Friday, September 26, 2014


Part Two: Witchcraft in the Christian Era

Christ and the Apostles's Time
The Greek word pharmakeia is often rendered in Bible translations as "sorcery" or "magic arts" but the
original meaning of the first century Greek is more directly "manufacturer of medicines." So what? Why is that necessary to know? Because Revelation 9:12 and 21:8 place those who practice pharmakon in hell. 

The placement of this word is important. Usually the sin of pharmakon is listed in with the sins of murder and sexual immorality. Placement of types together was important in first century writers, so it makes great sense that abortifacient drugs were placed between the words murder and sexual immorality.

Alvin Schmidt in his Under the Influence, (Zondervan Publishing 2001) relates that that both pagans and Christians understood that the word pharmakeia/pharmakon used by Paul and John refers to the practice of abortion. He continue that one of the main duties of the sorcerer was to manufacture potions and spells that would both prevent conception, implantation and/or expel the unborn from the mother's womb. 
It was well-known among the ancients:

  • Plutarch, a pagan, noted that pharmakeia was primarily used for contraception and abortion. (Romulus 22 of his Parallel Lives).
  • The Christian record, Didache, from the first century clearly states that the early Christians were known for their proclamation that abortion and exposure of babies was a sin. Keep in mind that three centuries before the church had clearly understood the nature of Christ and the Trinity, the church was explicitly clear that abortion was evil. The church was pro-life from its inception. 
  • The Epistle of Barnabas (1st c. Christian document) states, "Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion neither shalt destroy it after it is born." 
  • Clement, bishop of Alexandria (155-215) writes that the biblical word pharmakeia directly refers to killing a child by abortion in The Tutor
  • Second century, Apocalypse of Peter, describes hell with a special punishment for women who procured abortions. 
  • Second-century was Athenagoras, Christian apologist, who wrote in A Plea for the Christians, "What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortion are murderers and will have to give account of it to God." 
  • Third century letter, The Epistle of Diognetus, written by a Christian records the well known fact that "Christians marry as do all others, they beget children, but they do not destroy their offspring." 
  • Minucius Felix in Octavius records how pro-life the early Christians were. 
Pro-life Fathers:
  • Bishop of Africa and attorney, Tertullian defended the Christians pro-life position in Apology (AD 197). 
  • As did Bishop of Carthage, Cyprian 
  • Ambrose, bishop of Milan, 
  • Zeno, Bishop of Verona, 
  • John Chrysostom, 
  • Augustin of Hippo, 
  • Basil of Caesarea
  • Bible translator, Jerome 

The Synod of Elvira in Spain in AD 305 and the Council of Ancyra in AD 314 were pro-life.
All record that the early church was universally, completely and totally against abortion. There is no early church father or apologist who wrote anything that disagreed with these, nor is there any arguments in favor of a pro-choice position. And this would again draw a direct tie between abortion and those who practiced making of potions or "sorcery/pharmakeia."

Early Church on Witchcraft:

The church scholars and even the church's regional councils often differed on the validity of sorcery and witchcraft. Some were skeptical of accusations of someone being a witch, others making it a serious spiritual crime. 

St. Augustine wrote about how we must not take much of this pagan sorcery with too much seriousness. Although the scholar also believe there were true powerful dark forces, he also explained much of what was regarded as
supernatural to be nothing more than the natural being manipulated by wicked men. (See City of God, Book 18, ch. 5, 9;  Book 21, ch. 6-8) This was to combat the Visigothic code that led to mobs burning witches. 

AD 306: The Council of Elvira (canon 6) excommunicated someone who killed a man by spell (aided by idolatry and the Devil). 
AD 324: Council of Anacyra (canon 24) Those who consult magicians must have a five year penance.  [Notice that both of these councils also affirmed the church's position on the protection of the unborn.] 
AD 643: The Edictum Rothari (Lex Rotharii) recorded,"Let nobody presume to kill a foreign serving maid or female slave as a witch, for it is not possible, nor ought to be believed by Christian minds." 
AD 672–754: St. Boniface pooh-poohed the existence of witches, and even warned that believing in them was unchristian. 
AD 692: Council of Trullo records sorcery as a crime with excommunication and penance as part of the punishment. 
AD 785: Council of Paderhorn relates that sorcerers are to be made serfs and given to the service of the church. But here is where the church starts clamping down on false reports of witchcraft: "Whosoever, blinded by the devil and infected with pagan errors, holds another person for a witch that eats human flesh, and therefore burns her, eats her flesh, or gives it to others to eat, shall be punished with death." 
775–790: The First Synod of St. Patrick anathematized those who believed in witches. 
AD 841: Archbishop of Lyons, St. Agobard wrote, "Against the foolish belief of the common sort concerning hail and thunder" which was against believing in magic.At this time civil courts allowed witches to endure the ordeal by cold water, where a witch was supposed to float on water. However at the same time clergy fought the pagan idea of witchcraft by down playing magic. One notable exception to this are the bishops of Paris.

AD 825: Council of Paris, rulers must "punish pitilessly” witches, diviners, and enchanters who practiced “very certainly the remains of the pagan cult.” However the Catholic encyclopedia records that many Catholic scholars agree that this was a local council and did not represent the church. However, you can see that not everyone agreed that the occult was simply silly tricks.

C. 9th century: French abbot, Agobard of Lyons, insisted no person could fly, cause weather changes or become shape shifters.
AD 825: Council of Paris, rulers must "punish pitilessly” witches, diviners, and enchanters who practiced “very certainly the remains of the pagan cult.” However the Catholic encyclopedia records that many Catholic scholars agree that this was a local council and did not represent the church. However, you can see that not everyone agreed that the occult was simply silly tricks. 
C. 9th century: French abbot, Agobard of Lyons, insisted no person could fly, cause weather changes or become shape shifters.
AD 866: Pope Nicholas prohibited torture in heresy/witchcraft trials. 
AD 906: See Abbot Regino of Prum, in his Warning to Bishopssection 364. 
AD 1020: the Decretum of BurchardCorrector, book 19, Bishop of Worms does recognize that are dark forces and powers, but utterly rejects the popular legend of witches and sorcery. If you even believe in such nonsense you were to go confess it as a sin and do penance. 

Catholic Kings Become Involved

When the secular arm of Christendom became involved, witchcraft was seen as a destructive force among the citizens and criminalized.
AD 873: Charles the Bald, King of France ordered witches to be hunted down and executed with "the greatest possible diligence."  
AD c. 880: Alfred the Great levied heavy fines, exile and even death for anyone dabbling in the occult. As did the subsequent kings Edward, Guthran, Ethelred. 
AD. 928: The king of England Ethelstan called witches to be burned at the stake. 
AD 970: English woman drowned as a witch at London bridge.
AD 1027: Count Guillaume of Angouleme claims to have been bewitched. (Not sure how it turned out but it is in the annals of court testimony.) 

At this same time the church still was not involved in Europe's witch trials.
 AD 1080: The pope wrote to the king of Denmark forbidding witches to be put to death on such evidence as "having caused storms or crop failure or pestilence."

It was the Germanic barbarian tribes that formed mobs against those involved in the occult (and often simply harmless herbalists or women practicing medicinal folklore). It was the Catholic Church that set laws against these attacks.

It is interesting to note that in many cases, women accused of witchcraft fled for "sanctuary" inside a cathedral and appealed for help to the bishop!
AD 1080: Witch Sagae executed by Wratislaw II of Bohemia and his brother, the bishop of Prague 
AD c.1100: Witches burned at Soest in Westphalia. 
AD 1115: 30 witches burned in eastern Austria. 
Up until this time, there is peripheral evidence that witches were criminalized directly from their practices of contraception and abortion, but at the time of the Inquisition, court testimonies survive that link the two. 
AD1140 Canon Lawyer Gratian declared in canon law that killing an unborn fetus was homicide and warrant identical punitive measures. 

Witchcraft and the Inquisition

With the instigation of the Inquisitions things decidedly changed on the shepherds' level of the church towards the power of the occult. The church began supporting the civil arm in bringing witches to trial, not as witches per se, but for heresy. Most of the time they were tried as criminals by their involvement in murder, abortion, infanticide, grave stealing, burglary. 
What was happening that made the tide turn?
The church really started seeing evidence of criminal activity in witchcraft that had been there all along that they just had ignored or was so rare that it was negligible? Or...

Perhaps something actually was happening. Is it possible that with the corruptions that would soon cause the revolt of the Protestants, there was a true revival of paganism and demonic forces? In any case, St. Thomas Aquinas is the first known church leader who openly taught that sorcery was related to fertility and abortion.
Some scholars maintain that it was Thomas Aquinas that codified the Church's change in direction or "emphasis" on witchcraft. In his Summa Theologia, Thomas saw the world as a dangerous place of demons. These scholars also write that Aquinas believed and taught that demons had the "habit of reaping the sperm of men and spreading it among women." And that sex and witchcraft were a real and dangerous association. And they even claim it was Thomas Aquinas who was instrumental in fomenting the witch hunts. And now with the Inquisition… the church had the power to try them in their own courts.

In 1233, a supposed bull was put out by Pope Gregory IX entitled, "Vox in Rama" in response to the inquisitor of Mainz who said he had uncovered a vast demonic cult. At first the pope issued a response in the bull to seek out and destroy them all. But the bull itself is considered inauthentic by many scholars. However, the pope sent an legate to the area to check it out and found that the inquisitor had been torturing the accused so violently that they all acquiesced and "confessed."

In 1245, Bernard de Caux tried a woman for sorcery.

