When you think of Halloween, what is the first image that comes to mind? I took a little informal poll among my friends, family and associates. Guess what image came in first? Jack-o-lanterns! Bet you thought I was going to say “witches”. Well, I sure thought it would be witches, but they only came in a close second!..
When I think of Halloween, i think of grade-school art projects where we cut out silhouettes of witches to paste onto large yellow moons made of construction paper. The witch was always on a broom with her black dress flying in the wind, accompanied by a black cat sitting on the back of the broom. I wondered even then how the cat managed to stay on and why anybody would think that straddling a broomstick as a seat would be even remotely comfortable.
But, there you have it: in a significant way, Halloween is associated with witches, evil women who consort with the devil and do evil things like caging lost children to fatten them up and eat them, giving poisoned apples and setting up spinning wheels to poison abandoned or hapless princesses who are only looking for true love.
The word ‘witch’ comes to us from the Old English wicca, which was a masculine word meaning ‘wizard’. The feminine version was wicce, pronounced ‘witch’. This came from Middle High German wicken , which meant to ‘bewitch’, and even older, from Old High German wīh which meant ‘holy’. The dictionary tells us that a witch is someone who has malignant supernatural powers and practices spell casting with the aid of a devil or familiar. It also refers to an ugly old woman, or a beautiful young woman. The word ‘witch’ is an epithet for any woman who isn’t inclined to be a doormat, flung to the floor by any individual who wants her to be subject to his or her will. Last of all, a witch is a practitioner of Wicca.
Wicca is a British construct created by an amateur anthropologist named Gerald Gardner who claimed to have had many interesting encounters and experiences with the occult and paranormal throughout his life. At one point, he claimed to have doctoral degrees from the Universities of Singapore and Toulouse, which was a lie. He claimed that he was initiated into a New Forest coven of witches which was the survival of a pre-Christian pagan witch cult. This alleged ancient coven has been shown by subsequent research to have been formed in the early 20th century and its ideas were based mainly on folk magic and the theories of Margaret Murray, so again, his honesty is rather suspect.
Gardner incorporated elements from Freemasonry, ceremonial magic, and the imaginings of Aleister Crowley and others. Most of what one sees when carefully examining these elements that combined to form modern Wicca bears no relationship whatsoever to the ancient religions as they can be discerned by deep study. Rather, these elements are likely more influenced by taking the descriptions of the persecutors of witches during the Inquisition as a guideline, instead of realizing that they were the defamatory falsifications of psychopaths. It is more likely that those accused of witchcraft during the witch persecutions were following beliefs akin to those of the Cathars – dualism – or even more ancient dualistic concepts. They also likely employed ancient knowledge handed down from Paleolithic shamanic systems which had little to nothing to do with ‘ceremonial magic’, spells or a ‘liberal code of morality’. Unfortunately, neither Gardner nor Crowley had access to modern scientific archaeological studies from which one can actually infer something about the abilities, beliefs and practices of our truly remarkable ancestors.
My work is all about following the lines of Pagan/shamanistic ideas and teachings back to the Ice Ages – the cave painters, the Northern European origins – to find the most original, fundamental, common foundation of all of them. The idea that there was a time when man was directly in contact with the Celestial Beings is at the root of many of the myths of the Golden Age. Myths tell us of a time when the ‘gods withdrew’ from mankind. As a result of some ‘happening’, i.e., ‘The Fall’, when the communications were broken off and the Celestial Beings withdrew to the highest heavens.
But the myths also tell us that there were still certain people who were able to ‘ascend’ and commune with the gods on behalf of their tribe or family. Through them, contact was maintained with the ‘guiding spirits’ of the group. The beliefs and practices of present day shamans are a survival of a profoundly modified and even corrupted and degenerated remnant of this archaic technology of concrete communications between heaven and earth. This shamanism seems to have been born in Western Europe with the arrival of Cro-Magnon man and the myths seem to have been redacted repeatedly until we have numerous claims of occult secrets of various sorts revived by this or that person, including Wicca. If that is the case, then true ‘witchcraft’ is really shamanism, aka Druidism, and even more, as we shall see. Mircea Eliade writes:
Recent researches have clearly brought out the ‘shamanic’ elements in the religion of the Paleolithic hunters. Horst Kierchner has interpreted the celebrated relief at Lascaux as a representation of a shamanic trance.
… Finally, Karl J. Narr has reconsidered the problem of the ‘origin’ and chronology of shamanism in his important study. He brings out the influence of notions of fertility (Venus statuettes) on the religious beliefs of the prehistoric North Asian hunters; but this influence did not disrupt the Paleolithic tradition. … It is in this “Vorstellungswelt” that the roots of the bear ceremonialism of Asia and North America lie. Soon afterward, probably about 25,000 BC, Europe offers evidence for the earliest forms of shamanism (Lascaux) with the plastic representations of the bird, the tutelary spirit, and ecstasy.
… What appears to be certain is the antiquity of ‘shamanic’ rituals and symbols. It remains to be determined whether these documents brought to light by prehistoric discoveries represent the first expressions of a shamanism in statu nascendi or are merely the earliest documents today available for an earlier religious complex, which, however, did not find ‘plastic’ manifestations (drawings, ritual objects, etc.) before the period of Lascaux.
… It is indubitable that the celestial ascent of the shaman is a survival, profoundly modified and sometimes degenerate, of this archaic religious ideology centered on faith in a celestial Supreme Being and belief in concrete communications between heaven and earth.
… The myths refer to more intimate relations between the Supreme Beings and shamans; in particular, they tell of a First Shaman, sent to earth by the Supreme Being or his surrogate to defend human beings against diseases and evil spirits.”
It was in the context of the ‘withdrawal’ of the ‘Celestial Being’ that the meaning of the shaman’s ecstatic experience changed. Formerly, the activity was focused on communing with the god and obtaining benefits for the tribe. The shift of the function of the shaman associated with the withdrawal of the benevolent god/goddess was to ‘battling with evil spirits and disease’. This is a sharp reminder of the work of Jesus, healing the sick and casting out demons – the shamanic exemplar ‘after the Fall’.
There was, it seems, another consequence of this ‘shift’. Increasingly, the descents into the ‘underworld’ and the relations with ‘spirits’ led to their ’embodiment’ or in the shaman’s being ‘possessed’ by ‘spirits’. What is clear is that these were innovations, most of them recent. What is particularly striking in the research of the historiographers of myth, legend, shamanism, etc., is the discovery of the “influences from the south, which appeared quite early and which altered both cosmology and the mythology and techniques of ecstasy”. Among these southern influences were the contribution of Buddhism and Lamaism, added to the Iranian and, in the last analysis, Mesopotamian influences that preceded them.
The initiatory schema of the shaman’s ritual death and resurrection is likewise an innovation, but one that goes back to much earlier times; in any case, it cannot be ascribed to influences from the ancient Near East. But the innovations introduced by the ancestor cult particularly affected the structure of this initiatory schema. The very concept of mystical death was altered by the many and various religious changes effected by lunar mythologies, the cult of the dead, and the elaboration of magical ideologies.
Hence we must conceive of Asiatic shamanism as an archaic technique of ecstasy whose original underlying ideology – belief in a celestial Supreme Being with whom it was possible to have direct relations by ascending into the sky – was constantly being transformed by an ongoing series of exotic contributions culminating in the invasion of Buddhism…
The phenomenology of the trance underwent many changes and corruptions, due in large part to confusion as to the precise nature of ecstasy. Yet all these innovations and corruptions did not succeed in eliminating the possibility of the true shamanic ecstasy.
More than once we have discerned in the shamanic experience a ‘nostalgia for paradise’ that suggests one of the oldest types of Christian mystical experience. As for the ‘inner light’, which plays a part of the first importance in Indian mysticism and metaphysics as well as in Christian mystical theology, it is already documented in shamanism.
What seems to be most important about Central Asian shamanism in the history of mysticism is the role the shaman plays in the defense of the psychic integrity of the community. Shamans are pre-eminently the anti-demonic champions; they combat not only demons and disease, but also the black magicians. The shaman is the tireless slayer of demons and dragons.
… It is clear that shamanism, as it is known, has declined from its original unified and coherent system. One reason for thinking so is that, while there are many local terms for a male shaman, there is only one for a female shaman. Shamanism, it seems, was formerly a woman’s activity. In one Tartar dialect, utygan, the word for a woman-shaman, also means ‘bear’.
… The magico-religious value of intoxication for achieving ecstasy is of Iranian origin. … Concerning the original shamanic experience … narcotics are only a vulgar substitute for ‘pure’ trance.
The use of intoxicants is a recent innovation and points to a decadence in shamanic technique. Narcotic intoxication is called on to provide an imitation of a state that the shaman is no longer capable of attaining otherwise. Decadence or vulgarization of a mystical technique – in ancient and modern India, and indeed all through the East, we constantly find this strange mixture of ‘difficult ways’ and ‘easy ways’ of realizing mystical ecstasy or some other decisive experience.” (Ibid.)
Now, let me make a point here. The religion of the Ice Age was so satisfying to all the peoples of the Earth that it was stable for over 25,000 years, as is evidenced by the archaeological and historical data. There were shamans, women, who engaged in ecstatic ascents which brought benefits to the tribe and, later, defended the tribe against negative influences. In short, it seems that Paganism, even Druidism, was the original Christianity, and the original ‘Christed Ones’ were women. Many researchers repeatedly point out that Christianity has pagan roots. Well, yeah; more than anybody suspects. And if the lines of research I have presented in my book, The Secret History of the World, are anything to go by, then the original ‘witches’ were Christs.
This, of course, leads us to wonder how can things get so turned around that we actually end up believing the opposite of the truth in almost every field of endeavor? We may turn away from mainstream religions that we can see are false and contradictory, only to fall into the arms of New Age religions that are not any better, being just another variation on a control system designed to prevent us from accessing what is real. It is going to be difficult for me to boil this down into the short space I am given for this article, but I will do my best. Just keep in mind that I am not going to be able to provide extensive quoted evidence from primary sources, which is my general way of writing. If you wish to know more, you can read my books which go into these matters in great depth and detail.
