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Witches' Sabbath: Church Depictions of Witches & Witchcraft

Christian Fiction & Prejudice, not Reality or Real Practices

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Church Depictions of Witches & Witchcraft: Christian Fiction & Prejudice, not Reality

Church Depictions of Witches & Witchcraft: Christian Fiction & Prejudice, not Reality or Real Practices

Source: Jupiter Images

Portrayals of witchcraft in church records can be very amusing. Almost everything that was "known" at the time about witches was pure fiction, inventions by church authorities who were told that witches were a threat and so had to come up with something to describe. Their creations have passed on into popular cultural images of witches which continue to this day. Very little of people's understanding of witches has anything to do with any older, pagan traditions which supposedly were the source of witches and witchcraft.

Most clerics seem to have been rather limited in creativity, so witches were shown as behaving a simplistically opposite fashion from Christians. Since Christians kneeled, then witches stood on their heads when paying homage to their masters. Communion was parodied by a Black Mass. Catholic sacraments became excrement. The above image depicts some of the strange and crazy things which medieval Christians believed that witched did at night.

One of the most famous symbols of the Inquisition's witch-craze was the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum (Witches' Hammer) by Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer. These two Dominican monks wrote a lurid account of what witches were "really" like and what they "really" did -- an account which would rival modern science fiction in its creativity, not to mention its fictitiousness.

It's not too far from the truth to suggest that Sprenger and Kramer were early propagandists, creating a fake resource for authorities in order to help justify what the authorities wanted to do all along. Sprenger and Kramer told religious leaders what they wanted to hear and helped make it easier for those leaders to pursue the persecution of witches throughout Europe. The political and religious goals set down by the church leaders were deemed far more important than the consequences to their own values, principles, or morals -- and certainly more important than the possible persecution of anyone who might actually be innocent of the charges leveled against them.

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