1252, Pope Innocent IV sanctioned repression of heretics and sorcerers in the bull Ad extirpanda "to be exterminated". 
However, Pope Alexander the IV in 1258, told the inquisition that they could not try witches and sorcerers. Forty years later, canon lawyer, Johannes Andreae opened up a way for the inquisitors to get their way by adding to the inquisition law that, “Those are to be called heretics who forsake God and seek the aid of the devil.” So now the legends of wells being poisoned, blood libel, famines and other anomalies could be legally blamed on witches because they caused these things to happen by being in league with the devil. (Also, at this time both witches and Jews were accused of stealing Christian children and eating them! So anti-semitism and sorcery began to be mixed.) And like today, those who did not become Christian and continued their ancestor's pagan worship loudly bewailed their repression by the Church.

The Inquisitional manuals began to change: 1270, 1320, 1367. They show a growing concern with the occult.

Witch/heretic trials popped up more frequently in the Basque area and lowland Scotland. But as of yet, there is little in the way of trial evidence of witchcraft and abortion during this time. (Interestingly though, sodomy played a part in the trials.) However, we do know that legally there was no difference in an unborn and born. In 1283 a man was hung from assaulting a pregnant woman which ended in the killing of her unborn.

Let's take a moment to look at this in the Ba'al worship progression and compare it to earlier examples:

First sexual promiscuity. Now this time, what made news was the Cathar heresy that believed pro-creation was a sin. So, for those "weak" in faith, sodomy was allowed. While this may come at sexual perversion in an opposite way than in other cycles of Ba'al worship, it nonetheless has an outcome of abominable practices. Sodomy was used as a contraception. Next we should find the sacrifice of children.  And...We will find it…. 

Black Death and the 14th Century

All the sources I have studied agree that during the Black Death of 1348-1350, witch trials skyrocketed. Christians began to believe that the great enemy--Satan--caused this. And who could blame them with 40% of their population wiped out? Since priests courageously stayed with the dying to administer Last Rites, their group had a much higher mortality rate than the rest. Some stats are the 90% of priests died! Can you imagine what the church had to do to quickly replace these priests so the sacraments could be offered? Bishops on horseback often anointed men who the villages picked out, who had little to no knowledge to be clergy until the church could appoint new ones. It was mass chaos (deliberate pun!)  
Europe now in mourning over the dead, was in shock and trying to explain it. Charges of the Black Plague were levied upon Jews and witches…. Legends of the occult rites included incest and orgies and cannibalizing babies born and unborn. This was the newest tie between abortion and witchcraft. Scholars record, "The chief horror” that the medieval society had for witches was their supposed attack upon innocent small children (even in their cradles) as well as the unborn.
Now the historical evidence against witches was primarily for potions to prevent conception and abortifacients. (As well as magic love potions and spells.) Most often those guilty of distributing contraception were forced out of town. People began to complain to the church that sorcerers and witches were actively evangelizing others into goddess worship. 

August 22, 1380 in Florence, Laurentius Pini admitted to being a magician who repeated and successfully gave potions “apt to extinguish unborn life” but since there was no evidence to convict him on those charges, a woman came forward and gave evidence of a "dynamic" abortion (by violence) and the man's head was taken from his body. 
Protestant scholars claim that Popes Alexander V wrote against "forbidden arts" and Pope Eugenius IV wording of "magical harm-doing" meant contraception, abortifacients, abortion and infanticide, but those speculations are not confirmed by Catholics.  
Then came the most famous of all witch hunt documents supposedly written by the authority of the bishop or pope: the 1484 Malleus Maleficarum, which reports that witches purposely try to find very young victims because once they have been baptized they are no longer useful in pleasing the Devil because they do not go to hell. Hence the need for aborted babies and newborns. 
Pope Innocent issued the bull, Summis desderantes affetibus, which explained witches are known to have "slain infants yet in the mother's womb" (abortion) and of "hindering men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving" (contraception).
Many court trial records include eye witness accounts or testimony of women and men being prosecuted for administering abortifacients. Such as the 1479 account of a guy named Barolotus  who was accused of giving an herbal abortifacient to the pregnant Berta.
There are many court records at this time to confer the abortion/witchcraft connection:
Bernardino of Siena writes of a lady he had examined who admitted, without coercion or torture, that she had killed, dismembered and drank the blood of over 30 babies as a sacrifice to the Devil. While we think this woman must have been crazy, she had been arrested for the murder of her own son. She freely admitted that she had made him into a powder and had given it over as part of a potion for other people to take. The Inquisitor, himself assuming she was making this up, had her make careful notes of exactly how she did this, where, when and to whom. They sent out investigators and everything turned out to be correct. Often the people who had lost their child had no knowledge of the woman and were utterly surprised to hear how their child had died.

Under oath a woman admitted being a witch and said that with her apprentice, she stole a baby, removed its blood, returned the baby and when the child was buried, they went back, disinterred the body and…. I can't write the rest. Hundred of children's bodies were found murdered with their blood removed. Thousands went missing. Many witches said they would eat not only other people babies, but their own as Eucharistic feasts to the demons.

It was also thought that witches became midwives in order to poison newborns.
Now whether or not thes stories are  true, at the time, these stories got out and you can imagine the horror that went through Europe!

There is being established a firm connection between the occult and contraception, abortion and infanticide. 
Molech rose with the Black Plague and was hungry. 

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