The last day of October is a holiday that is said to be the ancient Celtic celebration of the ‘End of Summer’, Samhain, Halloween, or All Hallows Eve. As I mentioned at the beginning, many people think of witches when you say the word ‘Halloween’. One immediately wonders why October 31st should be associated with witches and celebrated as the ‘end of summer’ when the Autumnal equinox, over a month earlier, is the actual end of summer?
Therein lies the tale!
According to British historian Ronald Hutton, the festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the ‘lighter half’ of the year and beginning of the ‘darker half’ and is sometimes regarded as the Celtic New Year. According to folklorist John Gregorson Campbell and archaeologist Bettina Arnold, the ancient Celts believed that the curtain separating this world from the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both good and bad) to easily traverse the otherwise sturdy barrier. They dealt with this by inviting the good spirits in – usually family ancestors – and utilizing various techniques to ward off or scare away any bad spirits. It is suggested that this is the origin of wearing costumes disguising oneself as skeletons, ghosts, and goblins, the principle being that if you looked horrible enough, you could even scare away the devil himself!
Samhain was also the time when people in the old times took stock of their food supplies, butchered cattle and pigs, and prepared grains and other foodstuffs to put up for the winter.
Bonfires were an important part of the celebrations. Hearth fires were put out, the bones of the slaughtered cattle were tossed into the bonfire, and each home re-lit their hearth fire from the coals of the bonfire. Sometimes two bonfires would be built so that people could pass between them with their livestock for ‘purification’. This practice may be a survival of the times when the ancient tribes purified themselves by burning alive: a) any members who were less than perfect so that the tribe could be cleansed of sinful elements, or b) those members who were actually perfect in some way and volunteered to be offered as a sacrifice to appease the gods so the rest of the tribe could live in peace for another year. This is, in fact, an interesting clue.
The name ‘Halloween’ is an old Scottish variant of ‘All Hallows Eve’, or the night before All Hallows Day, or the Feast of All Saints. What is interesting to observe here are the old customs regarding this day, and especially the following two days, from around the world that were later Christianized, but obviously represent something far more ancient.
In Portugal and Spain, offerings are made on All Saints Day. In Mexico, All Saints coincides with the celebration of the Day of the Innocents, part of the Day of the Dead honoring deceased children and infants. In Portugal, children go door to door where they receive cakes, nuts and pomegranates. The holiday focuses on family gatherings where prayers for, and remembrance of, friends and family that are departed are the focus. Traditions include building altars honoring the deceased, feasting on sugar skulls (devouring death?), and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, decorating with marigolds and visiting graves with these as gifts. Scholars trace the origins of the modern holiday to indigenous observances dating back thousands of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl, the Queen of Mictlan, or the underworld. It was believed that she was sacrificed as an infant, and she is represented with a defleshed body, and her gaping jaw swallows the stars during the day.
In the Philippines, this day is called ‘Undas’, ‘Todos los Santos’ (literally ‘All Saints’), and sometimes ‘Araw ng mga Namayapa’ (approximately ‘Day of the Deceased’). This day and the one before and one after it are spent visiting the graves of deceased relatives, where prayers and flowers are offered, candles are lit and the graves themselves are cleaned, repaired and repainted. The practices are similar in most European countries.
In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain, there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.
These celebrations, which occur on November 1st and 2nd, and have indigenous forms that the church assimilated, strike us as curious. It seems that what is important is that they follow immediately on the heels of October 31st. One is compelled to ask why. What happened on October 31st that turned the following day into the Day of the Dead?
The symbols associated with Halloween formed over time and, just as the medieval church assimilated the ancient death-themed images and practices, many of the customs of contemporary times have assimilated the medieval practices. In traditional Celtic Halloween festivals, large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces and placed in windows to ward off evil spirits. The American tradition of carving pumpkins was originally associated with harvest time in general, not becoming specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 1800s.
While most Christians just think of Halloween as a secular holiday which allows kids (and big kids!) to dress up in silly costumes, eat candy, and generally make fun of everything that is normally scary in our world, some other – mostly fundamentalist – Christians ascribe a negative influence to the celebration because they feel it celebrates paganism, the occult, or trivializes it so that their members are not properly fearful of ghosts, demons and the devil. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Halloween because they believe anything that originated from a pagan holiday should not be celebrated by true Christians. This is ironic considering what I have written above about original Christianity. How did we get from there – true spirituality that honored women, with women shamans that provided for the tribe – to here, the modern-day Christian view of women as something barely human?
Many of those who follow Pagan ways consider the season to be a holy time of year and, naturally, Wiccans feel that the whole holiday as it is generally celebrated, is offensive because it associates witches with the other list of ‘evil spirits’ that need to be warded off. They are right about that, but most of what they consider ‘Wicca’ is as wrong as Christianity is wrong.
This brings us back to the question this article hopes to answer: What is the origin of Halloween, what does it really commemorate, and why are witches associated with it?
The first point I would like to bring up is that I think, when we look at Halloween, we are seeing something very ancient that is filtered through many layers of interpretation. What is consistent throughout, however, is the theme of easy traversal of the border between life and death, leading mainly to death, which suggests that death on a massive scale came on Halloween a very long time ago. Whatever it was, it was so terrifying, so widespread, that cultures the world over have commemorated it, and the days following it, in ways that appear to be designed to ward it off, to prevent it from ever happening again. And along the way, things happened that turned everything around so that those individuals – real, holy, witches – who actually might be capable of knowing such things, of ameliorating such terrors, became identified with the cause of the death and destruction.
In the book, The Worship of the Dead, or the Origin and Nature of Pagan Idolatry and Its Bearing Upon the Early History of Egypt and Babylonia, by John Garnier (1904, London: Chapman & Hall; Chapter One, pages 3-11), the author writes that the modern-day celebrations for the dead focused around All Hallows Eve, including the following few days, originated to memorialize the people who died in the Deluge brought by God on a wicked world. He bases this on Genesis 7:11. He writes:
“There is hardly a nation or tribe in the world which does not possess a tradition of the destruction of the human race by a flood; and the details of these traditions are too exactly in accordance with each other to permit the suggestion, which some have made, that they refer to different local floods in each case.
The mythologies of all the ancient nations are interwoven with the events of the Deluge and are explained by it, thereby proving that they are all based on a common principle, and must have been derived from a common source.
It is clear from these remarks that one or other of the two great events in the history of the Deluge, namely, the commencement of the waters and the beginning of their subsidence, were observed throughout the ancient world, some nations observing one event and some the other.
It would also appear probable that the observance of this festival was intimately connected with, and perhaps initiated, that worship of the dead which, as we shall see, was the central principle of the ancient idolatry.
The force of this argument is illustrated by the fact of the observance of a great festival of the dead in commemoration of the event, not only by nations more or less in communication with each other, but by others widely separated, both by the ocean and by centuries of time.
This festival is, moreover, held by all on or about the very day on which, according to the Mosaic account, the Deluge took place, viz. the seventeenth day of the second month – the month nearly corresponding with our November.
I don’t know which of the many Jewish calendars he was using, but Garnier’s point was that holidays that bring honor to dead spirits are un-Christian because they have pagan roots (never mind all the honoring of dead saints and praying to them – they were Christian before they died, or so it is claimed) and because they are founded on honoring the deaths of the wicked people who were justifiably destroyed by God in Noah’s Flood. This ‘Christian’ spin on all things Pagan is why, apparently, Halloween has such an emphasis on demonic images, ghosts, monsters, and gruesome things in general, because, as Garnier points out, the flood meant the death of the hybrid children of demons, the Nephilim (see Gen. 6:1-4, 13 and the Book of Enoch).
So, it seems to be just a conjecture made by a religious antiquarian of olden times; nothing to see here. But, maybe not? Maybe Garnier was onto something and didn’t really know what it was?
Regarding the alleged Flood of Noah, we can say that at more than one point in our known history civilizations and/or cultures have collapsed and/or disappeared or been destroyed by no-one-knows-what. The Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, the Old Kingdom in Egypt, the Early Bronze Age civilization in Palestine, Anatolia and Greece, as well as the Indus Valley civilization in India, the Hilmand civilization in Afghanistan and the Hongshan in China, all fell into ruin at more or less the same time. Not long afterward, in archaeological time (though the chronology is a mess), destruction came to the Myceneans of Greece, the Hittites of Anatolia, the Egyptian New Kingdom, Late Bronze Age Palestine, and the Shang Dynasty of China.
Researchers in the fields of archaeology and history are baffled by the lack of any direct archaeological or written explanations for the causes (as opposed to the effects), though there is a rich body of myth and folklore that very well might provide the answers if analyzed correctly. Since the ‘experts’ in those fields have consigned myth to superstition, while simultaneously believing that the historicized myths incorporated into the Bible are history, they aren’t getting very far with their problem and usually ascribe the collapse of civilizations to invasion and warfare on a gargantuan scale.
Some decades ago, certain natural scientists became intrigued by the problem and, concentrating on the Bronze Age collapses listed above, they realized that the range of evidence suggested natural causes rather than human actions (invasion, warfare). So, they all started talking about climate change, volcanic activity, and earthquakes. At present, these types of explanations are actually included in some of the standard historical accounts of the Bronze Age period, though many problems still remain: no single explanation appeared to account for all the evidence.
Immanuel Velikovsky upset everyone by suggesting that the Exodus – but only the Exodus – was caused by a bombardment of rocks, dust, carbons, and so on, as a result of Venus running amok in the Solar System. He collected an amazing assortment of myths and legends from around the world that strongly suggested that some sort of global cataclysm was being described, but when, where and how exactly it happened was rather iffy. There were others who wrote and talked about these matters before Velikovsky, including Ignatious Donnelly, who deserves an honorable mention for ascribing the myths to the Great Flood of Noah which he claimed was actually the destruction of Atlantis as described by Plato. Whether or not there was an advanced civilization known as Atlantis is not our concern here, but whether or not there was a flood, and when it may have occurred, is.
