These are merely questions that I have posed to myself. They are personal opinion, and thoughts, and should be taken as such. They are not meant to be a criticism of anyone's belief system, only to be personal musings.

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I ran across a site on the web which, under the heading of "Burning Times" states:

"Nine million women were murdered by the Inquisition for being Witches."

And to back up that statement, they quote:

"First use of this figure is in Women, Church and State by Matilda Joslyn Gage, 1893, pp 106-7; cited by Cynthia Eller, in her paper Relativizing the patriarchy: the sacred history of the feminist spirituality movement, in History of Religions, 30 (3) 1991, pp 279-295 (p286).
To put the death rate into perspective, it amounts to one person every 2-3 days taken over all of Catholic Europe. Bubonic plague killed about 11,000 people per day."

Can we be serious here a moment? Yes, there were witchcraft trials, and yes there were people (not just women) accused and executed for witchcraft, but 9 million? I don't think so. Historical documents(1) place the figure in the area of 50-100 thousand over a 500 year period ~ from the 14th to the 18th century ~ the vast majority were tried from 1550 to 1650.

The Inquisitional Courts were established by Pope Gregory IX in 1227 and in 1258, Pope Alexander IV instructed the Inquisition to confine their investigations to cases of heresy. They were not to investigate charges of divination or sorcery unless heresy was also involved.

After the 13th Century the Inquisition spread northward to Germany and Scandinavia. In northern Europe the Inquisition was considerably more benign: in the Scandinavian countries it had hardly any impact.The Inquisition was never instituted in England

The Spanish Inquisition, as a religious court, was operated by Church authorities; however, if a person was found to be heretical, they were turned over to the secular authorities to be punished. Torture was often used to gain repentance. Punishments ranged from public shame to burning at the stake—dead after garroting (strangulation) for those who repented, alive for the unrepentant, or in effigy for those condemned in absentia. These punishments were conducted in public ceremonies (called auto da fe) that could last a whole day. The clerical members of the tribunal were assisted by civilians (familiares). The office of familiar of the Inquisition was very prestigious.Many persons made such accusations out of revenge, or to gain rewards from the Crown. Very probably the Crown itself was behind some of the allegations, in the desire to appropriate wealthy Jews' lands, property and valuables.

The Inquisition was also used against focuses of early Protestantism, Erasmism and Illuminism and in the 18th century against Encyclopedism and French Illustration. In spite of the actions of the other European Inquisitions, witchcraft was not a big concern. Accused witches were usually dismissed as mentally ill.

Many countries in Europe largely escaped the burning times: Ireland executed only four "Witches;" Russia only ten. The craze affected mostly Switzerland, Germany and France. In England witchcraft was a civil crime punishable by hanging, NOT burning at the stake. In fact, no witches were executed by burning in the English colonies of North America. English law did not permit it.

Admittedly, burning was important in many cases, since to further protect against any malevolence from the dead witch, authorities often burned the remains afterward. Other forms of execution for witches however, included beheading, drowning, and breaking on the wheel.

To blame any one "Church" is inaccurate. Lutheranism, Calvinism and Anglicanism asserted other sources for divine authority in dealing with witches. The Protestant reformers often agreed with Rome, that witches were a clear and present danger. All four of the major western Christian "churches" persecuted witches to some degree or another.

These persecutions however, could not have been carried out without the permission and cooperation of secular governments. In only a few small regions, like the Papal States and various Prince-Bishoprics in Germany, were religious and temporal government leaders one and the same. But in all the rest of Western Europe, secular princes ultimately decided whether or not witches were hunted.  This does not entirely exculpate religious leaders, however, since secular princes often hunted witches on the advice of the clergy.  Taught that witches were real, princes hunted witches as disturbers of the peace, destructors or property, and killers of animals and people.  

by my own hand,

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1. Cornell University has a "Witchcraft Collection" with over 3,000 titles documenting the history of the Inquisition and the persecution of witches. "It documents the earliest and the latest manifestations of the belief in witchcraft as well as its geographical boundaries, and elaborates this history with works on canon law, the Inquisition, torture, demonology, trial testimony, and narratives. Most importantly, the collection focuses on witchcraft not as folklore or anthropology, but as theology and as religious heresy." See:

Another great article to read on the subject is Recent Developments in the Study
of The Great European Witch Hunt

by Jenny Gibbons and can be found at: