemies of the church. Such individuals were declared to have renounced God and formed a compact with the Devil (see Devil's pact).

Fire is the element of purification, so nothing less than fire could negate the evil of witchcraft. Jean Bodin, a 16th-century demonologist, stated in De la demonomanie des sorciers:

Even if the witch has never killed or done evil to man, or beast, or fruits, and even if he has always cured bewitched people, or driven away tempests, it is because he has renounced God and treated with Satan that he deserves to be burned alive . . . Even if there is no more than the obligation to the Devil, having denied God, this deserves the most cruel death that can be imagined.

Not all witches were burned at the stake; hanging was the preferred means of execution in some countries, including England and the American colonies. In France, Scotland and Germany, it was customary to strangle (worry) condemned witches first, as an act of mercy, by either hanging or garroting, and then burn them to ashes. Nonetheless, many were burned alive, especially if they recanted their confession at the last moment or were unrepentant for their "crimes." The expenses of the burn-ing—along with all the expenses of the trial and the stay in jail—were billed to the deceased's relatives or estate. Witch lynchings and burnings continued sporadically into the late 19th century in England, Europe and Latin America. There are no reliable figures of the numbers of persons burned or otherwise executed for witchcraft. Estimates by historians range from 200,000 to 1 million. Wiccan and Pagan authors have cited 9 million as the number of victims, but this is an inflated figure without evidence of support.

The burning of a witch was a great public occasion. The execution took place shortly after the sentencing, just long enough to hire an executioner, construct the execution site and gather the fuel. In Scotland, a witch burning was preceded by days of fasting and solemn preaching. The witch was strangled first, and then her corpse—or sometimes her unconscious or semiconscious body—was tied to a stake or dumped into a tar barrel and set afire. If the witch was not dead and managed to get out of the flames, onlookers shoved her back in. Records of trials in Scotland report that burning a witch consumed 16 loads of peat plus wood and coal. In 1608 witches in Brechin, Scotland were executed in the following manner, according to original records as cited in Enemies of God: The Witch hunt in Scotland (1981) by Christine Larner:

. . . they were brunt quick [alive] eftir sic ane crewell maner, than sum of thame deit in despair, renunceand and blasphemeand; and utheris, half brunt, brake out of the fyre, and wes cast quick in it agane, quhill they wer brunt to the deid.

The term burning times also refers to any threatened prejudice against or persecution of Wiccans and Pagans by other religious groups, law enforcement agencies, employers, politicians and others (see Helms AMENDMENT).


Barstow, Anne Llewellyn. Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts. San Francisco: Pandora/HarperCollins, 1994.

Burroughs, George (d. 1692) Minister accused of witchcraft and executed in the SALEM Witches hysteria in Massachusetts in 1692 to 1693.

George Burroughs served as minister of Salem Village from 1680 to 1982. He was a man of good reputation, having graduated from Harvard in 1670. He had distinguished himself as a preacher in Maine, especially in the face of hostilities from Indians. Invited to Salem Village, he had no idea of the hornet's nest of social and political infighting that awaited him. Not everyone was pleased to have him.

After moving, Burroughs and his wife lived for a time with Thomas and Rebecca Putnam. Later, when the witch hysteria broke out, the Putnams alleged that Burroughs had treated his wife cruelly.

Burroughs' wife died in September 1681. By then, Burroughs had not been paid his salary for some time, a casualty of the local infighting. He went into debt to pay for his wife's funeral. Perhaps it was the combination of grief over his loss and frustration at the sentiments raging in the village, but Burroughs decided not to pursue the monies owed him and quit his job. He returned to Maine, where he became a pastor in Wells.

In 1683, a suit was brought against Burroughs for the unpaid debt for funeral expenses. The suit was dropped when Burroughs demonstrated that the village owed him back salary, which could be applied to the debt. The situation fomented ill will against the minister.

Burroughs was long gone from Salem Village when the witchcraft hysteria erupted in 1692. Burroughs was decried as a witch. Twelve-year-old Ann Putnam said that on April 20 the specter of a minister appeared and tortured and choked her, urging her to write in his devil's book. She identified the specter as Burroughs. She said he told her he had three wives and that he had bewitched the first two to death. He also said he had killed Mrs. Lawson and her daughter Ann; he had bewitched many soldiers to death; and he had turned Abigail Hobbs into a witch. He claimed to be a conjurer, which was above a witch.

On May 4, Burroughs was arrested at his home in Wells, Maine—while he sat at his dinner table with his family, according to lore—and brought immediately to Salem. In his examination on May 9, he was accused of witchcraft, of not attending communion on some occasions and of not baptizing all but his eldest child. These were grave sins for a minister. Like others who had been cried out against, Burroughs was simply astounded both at the accusations and the girls falling into fits claiming that he was tormenting and biting them.

Putnam said that on May 8, the apparition of Burroughs appeared to her again and told her that she would soon see his dead two wives, who would tell her lies. She saw two ghosts of women in burial shrouds. They said that Burroughs had been cruel to them and had killed them. The first wife said she had been stabbed beneath the armpit and the wound covered with sealing wax. She pulled aside her burial shroud to show Putnam the wound. Putnam also said that the ghosts of Lawson and her child appeared and said they, too, had been murdered by Burroughs. Later, Putnam saw the ghost of Goody Fuller, who said Burroughs had killed her over a dispute with her husband.

Others, including eight confessed witches, came forward against him. Burroughs was a man of small stature but had exceptional strength for his size. It was alleged that his unusual strength came from the Devil, and that he reveled in letting others know of his occult powers, also granted by the Devil. By the time the testimonies were done, Burroughs was the ringleader of all the witches, tempting and seducing them, giving them poppets for evil spells.

Burroughs was tried on August 5. Found guilty, he was condemned to death by hanging. On August 19, he and four others were driven to Gallows HILL in an open cart. He mounted the gallows and then preached a sermon, ending with the Lord's Prayer. His flawless recitation of the prayer upset the onlookers, for it was strongly believed that a witch could not say the prayer without stumbling. Cotton MATHER, watching astride his white horse, kept the execution on track by telling the crowd that Burroughs was not an ordained minister and, thus, the Devil could help him recite the prayer. The executions proceeded.

Burroughs and the others were cut down and dragged by halters to a shallow hole about two feet deep. Burroughs' shirt and pants were pulled off, and an old pair of pants belonging to one of the executed were put on him. The bodies were barely covered with dirt. Burroughs' chin and one hand stuck out from the ground, along with a foot of one of the others.

After his execution, more stories of his dealings with the Devil circulated through Salem. The citizens seemed to need a sense of justification at having killed the man who once led their church. Mather made special effort to spread disparaging stories. Filled with loathing of Burroughs, Mathers said he could hardly speak his name and would not have done so except that the state of Massachusetts asked for accounts of the Salem trials to be included in Mather's book, On Witchcraft: Being the Wonders of the Invisible World.

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