In the late 1970s, British astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier of Oxford University began investigating cometary impact as the ultimate cause. In 1980, Nobel Prize winning physicist Luis Alvarez and his colleagues published a paper in Science which argued that a cosmic impact is what led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Alvarez’s paper had immense influence, though that influence acted in different ways on the two sides of the Atlantic. In the US, there is the ‘wishful thinking’ school which posits that only asteroid impacts are significant and they are so rare that we don’t have to worry. In Britain, further research by astronomers Clube and Napier, Prof. Mark Bailey of the Armagh Observatory, Duncan Steel of Spaceguard Australia, and Britain’s best known astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, all led to their support of the theory of cometary impact loosely termed the ‘British School of Coherent Catastrophism’.
According to Clube and Napier, et al., in the same way that Jupiter was struck repeatedly in 1994 by the million-megaton impacts of the comet Shoemaker-Levy, so Earth was bombarded 13,000 years ago by the fragments of a giant comet that broke up in the sky before the terrified eyes of humanity. The multiple impacts on the rotating planet caused tidal waves, raging fires, atomic bomb-like blasts, the mass extinction of many prehistoric species such as the mammoth and sabre-toothed tiger, most of humanity, and left the world in darkness for months. (See: The Cosmic Serpent and The Cosmic Winter by Clube and Napier. See also: “The Origin of the Universe and the Origin of Religion”, Anshen Transdisciplinary Lectureships in Art, Science, and the Philosophy of Culture by Fred Hoyle.)
Some American scientists are joining the Coherent Catastrophism group. Physicist Richard Firestone and geologists Allen West and Simon Warwick-Smith write in their book, The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes (Bear & Co., 2006):
In 1990, Victor Clube, an astrophysicist, and Bill Napier, an astronomer, published The Cosmic Winter, a book in which they describe performing orbital analyses of several of the meteor showers that hit Earth every year. Using sophisticated computer software, they carefully looked backward for thousands of years, tracing the orbits of comets, asteroids, and meteor showers until they uncovered something astounding. Many meteor showers are related to one another, such as the Taurids, Perseids, Piscids, and Orionids. In addition, some very large cosmic objects are related: the comets Encke and Rudnicki, the asteroids Oljato, Hephaistos, and about 100 others. Every one of those 100-plus cosmic bodies is at least a half-mile in diameter and some are miles wide. And what do they have in common? According to those scientists, every one is the offspring of the same massive comet that first entered our system less than 20,000 years ago! Clube and Napier calculated that, to account for all the debris they found strewn throughout our solar system, the original comet had to have been enormous.
Clube and Napier also calculated that, because of subtle changes in the orbits of Earth and the remaining cosmic debris, Earth crosses through the densest part of the giant comet clouds about every 2,000 to 4,000 years. When we look at climate and ice-core records, we can see that pattern. For example, the iridium, helium-3, nitrate, ammonium, and other key measurements seem to rise and fall in tandem, producing noticeable peaks around 18,000, 16,000, 13,000, 9,000, 5,000, and 2,000 years ago. In that pattern of peaks every 2,000 to 4,000 years, we may be seeing the ‘calling cards’ of the returning mega-comet.
Fortunately, the oldest peaks were the heaviest bombardments, and things have been getting quieter since then, as the remains of the comet break up into even smaller pieces. The danger is not past, however. Some of the remaining miles-wide pieces are big enough to do serious damage to our cities, climate, and global economy. Clube and Napier (1984) predicted that , in the year 2000 and continuing for 400 years, Earth would enter another dangerous time in which the planet’s changing orbit would bring us into a potential collision course with the densest parts of the clouds containing some very large debris. Twenty years after their prediction, we have just now moved into the danger zone. It is a widely accepted fact that some of those large objects are in Earth-crossing orbits at this very moment, and the only uncertainty is whether they will miss us, as is most likely, or whether they will crash into some part of our planet.
And so we see that this new type of ‘natural disaster’ is beginning to be regarded by many scholars as the most probable single explanation for widespread and simultaneous cultural collapses at various times in our history. These ideas have been advanced largely by astronomers and geologists, dendrochronologists, etc., and remain almost completely unknown among archaeologists and historians, which significantly hampers their efforts to explain what they may be seeing in the historical record.
The new theory posits trains of cometary debris which repeatedly encounter the Earth. We know most of these trains as meteor showers – tiny particles of cosmic material whose impact is insignificant. Occasionally, however, in these trains of debris, there are chunks measuring between one and several hundred meters in diameter. When these either strike the Earth or explode in the atmosphere, there can be catastrophic effects on our ecological system. Multi-megaton explosions of fireballs can destroy natural and cultural features on the surface of the Earth by means of tidal-wave floods (if the debris lands in the sea), fire blasts and seismic damage leaving no crater as a trace, just scorched and blasted earth. In the case of a significant bombardment, an entire small country could be wiped out, completely vaporized.
A recent example, known as the Tunguska Event, occurred in 1908 over Siberia, when a bolide exploded about 5 km above ground and completely devastated an area of some 2,000 km² through fireball blasts. This cosmic body, thought to have measured only 60 m across, had the impact energy of about 20 to 40 megatons, and was equivalent to the explosion of about 2,000 Hiroshima-size nuclear bombs, even though there was no actual physical impact on the Earth. In other words, if there were ancient, advanced civilizations, if they were destroyed by multiple Tunguska-like events, it is no wonder there is no trace, or very little, which is usually ascribed to ‘anomaly’.
For years, the astronomical mainstream was highly critical of Clube and Napier and their giant comet hypothesis. However, the impacts of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter in 1994 led to a rather rapid turnaround in attitude. The comet, watched by the world’s observatories, was seen to split into 20 pieces and slam into different parts of the planet over a period of several days. A similar event vis-à-vis our planet would have been devastating, to understate the matter. In recent times, the increasing numbers of fireballs and comets, the fact that Jupiter has been impacted yet again and again just this year, suggests to us that Victor Clube and Bill Napier are correct: we are in a very dangerous period.
In Rain of Iron and Ice by John Lewis, Professor of Planetary Sciences at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Co-Director of the NASA/University of Arizona Space Engineering Research Center, and Commissioner of the Arizona State Space Commission, we learn that the earth is regularly hit by extraterrestrial objects and many of the impacting bodies explode in the atmosphere as happened in Tunguska, leaving no craters or long-lasting visible evidence of a body from space.
These impacts or atmospheric explosions may produce earthquakes or tsunamis without any witnesses being aware of the cause. After all, the earth is 75% water, and any eye-witness to such an event would very likely be fried and never tell about it, so we really have no way of knowing if all the earthquakes on our planet are tectonic in nature or not.
In short, what the work of Lewis brings to the table is the idea that some well-known historical earthquakes could very well have been impact events. The dates that these researchers have given to events that can be discerned in the scientific records are 12,800, 8,200, 5,200, and 4,200 BP (‘years Before the Present’). These can be adjusted as more precise dating methods are developed or applied.
The 12,800 B.P. event is the one of most interest because that is the one which, apparently, nearly destroyed all life on earth. At the very least, it destroyed the mega-fauna on all continents. Plato wrote about the catastrophic destruction of Atlantis which occurred in a day and a night about 11,600 years ago, which is pretty darn close. This event is the topic Firestone, West and Warwick-Smith cover exhaustively in their book The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes. They include a great many Native American myths that describe the event side by side with their own scientific work on the evidence.
As already mentioned, Clube and Napier identified the progenitor of the Taurid complex as a giant comet that was thrown into a short-period (about 3.3 year) orbit sometime in the last twenty to thirty thousand years. The Taurid complex currently includes the Taurid meteor stream, comet Encke, ‘asteroids’ such as 2101 Adonis and 2201 Oljato, and enormous amounts of space dust. Asteroids in the Taurid complex appear to have associated meteor showers, which means that many asteroids are likely to be extinct comets. In other words, there can be more than just some dust and snow in a comet – there can be a significant rocky core and lots of poisonous gasses and chemicals as well.
We come now to the bit of evidence that may link between this comet business and Halloween. As it happens, the end of June and the end of October/beginning of November are the times when the Earth passes through the Taurid stream. That means that the event that marked the boundary between the Pleistocene and Holocene (present epoch) must have occurred at the end of October. It was a day when the boundaries between the living and the dead became very thin, because nearly every living thing on this planet perished and the memory of this event has come down to us in the ‘End of Summer’ commemoration we call Halloween, known in the Bible as the Flood of Noah.
Where do the witches come in? Well, hang on, we are getting there. Clube and Napier write:
…Meteor streams are fossil evidence of past intersections with comet orbits… the major streams are of great antiquity…
The progenitor of comet Encke and the Taurids, supposing it to have been about 20 km in diameter, would, at its closest approaches to the Earth, have attained a magnitude -12, approaching that of the Moon and sufficient to throw shadows at night. It would have appeared as an intense yellow spot of light surrounded by a circular coma probably larger than the full Moon, with a tail stretching across a large part of the sky … graduating from bluish white near the nucleus to a deep red in colour… If the disintegration history revealed by the current debris took place within the sight of men, then there would have been occasions when subsidiary comets, perhaps even an array, would have been observed. … There would (be) greatly enhanced seasonal fireball activity, rising to enormous levels at periodic intervals corresponding to a strong commensurability between the orbital periods of Earth and Encke; and the risk of Tunguska-like impacts would have been greatest. In a periodic orbit, the close approaches would obviously have been predictable. Indeed, if, at these close approaches, the Earth ran into debris of the sort we have discussed, prediction would have been a matter of urgency…
The author of Genesis (15:17) wrote: ‘When the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp…’ The description appears to be that of a comet; but its representation is that of a vision of God to Abraham. Or again, in 1 Chronicles (21:16): ‘And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord standing between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.’ Once more the object is seen as a divine being, and ‘angel of the Lord’, and a religious interpretation is placed on a natural phenomenon. (Clube & Napier, 1982.)
