The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Witchcraze! Persecution of Witches
As demonstrated by the Bacchanalia, witch hysteria existed prior to Christianity. However, the European Witchcraze was almost entirely Church sponsored; legislation against witches was written into official Church documents. The Witchcraze was largely (and officially) based on the premise that an international conspiracy of witches was working tirelessly to overthrow Christian civilization.
In the fifth century, St Augustine wrote that at the very beginning of time, God divided Creation into two contrasting realms: the City of God inhabited by angels and good people (i.e., true Christians), and the City of the Devil inhabited by demons and their Pagan allies.
The two domains battle continually; history records their struggle. Demons (and by extension Pagans, which Augustine once was) are agents of the Devil. Their efforts to corrupt Christian souls never cease. Among their primary weapons of seduction are magic and witchcraft. Even healing charms and protective amulets are demonic.
The following are but some of the official decrees contributing to the persecution of witches (depending, of course, upon one’s definition of witchcraft) and creating the social climate that would ultimately culminate in the Burning Times:
In 313, Emperor Constantine makes Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. That year Pagan religions are proclaimed demonic; Constantine decrees that Pagan shrines be demolished or converted to Christian sites
In 314, Constantine defends Christian massacres of Pagans in Egypt and Palestine
In 314, the Synod of Ancyra decrees five-years’ penance for fortune-telling and for healing illness via occult means
In 319, Constantine passes a law exempting Christian clergy from taxes or military service
In 335, Constantine decrees death by crucifixion for magicians and diviners in Asia Minor and Palestine
In 356, Emperor Constantius decrees the death penalty for all forms of worship involving “idolatry” or sacrifice
In 357, Constantius bans all forms of divination, except for astrology
In 375, the Synod of Laodicaea forbids wearing amulets on pain of execution
In 389, Emperor Theodosius bans all non-Christian calendars
In 391, Theodosius prohibits visiting Pagan shrines; even looking at Pagan statues is now a criminal offence
In 395, Theodosius decrees that Paganism is a criminal offence; all Pagan events including the Olympic Games are banned
In 396, Emperor Flavius Arcadias decrees that Paganism is the equivalent of high treason. Remaining Pagan priests in the Roman Empire are ordered imprisoned
In 506, a Visigothic Synod in Languedoc decrees excommunication for anyone practicing divination, whether clergy or layperson
In 511, 533, 541, 573 and 603, Frankish Synods in Orleans and Auxerre decree excommunication for fortune-tellers; based on the need for repetition, legislation was apparently not very effective
In 528, Emperor Justinianus orders execution of diviners via crucifixion, fire or rending by iron nails or wild beasts
In 743, the Synod of Rome outlawed offerings and sacrifices to Pagan deities
In 829, the Synod of Paris issued a decree advocating that magicians, sorcerers, and witches be put to death
Although the Inquisition was originally created to combat heresy, circa 1326, Pope John XXII also authorizes it to proceed against sorcerers. John defines any deliberate contact with “demons” to be heresy, thus the Inquisition is empowered to act against ritual magicians
Having broadened the definition of witchcraft as a crime, the Church was overwhelmed and unable to handle the flood of cases. The Church now encouraged secular authorities to become involved with all phases of witch-hunting and prosecution. The first secular witch trial is held in Paris in 1390, followed by thousands more in Catholic and Protestant regions alike.
In September 1409, new pope Alexander V issues a papal bull complaining that many Christians and Jews practice witchcraft, divination, invocations to the devil, magical spells, superstition, and “forbidden and pernicious arts, with which they pervert and corrupt many true Christians”
Pope Eugenius IV (reigns 1431—47) orders the Inquisition to act against all magicians and witches, emphasizing their diabolical associations
In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull sanctioning witch-hunting. This was reprinted as an introductory foreword to the witch-hunters’ manual the Malleus Maleficarum. This essentially gave the entire manuscript the papal seal of approval and many believed the Malleus Maleficarum to be an official papal document, thus making the book tremendously influential. (See BOOKS: Witch-hunters’ Manuals: Kramer.)
Protestants emulate the Roman Catholic Church in only one thing: witch-hunts:
Lutheran preachers bring the witchcraze to Denmark
Calvinist missionaries bring the witchcraze to Transylvania
Lutheran preachers lead witchcrazes in Baden, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, and Württemberg during the 1560s