Clube, Napier, Hoyle and others make a good case for the origins of Judaism in celestial phenomena, later twisted and distorted by priests into the superstition it is today. Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas wrote a fascinating book, Uriel’s Machine, about the megalithic cultures wherein they propose that stone circles were constructed as astronomical observatories that were not for the purpose of knowing when to plant the corn, but rather to keep a watchful eye on errant comets. They make a very good case.
The beginnings of Christianity may have been the result of similar cosmic encounters. Burton Mack writes:
“The story Josephus tells of the sixties is one of famine, social unrest, institutional deterioration, bitter internal conflicts, class warfare, banditry, insurrections, intrigues, betrayals, bloodshed, and the scattering of Judeans throughout Palestine. … There were wars, rumors of wars for the better part of ten years, and Josephus reports portents, including a brilliant daylight in the middle of the night!” (Burton Mack, A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins, 1988, 2006)
Josephus gives several portents of the evil to befall Jerusalem and the temple. He described a star resembling a sword, a comet that “continued a whole year…”, a light shining in the temple, a cow giving birth to a lamb at the moment it was to be sacrificed in the Jerusalem Temple, armies fighting in the sky, and a voice from the Holy of Holies declaring, “We are departing” (Josephus, Jewish Wars, 6). (Obviously, the voice was apocryphal.)
Some of these portents are mentioned by other contemporary historians, Tacitus for example. However, Tacitus, in book five of his Histories, castigated the superstitious Jews for not recognizing and offering expiations for the portents to avert the disasters. He put the destruction of Jerusalem down to the stupidity or willful ignorance of the Jews themselves in not offering the appropriate sacrifices.
In short, it very well may be that the eschatological writings in the New Testament, the very formation of the Myth of Jesus, were based on cometary events of the time, including a memory of the ‘Star in the East’. The destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem may very well have been an ‘act of God’, as reported by Mark in his Gospel, though not quite as true believers think it was.
This brings us, of course, to the transition: the imposition of Christianity on Europe by Constantine. Paul K. Davis writes:
“Constantine’s victory gave him total control of the Western Roman Empire, paving the way for Christianity as the dominant religion for the Roman Empire and ultimately for Europe.”
It is commonly stated that on the evening of 27 October, with the armies preparing for battle, Constantine had a vision which led him to fight under the protection of the Christian god. The details of that vision, however, differ depending on the source reporting it.
Lactantius, an early Christian writer of the time in question, states that, in the night before the battle, Constantine was commanded in a dream to “delineate the heavenly sign on the shields of his soldiers” (On the Deaths of the Persecutors, 44.5). He followed the commands of his dream and marked the shields with a sign ‘denoting Christ’. Lactantius describes that sign as a ‘staurogram’, or a Latin cross with its upper end rounded like a P. There is no certain evidence that Constantine ever used that sign, opposed to the better known Chi-Rho sign described by Eusebius, but it is certainly suggestive since it would look a bit like a mushroom cloud.
New Scientist, (vol. 178, issue 2400, 21 June 2003, page 13) reported the discovery of a meteorite impact crater dating from the fourth or fifth century A.D. in the Apennines. The crater is now a ‘seasonal lake’, roughly circular, with a diameter of between 115 and 140 meters, which has a pronounced raised rim and no inlet or outlet and is fed solely by rainfall. There are a dozen much smaller craters nearby, such as would be created when a meteorite with a diameter of some 10 meters shattered during entry into the atmosphere.
A team led by the Swedish geologist Jens Ormo believes the crater was caused by a meteorite landing with a one-kiloton impact – equivalent to a very small nuclear blast – and producing shock waves, earthquakes and a mushroom cloud. Samples from the crater’s rim have been dated to the year 312, but small amounts of contamination with recent material could account for a date significantly later than 312.
The legend of a falling star has been around in the Apennines since Roman times, but the event that it describes has been a mystery. Other accounts from the 4th century describe how barbarians stood at the gates of the Roman Empire while a Christian movement threatened its stability from within. The emperor Constantine saw an amazing vision in the sky, converted to Christianity on the spot, and led his army to victory under the sign of the cross. But what did he see?
Could the impact of a meteorite hitting the Italian Apennines, or a Tunguska-like overhead cometary explosion, have been the sign in the sky that encouraged the Emperor Constantine to invoke the Christian God in his decisive battle in 312, when he defeated his fellow Emperor Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge?
The conversion of the Emperor to Christianity certainly couldn’t change the beliefs and practices of most of his subjects. But he could – and did – choose to grant favors and privileges to those whose faith he had accepted. He built churches for them, exempted the priesthood from civic duties and taxes, gave the bishops secular power over judicial affairs, and made them judges against whom there was no appeal. Sounds like how a Fascist regime takes over, does it not?
So, let’s recap here: The god of the Jews leaped upon the stage of history – probably as a cometary event that was memorialized as the plagues in Egypt and recast as a heroic ‘Exodus story’. Through his priests, centuries after the event when the reality of the ‘god’ was forgotten, this god promised his people something new and different – destruction of everybody else on the planet who were nasty to them – and only those who followed his rules carefully would survive and get to rule everybody else. Notice that this did not necessarily mean resurrection – it was to be a physical earthly kingdom with the Jews in top position.
Early Christianity had very distinct and novel ideas that were grafted onto Judaism. Christianity, in turn, retained and passed on in a virulent way certain ideals of Judaism which have produced the foundation upon which our present culture is predicated.
The main template of christianity – received directly from Judaism – is that of sin. The history of sin from that point to now is a story of its triumph. Awareness of the nature of sin led to a growth industry in agencies and techniques for dealing with it. These agencies became centers of economic and military power, as they are today.
Christianity, promoting the ideals of Judaism under a thin veneer of the ‘New Covenant’, changed the ways in which men and women interacted with one another. It changed the attitude to life’s one certainty: death. It changed the degree of freedom with which people could acceptably choose what to think and believe.
Pagan cults also dealt with the issues of suffering and troubles. The big difference was that, to the pagans, troubles fell on a person because they may have failed to propitiate the appropriate god or goddess. Suffering and troubles were a consequence of the actions of the gods – who were surprisingly human-like and fickle – and were not a personal, internal ‘flaw’ that damned the individual.
Another big difference between Pagan cults and Monotheistic cults was that Pagans were not committed to revealed beliefs in the strong Christian sense. In other words, faith was neither endorsed nor encouraged. Pagans performed rites, but professed no creed or doctrine. The rites included detailed rituals involving the offering of animal victims to their gods, but there was nothing like the ‘faith’ of Judaism or Christianity.
To be a ‘follower of pagan religion’, one did not have to accept the philosophic theology, nor did he have to belong to a ‘mystery cult’ where myth and ritual were closely entwined. These were just ‘options’. What the myths actually did was confirm man’s constant awareness of the potential anger of the gods, the uncertainties of Nature. Pausanias, a Greek geographer of the 2nd century AD, did not accept the outlandish stories of mythology. But there was one thing that Pausanias was sure about: the tales of the past anger of a god which had manifested in famines and earthquakes and cataclysm. He reminds us of how fragile civilization is against the constant dangers of geology and the weather.
And so it was, to ‘follow pagan religion’ was essentially to accept this tradition of the past anger of the gods expressed in the violence of nature, and that the gods could be appeased. And it was precisely this fear of nature itself – of the gods that expressed themselves in the forces of nature – that caused the pagans to reject the Jews and Christians for claiming that they were immune to such things because their god had power over nature and would save them from calamity.
This brings us to another difference between the ancient myths and cults and Judaism, Christianity and Islam: where the pagan cults offered myths of their gods, Jews and Christians produced a recent, living history. The pagan cults had ‘mysteries’ to which very few – if anyone at all – had access. Monotheism offered a ‘revelation’ direct from God. Never mind that the history consisted of the plagiarized myths of other cultures that had been dressed in historical clothing as the ‘History of Israel’.
Pagans had been intolerant of the Jews and Christians whose religions tolerated no gods but their own. The rising domination of Christianity created a much sharper conflict between religions, and religious intolerance – incepted by Christianity – became the norm, not the exception. Christianity brought the open coercion of religious belief. You could even say that, by the modern definition of a cult as a group that uses manipulation and mind control to induce worship, Christianity is the Mother of all Cults – in service to the misogynistic, fascist ideals of Judaism.
The rising Christian hierarchy of the Dark Ages was quick to mobilize military forces against believers in other gods and, most especially, against other Christians who promoted less fascist systems of belief. This probably included the original Christians and the original teachings. One wonders, of course, about all the stories of Christian martyrs. Is it possible that these were apocryphal stories of pagans who resisted the imposition of Christianity with the details changed just a bit?
Meanwhile, there was a third group of individuals during the transition time: the pagan Platonists. There were two paths of Platonists: one which taught that one could approach god only by contemplating their own soul and knowing themselves; the other emphasized the beauty of the world as the means by which one might know god. These two ideas became the property of the educated man of the time, including Jews and early Christians. However, it was among the intellectual Jews of Alexandria that these ideas were given a subtle twist: a man could not know himself and thereby know god, he must give up any idea of ever knowing himself and resign himself to the ‘grace’ of god. God might choose a man and apply grace, but man must never think he could choose god and achieve grace. The Christian theologians took this idea and sculpted it to fit their new ideas of Christ and Redemption.
Many pagan ideas were adopted into Christian theology, but the chief difference was, as I have noted, the idea of sin being a personal thing, a personal fault, a sort of ‘scapegoat principle’ writ on the human soul. The pagans never considered it necessary to die with one’s sins forgiven, and the dramatic deathbed scenes of Christianity, with all the praying for the afterlife of the individual, were novel and rapidly spread. Pagans had prayed to the dead, Jews and Christians prayed for them. Fearing their own inevitable fault and sinful nature, Christians also prayed that the dead would intercede with god on their behalf. Christians, like pagans, continued the practice of feasting and celebrating death, with the added element of ‘intercession’ giving new meaning to the event.
Further along, there was another event in the Pagan world of Europe that helped bring Christianity to dominance in the West of Europe, and brought another player onto the stage: Islam.
“It was a warm, clear afternoon in the capital. The bustle of metropolitan commerce and tourism filled the streets. Small sailing vessels dotted the sheltered waters within sight of the government buildings, riding on a soft southerly breeze. The Sun sparkled on the gentle swells and wakes, lending a luminous glow to the poppies and tulips nodding in the parks along the water’s edge. All was in order.
But suddenly, the sky brightened as if with a second, more brilliant sun. A second set of shadows appeared; at first long and faint, they shortened and sharpened rapidly. A strange hissing, humming sound seemed to come from everywhere at once. Thousands craned their necks and looked upwards, searching the sky for the new Sun. Above them a tremendous white fireball blossomed, like the unfolding of a vast paper flower, but now blindingly bright. For several seconds the fierce fireball dominated the sky, shaming the Sun. The sky burned white-hot, then slowly faded through yellow and orange to a glowering copper-red. The awful hissing ceased. The onlookers, blinded by the flash, burned by its searing heat, covered their eyes and cringed in terror. Occupants of offices and apartments rushed to their windows, searching the sky for the source of the brilliant flare that had lit their rooms. A great blanket of turbulent, coppery cloud filled half the sky overhead. For a dozen heartbeats the city was awestruck, numbed and silent.
Then, without warning, a tremendous blast smote the city, knocking pedestrians to the ground. Shuttered doors and windows blew out; fences, walls, and roofs groaned and cracked. A shock wave raced across the city and its waterways, knocking sailboats flat in the water. A hot, sulfurous wind like an open door into hell, the breath of a cosmic ironmaker’s furnace, pressed downward from the sky, filled with the endless reverberation of invisible landslides. Then the hot breath slowed and paused; the normal breeze resumed with renewed vigor, and cool air blew across the city from the south. The sky overhead now faded to dark gray, then to a portentous black. A turbulent black cloud like a rumpled sheet seemed to descend from heaven. Fine black dust began to fall, slowly, gently, suspended and swirled by the breeze. For an hour or more the black dust fell, until, dissipated and dispersed by the breeze, the cloud faded from view.
Many thought it was the end of the world…”
The above quote is a reconstruction of events in Constantinople, AD 472, extracted from Rain of Iron and Ice (1996) by John S. Lewis. According to Dr. Lewis, whose fanciful scenario of what it might be like to witness an overhead cometary fragment explosion, our Earth actually experiences these types of events rather often, even if somewhat irregularly. Explosions in the sky – some of them enormous – have, according to him and many other scientists, profoundly affected the history of humanity. One obvious prospect is the great Antioch earthquake of AD 526 which was described by John Malalas:
“…those caught in the earth beneath the buildings were incinerated and sparks of fire appeared out of the air and burned everyone they struck like lightning. The surface of the earth boiled and foundations of buildings were struck by thunderbolts thrown up by the earthquakes and were burned to ashes by fire… It was a tremendous and incredible marvel with fire belching out rain, rain falling from tremendous furnaces, flames dissolving into showers… As a result, Antioch became desolate… In this terror up to 250,000 people perished.” (E. Jeffreys, M. Jeffreys and R. Scott. The Chronicle of John Malalas. 1986, Melbourne: Byzantina Australiensia, Australian Assoc. Byzantine Studies 4.)
Strangely, historians, as a group, don’t speak about such things. But the evidence is mounting:
“Analysis of tree rings shows that in 540 AD in different parts of the world, the climate changed. Temperatures dropped enough to hinder the growth of trees as widely dispersed as northern Europe, Siberia, western North America, and southern South America.
A search of historical records and mythical stories pointed to a disastrous visitation from the sky during the same period, it is claimed. There was one reference to a ‘comet in Gaul so vast that the whole sky seemed on fire’ in 540-41.
According to legend, King Arthur died around this time, and Celtic myths associated with Arthur hinted at bright sky Gods and bolts of fire.
In the 530s, an unusual meteor shower was recorded by both Mediterranean and Chinese observers. Meteors are caused by the fine dust from comets burning up in the atmosphere. Furthermore, a team of astronomers from Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland published research in 1990 which said the Earth would have been at risk from cometary bombardment between the years 400 and 600 AD. …
“Famine followed the crop failures, and hard on its heels bubonic plague that swept across Europe in the mid-6th century.
… At this time, the Roman emperor Justinian was attempting to regenerate the decaying Roman empire. But the plan failed in 540 and was followed by the Dark Ages and the rise of Islam.” (Robert S. Boyd. “Comets may have caused Earth’s great empires to fall.” Knight-Ridder Newspapers, August 17, 1999)
The change of the Western world from Pagan to monotheistic – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – effectively changed how people viewed themselves and their interactions with their reality. And we live today with the fruits of those changes: war without end. Constantine’s victory paved the way for the recognition of Christianity by the Roman Empire and the union of church and state that lasted for nearly 1,500 years and may, in fact, still be strange bedfellows though they have pulled up the covers to hide their relationship. An inscription quoting an ancient Hittite king informs us that a great prince needs the priests to instill the fear of the gods into the people so that they will do the will of the king, and the religion needs the protection of the ruler to impose its practice. So it has been for millennia. Astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier write:
“…[W]ithin these last few years, it has been found that there is a great swarm of cosmic debris circulating in a potentially dangerous orbit, exactly intersecting the Earth’s orbit in June (and November) every few thousand years. More surprisingly, perhaps, it has been found that the evidence for these facts was in the past deliberately concealed. When the orbits exactly intersect, however, there is a greatly increased chance of penetrating the core of the swarm, a correspondingly enhanced flow of fireballs reaching the Earth, and a greatly raised perception that the end of the world is nigh. This perception is liable to arise at other times as well, whenever fresh debris is formed, but deep penetrations occurred during the fourth millennium BC, again during the first millennium BC, taking in at their close the time of Christ, and will likely take place yet again during the millennium to come.
Christian religion began appropriately enough, therefore, with an apocalyptic vision of the past… once the apparent danger had passed, truth was converted to mythology in the hands of a revisionist church, and such prior knowledge of the swarm as existed, which now comes to us through the works of Plato and others, was later systematically suppressed.
… The Christian vision of a permanent peace on Earth was by no means universally accepted, and it was to undergo several stages of ‘enlightenment’ before it culminated with our present secular version of history, to which science itself subscribes, perceiving little or no danger from the sky. The lack of danger is an illusion, however, and the long arm of an early Christian delusion still has its effect.
… The idea of a terrible sanction hanging over mankind is not, of course, new. Armageddon has been widely feared in the past, and it was a common belief that it would arrive with the present millennium… Sometimes the proponents of such ideas escape to newfound new lands where in due course they meet opposition of a homegrown kind. In the United States, for example, despite freedom of speech, old traditions of cosmic catastrophe have recurred from time to time, even in the present century, only to be confronted by Pavlovian outrage from authorities. That being the case, it is perhaps ironic that elections in the United States are generally held in November, following the tradition of an ancient convocation of tribes at that time of the year, which probably had its roots in a real fear of world-end as the Earth coincided with the swarm.
In Europe, the millennium was finally dispensed with when an official ‘providential’ view of the world was developed as a counter to ideas sustained during the Reformation. Indeed, to hold anything like a contrary view at this time became something of a heresy and those who were given to rabble-rousing for fear of the millennium were roundly condemned. To the extent that a cosmic winter and Armageddon have aspects in common, therefore, authoritarian outrage is nothing new.
… Enlightenment, of course, builds on the providential view and treats the cosmos as a harmless backdrop to human affairs, a view of the world which Academe now often regards as its business to uphold and to which the counter-reformed Church and State are only too glad to subscribe. Indeed, it appears that repeated cosmic stress – supernatural illuminations – have been deliberately programmed out of Christian theology and modern science, arguably the two most influential contributions of western civilization to the control and well-being of humanity.
As a result, we have now come to think of global catastrophe, whether through nuclear war, ozone holes, the greenhouse effect of whatever, as a prospect originating purely with ourselves; and because of this, because we are faced with ‘authorities’ who never look higher than the rooftops, the likely impact of the cosmos figures hardly at all in national plans.
A great illusion of cosmic security thus envelops mankind, one that the ‘establishment’ of Church, State and Academe do nothing to disturb. Persistence in such an illusion will do nothing to alleviate the next Dark Age when it arrives. But it is easily shattered: one simply has to look at the sky.
The outrage, then, springs from a singularly myopic stance which may now place the human species a little higher than the ostrich, awaiting the fate of the dinosaur.” (Clube and Napier. The Cosmic Winter. 1990.)
An abundance of fireballs and repeated comet sightings apparently excites a lot of ‘eschatological activity’ – predictions that the world is going to end – that can lead to all kinds of social unrest which is, as Clube points out, highly undesirable to the ruling elites. After all, if people are thinking the world is going to end, they generally blame it on their rulers for being so corrupt and evil. The way they usually handle that sort of thing is to create an ostensible enemy who is responsible for it all, get a war going that soothes everyone’s ‘end of the world blues’ and kills most of them in the bargain. Clever, aren’t they?
Victor Clube wrote a summary statement of conclusions based on his Narrative Report on the Hazard to Civilization Due to Fireballs and Comets, which he wrote under the sponsorship of the US Air Force and Oxford Department of Physics (1996, just two years after comet Shoemaker-Levy hit Jupiter), which includes the following:
“Every 5-10 generations or so, for about a generation, mankind is subject to an increased risk of global insult through another kind of cosmic agency.” During these epochs, broadly coinciding with the Hundred Years’ War, the Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War (including the English Civil War), the French Revolutionary Period (including the American War of Independence) and the mid-nineteenth century Revolutionary crisis in Europe (including the American Civil War), the various national authorities could do very little to restrain public anxiety in the face of the perceived danger.”
Every 5 to 10 generations? That’s a pretty shocking statement. If it is true, then why don’t we know about this? Why don’t historians know about it? Why don’t average people who learn history (one is told) in school know about these things?
It is here that we are going to discover how witches came to be associated with Halloween.
The Hundred Years War covers the 116-year period from 1337 to 1453, the Black Death 1347/48-1351, and then the Renaissance, 1400 to 1600. Some really ugly stuff was going on back then. Dendrochronologist Mike Baillie, has written a book asserting (with good evidence) that the Black Death – one of the most deadly pandemics in human history, said to have killed possibly two thirds of the entire population of Europe, not to mention millions all over the planet – probably wasn’t Bubonic Plague but was rather Death by Comet(s).
Baillie has the scientific evidence to support his theory, and his evidence actually supports – and is supported by – what the people of the time were saying: earthquakes, comets, rains of death and fire, corrupted atmosphere, and death on a scale that is almost unimaginable. Most people nowadays are not really aware of what happened just 663 years ago. (Hmmm… The inquiring mind immediately wonders what might happen when we hit 666 years after? That would be 2013…) There really is quite sufficient data presented in Baillie’s book to support the theory that the Black Death was due to localized, multiple impacts by comet debris – similar to the impacts on Jupiter by the fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy back in 1994. As to exactly how these deaths occurred, there are a number of possibilities: earthquakes, floods (tsunami), rains of fire, chemicals released by the high-energy explosions in the atmosphere, including ammonium and hydrogen cyanide, and possibly even comet-borne disease pathogens. It is worth pausing a moment to consider the numbers.
China, where the Black Death is said to have originated, lost around half of its entire population (going from around 123 million to around 65 million). Recent research into European death tolls also suggests a figure of 45% to 50% of the total European population dying during a four-year period though the figure fluctuated from place to place (which is a problem as we will see). In Mediterranean Europe – Italy, the South of France and Spain – where the plague ran for about four years consecutively, it was probably closer to 70-75% of the total population. (In the US today that would be equivalent to reducing the population from its current 305 million to 75 million in less than four years. That would also amount to having to bury or dispose of around 225 million corpses.) In Germany and England it was probably closer to 20%. Northeastern Germany, Bohemia, Poland and Hungary are believed to have suffered less for some reason (and there are a few theories which are not entirely satisfactory).
There are no estimates available for Russia or the Balkans, so it seems that they may have suffered little, if at all. Africa lost approximately 1/8th of its population (from around 80 million to 70 million). (These figures actually highlight one of the problems that Baillie brings up: the variability of death rates according to location.) Whatever the death rate in any given location, the bottom line is that the Black Death produced the largest death toll from any known pandemics in recorded history and, as Baillie points out, nobody really knows what it was.
In Hazard to Civilization from Fireballs and Comets cited above, Victor Clube adds:
“Confronted on many occasions in the past by the prospect of world-end, national elites have often found themselves having to suppress public panic – only to discover, too late, that the usual means of control commonly fail. Thus, an institutionalized science is expected to withhold knowledge of the threat; a self-regulated press is expected to make light of any disaster; while an institutionalized religion is expected to oppose predestination and to secure such general belief in a fundamentally benevolent deity as can be mustered.
… The Christian, Islamic and Judaic cultures have all moved since the European Renaissance to adopt an unreasoning anti-apocalyptic stance, apparently unaware of the burgeoning science of catastrophes. History, it now seems, is repeating itself: it has taken the Space Age to revive the Platonist voice of reason, but it emerges this time within a modern anti-fundamentalist, anti-apocalyptic tradition over which governments may, as before, be unable to exercise control… Cynics (or modern sophists), in other words, would say that we do not need the celestial threat to disguise Cold War intentions; rather we need the Cold War to disguise celestial intentions!”
Turning to the full text of the report, on page 2, discussing potential impacting giant comet remnants, we read that “… their presence is readily enough betrayed by the zodiacal dust, which continues to accumulate in the ecliptic, and by the rather sudden encounters which the Earth makes every other century or so, for several decades… These encounters produce an overabundance of fireballs, penetrating the Earth’s atmosphere, implying both an increased probability of bombardment by sub-kilometre debris and an increased risk that the Earth will penetrate the core of a minor disintegration stream à la Shoemaker-Levy.
The so-called ‘Hundred Years War’ was a conflict between France and England, over claims by the English kings to the French throne. It was punctuated by several brief and two lengthy periods of peace before it finally ended in the expulsion of the English from France, with the exception of the Calais Pale. We notice that this state of conflict was already in motion about ten years before the Black Death fell on Europe.
When one studies the history of the Black Death and the Hundred Years War side by side, the thing that stands out is that whatever was going on then, there were conscienceless people taking advantage of the situation of confusion and terror. For example, we read the following:
This would be a war of devastation. Villages and crops were burned, orchards were felled, livestock seized and residents harried. On Edward’s entry into France he spent a week torching Cambrai and its environs. More than 1,000 villages were destroyed. France did what it could in England, at the war’s onset seamen ventured to the southeastern coast of England to burn and ravage there. Much plunder was taken back to England and the thought of acquiring ill-gotten gain enticed many to support the war.
Cruelty abounded. After the city of Limoges was captured and burned, Edward ordered the townsmen executed. Much of Artois, Brittany, Normandy, Gascony and other provinces were reduced to desolation (circa 1355 to 1375) and France did the same to the provinces that sided with England. Walled towns were safe during the early period of the war, but churches, monasteries, villages and rural areas were ruined.
Truce and treaty were not observed. The ‘Free Companies’ went into action, bandits of either English, French or hired mercenaries led by captains that dominated large areas and levied tribute on towns, villages and churches. They also seized women, took clergymen as accountants and correspondents, children for servants and plundered. (Edward P. Cheney. The Dawn of a New Era. 1250-1435. 1936.)
Albert A. Nofi and James F. Dunnigan tell us:
For the first few years of the war there wasn’t much happening except English raids into France and Flanders. Then, in the 1340s, England and France took opposite sides in the long-running civil war over who should be the duke of Brittany. In 1346 this resulted in a French invasion of Gascony and the shattering French defeat at Crecy. The English then rampaged through western France, until a truce was signed in 1354 (brought on by the devastation of the Plague, which hit France heavily in 1347-48)
The truce didn’t last. In 1355, the war began again. In 1356 another major battle was fought at Poitiers and the French king was captured. English raids continued until 1360, when another truce was signed.
One wonders if all this is not history written after the fact, placing the blame of cometary destruction and social unrest on a ‘hundred years war’? As evidence to support this, it seems that the weather was going crazy. Clube and Napier write:
One chronicler at least reports of the most immediate cause of the plague in 1345 that ‘between Cathay and Persia there rained a vast rain of fire; falling in flakes like snow and burning up mountains and plains and other lands, with men and women; and then arose vast masses of smoke; and whosoever beheld this died within the space of half a day…’ There seems little doubt also that a worldwide cooling of the Earth played a fundamental part in the process. The Arctic polar cap extended, changing the cyclonic pattern and leading to a series of disastrous harvests. These in turn led to widespread famine, death and social disruption.
In England and Scotland, there is a pattern of abandoned villages and farms, soaring wheat prices and falling populations.
In Eastern Europe there was a series of winters of unparalleled severity and depth of snow. The chronicles of monasteries in Poland and Russia tell of cannibalism, common graves overfilled with corpses, and migrations to the west.
Even before the Black Death came, then, a human catastrophe of great proportions was under way in late medieval times. Indeed, the cold snap lasted well beyond the period of the … plague. A number of such fluctuations are to be found in the historical record, and there is good evidence that these climatic stresses are connected not only with famine but also with times of great social unrest, wars, revolution and mass migrations. (Clube, The Cosmic Winter.)
It sounds surprisingly like our own era, does it not? There are differences in detail and in scale, but the dynamics of a world gone mad, incredible cruelty running rampant, and global climate fluctuations are the same as we see before us now.
Calvinism was one of the developments that came out of this period. As Clube notes, the Protestant reformation was partly due to the fact that the powers of the time, the Catholic Church, had built their control system based on the Aristotelian system of ‘God is in his heaven and all will be right with the world if you are a good Christian’. Obviously, they didn’t want to talk about a cosmos run amok over which their vaunted god had no control. And the fact that things were running amok and the church couldn’t do anything about it (not to mention the corruption of the church that was evident to the masses) gave ammunition to the Reformers who then were able to attract many followers just as Christianity attracted Constantine at a time when the pagan gods did not seem to be able to help in the face of cometary bombardment.
The Protestants thus were able to use the situation to their advantage, suggesting that it was ‘The End of Times’ and that this was all part of the plan and people would be saved if they would only come over to the Protestant side.
Of course, once the Protestants had ‘won their place’, so to say, they too had to establish authority and adopt the Aristotelian view! ‘Now, God is in his heaven and all will be right and there won’t be any more catastrophic disruptions as long as everybody goes to church, tithes, and obeys the appointed authorities.’
This brings us to the topic of witch persecutions. From the early decades of the fifteenth century until 1650, continental Europeans executed between two and five hundred thousand witches (according to conservative estimates), more than 85 percent of them being women. (Ben-Yehuda, 1985.) People of the time, and even later, really did believe in the reality of witchcraft and evil demons. Men like Newton, Bacon, Boyle, Locke and Hobbes firmly believed in the reality of evil spirits and witches. As historian and religious scholar J. B. Russell said:
Tens of thousands of [witch] trials continued throughout Europe generation after generation, while Leonardo painted, Palestrina composed and Shakespeare wrote. (1977.)
Witchcraft and witches have existed throughout history though in a context completely different from that which came to be understood during the crusade against witches. The Old Testament pretty much ignores the topic, except to report an encounter between King Saul and the witch of Endor, and to include a law: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”. But other than that, in a way that seems to bizarrely contradict that law, stories of witches in the Bible are surprisingly neutral. There is no conceptualization or elaboration of witches, devils, or any kind of demonic world. The world of the Old Testament is, in fact, a world surprisingly devoid of anything truly spiritual.
In ancient Greece and Rome, magic was used to produce rain, prevent hail storms, drive away clouds, calm the winds, make the earth bear fruit, increase wealth, cure the sick, and so on. It could also be used against one’s enemies to deprive them of those desirable effects. These beliefs were widespread in the ancient world influenced by Pythagoras and his Northern European Druidic training, and generally, ‘good magic’ was lawful and necessary, and ‘bad magic’ was condemned and punished. The state even supported those who could purportedly do ‘good magic’. It depended on perspective whether you were a ‘good magician’ or a ‘bad’ one. That’s probably why the English condemned Joan of Arc for being a witch and France turned around and canonized her.
The Graeco-Roman religious universe – the supernatural world – was not divided into extreme good and extreme evil. It was occupied by every shade and combination of all qualities exactly as existed in human society. In this world, magic was simply an attempt to harness the power of the Unseen, while religion occupied itself with respect and gratitude to Nature and its representatives for results. In this way, prayers and spells could be easily combined.
The witch or sorcerer was a person who had a method – a technology – that could be used to harness and activate supernatural powers for her/himself or for others. She/he could ‘control’ the forces of nature. (At least, that is what they believed, and who are we to say that the truly ancient shamanic technicians couldn’t?)
So, two points are important here: 1) witchcraft/sorcery was a technology, and 2) there was a definite distinction between good magic and bad magic, and context was all-important.
After the disintegration of the Roman Empire and the rise of Judeo-Christianity, many missionaries, on finding that the pagans had their own spectrum of local deities and beliefs, often sought to convert them by the simple expedient of canonizing the local gods so that the native population could continue to worship them under the aegis of Christianity. They became ‘Christian saints’ complete with invented hagiographies (as I mentioned above, possibly most ‘Christian Martyrs’ were actually pagans killed by the church). The old temples were converted into churches so that the pagans would come to familiar places of worship to hear mass and pray to their ‘saints’ just like always. Magical practices were tolerated because it was felt that the people would give them up naturally over time once they had become truly Christian.
Official church policy held that any belief in witchcraft was an illusion. In the famous, but mysterious, Canon episcopi, we find a few clues:
Some wicked women, perverted by the devil, seduced by illusions and phantasms of demons, believe and profess themselves in the hours of night, to ride upon certain beastes with Diana, the goddess of pagans, and an innumerable multitude of women, and in the silence of the dead of night to traverse great spaces of earth, and to obey her commands as of their mistress, and to be summoned to her service on certain nights. But I wish it were they alone who perished in their faithlessness and did not draw many with them into the destruction of infidelity. For an innumerable multitude, deceived by this false opinion, believe this to be true, and so believing, wander from the right faith and are invalued in the error of the pagans…
Wherefore the priests throughout their churches should preach with all insistence … that they know this to be false and, that such phantasms are imposed and sent by the malignant spirit … who deludes them in dreams…
Who is there who is not led out of himself in dreams, seeing such in sleeping which he never sees [when] waking?
… And who is so stupid and foolish as to think that all these things, which are only done in spirit, happen in the body?
It is therefore to be proclaimed publicly to all that whoever believes such things … has lost his faith. (Translated by Kors and Peters, 1972, pp. 29-31.)
The origin of this document, that Kors and Peters date to 1140, is not clear. It has been attributed to an obscure meeting, the Council of Anquira, held possibly in the 4th century. Although there is no record of this council, the statement on witchcraft was adopted by later canonists as official policy. What it does tell us is that there were, apparently, worshippers of the Pagan Goddess Diana who had profound experiences that were declared to be delusions brought on by the Devil. Right here we see how the Goddess was replaced by Satan the deluder. It is interesting to compare the description of what these ancient witches were said to be doing with the activities of ancient Siberian shamans. One is also reminded of the Paleolithic cave paintings when reading, “in the hours of night, to ride upon certain beastes with Diana, the goddess of pagans…” This is a precious clue to the fact that the Paleolithic religion and its shamanic lines did survive for thousands of years.
In any event, for more than six centuries this was the official attitude of the church toward witches – that it was an illusion or delusion or just the product of dreams, and whoever was “so stupid and foolish” as to believe such fantastic tales was an infidel. That, apparently, applied to monks, and priests, and the general public as well. The important point here being that you had to believe in witches to persecute them, and believing in them as real was against church doctrine.
Taking into account the Black Death and the wars of the time killing off so much of the male population, one might suppose that there was an increase in unmarried women or women who had inherited estates when all other family members had perished. In short, women were becoming autonomous as a consequence. And certainly, women who had ‘gifts’ would be more likely to survive such calamities than those who did not.
The details of exactly what happened may be forever lost to us thanks to the cover-up of history instituted by Joseph Justus Scaliger in the sixteenth century as has been suggested by Clube and revealed in some detail by mathematician Anatoly Fomenko (though Fomenko does not take catastrophic destruction of society into account). The best we can do is to speculate.
The most spectacular ‘witch’ was Joan of Arc who was tried, condemned, and burned in 1431. Her trial and execution can clearly be seen as political, often a major, underlying motivation for such accusations.
It could be said that the witch persecutions were simply a reviving of the Inquisition that had created similar rules for dealing with the Cathars two hundred years earlier. In order to fully understand how easily this attack on ‘witches and sorcerers’ could manifest legally and socially, we need to take a quick look at the beginnings of the Inquisition.
Many people think of the inquisition as something that was started to eliminate witches and Devil worship, and the word conjures images of the rack and iron maidens and all kinds of bizarre and twisted torture equipment. Sure, torture was a big part of the Inquisition, but not as much as some people might think. You have to remember that the Inquisition began during a period of history when human life was treated so casually that cutting off noses or ears or hands, or gouging out eyes was not unheard of as a legal punishment for minor crimes.
The Crusade against the Cathars led to years of brutal massacres, destruction of the land, and some of the most horrible events ever to bear witness of man’s inhumanity to man. Toward the end, Pope Gregory IX decided that it was only results that counted. He intended to wipe Catharism from the face of the earth. He must have sat up at night to create the bizarre system that was put into place to deal with heresy.
First, he created special Papal legates who were granted wide powers of prosecution similar to what we have today in the Department of Homeland Security, and sent them out all over Europe. The men chosen for this task were clearly psychopaths, and their mission was to spread terror all over Europe.
Gregory staffed the Episcopal palaces of the South of France with psychopathic bishops who offered a cash bounty to anyone who betrayed a heretic. The inducements to betray one’s neighbor were surely tempting in the best of times. But in a time when starvation and destruction was everywhere after more than 20 years of the rampaging of the Crusading armies, it was well-nigh impossible to resist. The terms were that the property confiscated from the heretic was divided between the informer, the church and the crown. Naturally, in a land that was financially devastated, where people were displaced and starving after years of being battered by this same church and crown, there were a lot of individuals offering up their neighbors for blood money. Sound familiar?
Robert le Bourgre, whose name means ‘the bugger’ (suggesting the contempt in which he was held by the people), terrorized formerly peaceful northern France. Another legate, Conrad of Marburg found unsuspected heretics everywhere in the Rhineland. Thousands were sent to the stake, often on the same day that they were accused. Conrad rode about on his mule with two assistants, bringing terror to every village and town they approached. Apparently, even the regular clergy saw through this nonsense and finally decided to do something about it. On July 30, 1233, a Franciscan friar, driven to act in the name of justice, intercepted Conrad and murdered him.
The pope had had enough. He turned to the Dominicans. In the spring of 1233, Papal inquisitors were appointed in Toulouse, Albi, and Carcassonne. These inquisitors were succeeded in an unbroken line for 600 years.
Hundreds of people were summoned to testify before inquisitors. The questions were repetitive, designed to plant doubt in the mind of the person being interrogated as to what, exactly, the inquisitor knew, and who had told him.
A person suspected of Cathar sympathies was not always informed of the charges hanging over his head. If apprised of the danger, he had no right to know who his accusers were, and if he dared to seek legal help, his lawyer could be charged with abetting heresy.
Whatever the verdict of the inquisitor – who was prosecutor, judge and jury – no appeal was allowed. Anyone could be held indefinitely in prison for further questioning without cause of explanation. Nowadays, we call them ‘enemy combatants’.
The inquisition destroyed the bonds of trust which hold societies together. Informing on one’s neighbor became not only a duty, but a necessary survival strategy.
For 100 years, the Inquisition was a fact on the ground of life in the Languedoc. The arrival of an inquisitor in a town was the occasion for demeaning displays of moral collapse.
In theory, of course, no one could be punished if no one talked because the inquisitor could not act without a writ of denunciation, but in practice, no community possessed the cohesion needed to combat the power of a secret tribunal.
The same is true in America today. Everyone has been adequately conditioned by watching ‘reality TV’ and ‘Survivor’, and they know the rules: Do unto others before they do unto you.
And so it was in the Languedoc, the historical model for the ‘witch’ persecutions, for what happened in Germany under Hitler, and for what is happening in the world today vis-à-vis the ‘War on Terror’.
Upon his arrival in a town, the inquisitor consulted with the local clergy. All males over the age of 14 and females over the age of 12 were required to make a profession of faith in the Catholic Church. Those who didn’t were the first to be questioned.
Then the inquisitor would give a speech in which he invited the people to spend some days thinking very, very hard about their activities past, present and future and to come forward in the following week to give confidential depositions. After a seven day grace period, those who had not denounced themselves would be issued a summons.
The punishments ranged from loss of property to loss of life. Aside from the capital crime of being a Cathar, punishable offenses included sheltering a Cathar or even failing to report any instance of heresy.
The real proof of genuine piety toward the Catholic Church was measured by the number of people the sinner was willing to betray.
It only took ten years for the Inquisition to go from being the work of a few psychopathic fanatics to becoming a proficient bureaucracy that lasted for 600 years. It employed hundreds of individuals who interrogated thousands of people with such monotonous regularity that a regular ‘glossary’ was established for the ‘workers’.
Armed with a list of proposed offenses to be considered ‘heretical’ or ‘supporting heretics’, which included just knowing that a heretic had crossed one’s property and failing to report it, the Inquisition proceeded to intimidate the population of Europe on a scale that was impossible to imagine. The sheer numbers of people called to testify, and re-called to testify again and again, was staggering. In a strange twist of historical irony, the Cathars – who believed that the material world was evil and irrelevant – inspired the codification of the Police State.
A cross-referenced compendium of the confessions extracted from tens of thousands of people was compiled, creating a map of the mental landscape of the Languedoc. The more than five thousand transcripts of interrogations that survive represent only a small fraction of the work of the Inquisition.
Inquisitors’ manuals were created to serve as guides for the growing number of Papal courts in Europe. These manuals reminded the inquisitors that they were in the business of saving souls, but I think that the distinction was lost on those whose lives were lost or ruined by the judgments of the Inquisition.
Languedoc was, essentially, the laboratory for repression. The reputation of the Inquisition was enhanced by the talented Inquisitor of Toulouse, Bernard Gui, who was the villain in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.
The Inquisitors persuaded a handful of captured Cathars to convert and sell their testimony. Sicard de Lunel of Albi gave the friars an exhaustive list of Cathar sympathizers, even fingering his own parents. Anyone who had ever helped him in his life as a Cathar, whether they had just given him a bed for the night, a bit of food, or even a jar of honey, were hauled in to be punished, just on his word. He and several others like him were lodged thereafter in a castle outside of Toulouse in the medieval version of the ‘witness protection program’. Sicard was well paid for his perfidy and lived to a ripe old age. One wonders how peaceful it was.
The use of torture was delicately referred to as ‘putting the question’. In the Languedoc, successive waves of highly trained inquisitors, aided by informers and torturers, fired by the totalitarian creed of the Catholic Church, with detailed manuals and expanding registers of ‘intelligence’, slowly but surely ground Catharism into oblivion. Thousands of dramas of conscience ended in the dungeons or in fires quenched with blood. By the end of the century, only the truly heroic dared to say that this world was evil.
It was not a legal system, it was a system designed to create fear. This 250 years old Catholic system of terror was the system that was handily available at the beginning of the witch persecutions, though, curiously, the first persecutions were not ecclesiastical but rather political.
In 1397, a man named Stedelen was accused of being a witch in Simmental, Switzerland, after the harvest had failed at his village. According to his accusers, Stedelen used black magic to destroy the crops by allegedly sacrificing a black rooster on the Sabbath at a crossroad and placing a lizard under the doorway of a local church.
Peter von Greyerz, the judge, was a firm believer in witchcraft, which he believed had been introduced in Simmental by a noble man called Scavius in 1375. He was killed by his many enemies, but he had a student, who according to Greyerz had been the tutor of Stedelen.
There was no real evidence presented, of course, but Stedelen had allegedly become an expert on magic and supposedly learned to steal manure, hay and such from others’ fields by magic, create hail and thunderstorms, make people and animals sterile, make horses crazy when he touched their hooves, fly and terrify those who captured him. Greyerz also accused Stedelen of having taken the milk from the cows of a married couple in order to make the wife miscarry. After torture, Stedelen confessed to summoning forth demons as part of a pact with the Devil. His trial took place in a secular court following which he was burned at the stake.
Greyerz believed that there was a satanic cult, whose members swore themselves to the Devil and ate children at the churches at night. He continued his persecutions and once tortured a woman to confirm this.
In 1415-1419, in the Duchy of Savoy, there was a civil-war between clans of the nobility. Various noble families had rebelled against the Raron family, and the masses were drawn into the conflict. This had gone on for some time and, by 1428, the entire society in that area was in a state of great tension. No one knows who came up with the idea that all the troubles were due to witches, but on 7 August 1428, delegates from seven districts in Valais demanded that the authorities investigate alleged, unknown witches and sorcerers. Anyone denounced as a sorcerer by more than three people was to be arrested. If they confessed, they were to be burned at the stake as heretics, and if they did not confess, they would be tortured until they did so. Also, those pointed out by more than two of the judged sorcerers were to be arrested.
These accusations, trials and executions were probably seen by other elite individuals – or individuals who wished to become members of the elite by seizing the property of those they resented or envied – as a handy way to deal with many problems. The craze rapidly spread north into Germany, then to France and Switzerland. The main accusations consisted of:
– flying through the air and plundering wine cellars;
– lycanthropy – to have killed cattle in the shapes of werewolves;
– to have made themselves invisible with herbs;
– to have cured sickness and paralysis caused by sorcery by giving it to someone else;
– to have abducted and eaten children;
– to have met Satan and learned magic from him;
– to have planned to deprive Christianity of its power over humanity.
From this list, we can surmise the kinds of troubles that the people were suffering: starvation leading to theft and vandalism, destruction of their livestock, widespread sickness, loss of children, and, undoubtedly, even cannibalism. It was clearly a very difficult time.
One hundred years after the black death had destroyed about half of Europe’s population, the Hundred Years’ War was coming to an end, things were still very, very difficult, and in order to restore order and control on the recovering society someone had to be blamed (definitely not cometary explosions). The problem was, of course, how to get around the Canon episcopi. It was necessary to diminish this official church policy in order to even have a ‘witch craze’. So, the first attacks were made on the validity of the document itself.
In 1450, Jean Vineti, inquisitor at Carcassone, identified witchcraft with heresy, and in 1458, Nicholas Jacquier, inquisitor in France and Bohemia, identified it as a new form of heresy – that is, contemporary witches were claimed to be different from the ones that the document was about. In 1460, Visconti Girolamo, inquisitor professor, Provincial of Lombardy, stated that the act of defending witchcraft (or witches) was itself heresy.
Incremental steps were being made toward establishing an official standard, but still, when Kramer and Sprenger (both members of the Dominican Order and Inquisitors for the Catholic Church) wrote the Malleus Maleficarum and submitted it to the University of Cologne’s Faculty of Theology on May 9, 1487, seeking its endorsement, it was roundly condemned as unethical and illegal. The Catholic Church banned the book in 1490, placing it on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, and Kramer was denounced by the Inquisition. It should be noted here that, in 1484, Kramer had attempted a systematic persecution of witches in the region of Tyrol which bombed dramatically. Kramer was thrown out of the territory and dismissed by the local bishop as a “senile old man”. According to historian of the church Diarmaid MacCulloch, writing the book was Kramer’s act of self-justification and revenge.
The main thrust of the Malleus was to systematically refute the Canon episcopi and to discredit those who expressed skepticism about the reality of witchcraft, to claim that witches were more often women than men, and to educate prosecutors on how to expose and convict them. Experts say that the Malleus was based, in part, on the Formicarius by Johannes Nider written about ten years earlier. Before Nider, magic was thought to be performed by educated men who performed intricate rituals.
In Nider’s Formicarius, the witch is described as illiterate and female. Unfortunately, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press – a product of the Renaissance – allowed the work to spread rapidly throughout Europe. This crystallization is what resulted in the beginning of the witch craze itself. The idea that any person could harm another via magic simply by devoting themselves to the worship of Satan – especially women who had been long-viewed as helpless and somewhat less than human – was terrifying and shocking.
As the craze spread over Europe, literally hundreds of thousands of women were burned at the stake. Children and even whole families were sent to be burned. The historical sources are full of horrifying descriptions of the tortures these poor people were subjected to. Entire villages were exterminated. One account says that all of Germany was covered with stakes and Germans were entirely occupied with building bonfires to burn the victims. One inquisitor is reported to have said: “I wish [the witches] had but one body, so that we could burn them all at once, in one fire!” (Hugh Trevor-Roper. The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century: Religion, the Reformation, and Social Change, and Other Essays. 1967, p. 152).
In the 1580s, the Catholic Counter-Reformation became dedicated witch hunters also, going after Protestants, mainly. In France, most witches happened to be Huguenot. In Protestant areas, most witches were Catholic. It could be said that most cases of witch burnings were either personal or political or both. One victim was a judge who was burned in 1628 for showing ‘suspicious leniency’. As the craze spread, the viciousness and barbarity of the attacks increased. The aforementioned judge, a Dr. Haan, under torture, confessed to having seen five burgomasters of Bamberg at the witches Sabbath, and they too were executed. One of them, a Johannes Julius, under torture confessed that he had renounced God, given himself to the Devil, and seen twenty-seven of his colleagues at the Sabbath. But afterward, from prison, he contrived to smuggle a letter out to his daughter, Veronica, giving a full account of his trial. He wrote:
Now, my dearest child, you have here all my acts and confessions, for which I must die. It is all falsehood and invention, so help me God… They never cease to torture until one says something. If God sends no means of bringing the truth to light, our whole kindred will be burnt. (Trevor-Roper, 1967, p. 157.)
Protestants and Catholics accused each other, and the early decades of the 1600s were infected by a veritable epidemic of demons! This lasted until the end of the Thirty Years’ War. It is said that if the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum was the beginning of the terror, the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 was the end.
During this period, the distinction between good and bad magic vanished and witchcraft became something purely evil and almost totally female. The pluralistic conception of the supernatural world also vanished and we were left with only a very good god who was, however, seemingly impotent in the face of evil mankind in cahoots with a very evil devil. Well, not exactly ‘mankind’, mostly ‘woman-kind’.
In recent times, the Malleus has been examined critically, though not by individuals with any awareness of the cosmic events of the time. Nevertheless, what they have observed has a bearing on our subject here. In his article, “Sexy Devils”, Dale Keiger writes:
One evening 10 years ago, Walter Stephens was reading Malleus malificarum. The Malleus, as scholars refer to it, would not be everyone’s choice for a late-night book. Usually translated as ‘The Hammer of Witches’, it was first published in Germany in 1487 as a handbook for witch hunters during the Inquisition. It is a chilling text – used for 300 years, well into the Age of Reason – that justifies and details the identification, apprehension, interrogation, and execution of people accused of consorting with demons, signing pacts with the devil, and performing maleficia, or harmful magic.
‘It was 11 at night’, Stephens recalls. ‘My wife had gone to bed, and on the first page (of the Malleus) was this weird sentence about people who don’t believe in witches and don’t believe in demons: “Therefore those err who say that there is no such thing as witchcraft, but that it is purely imaginary, even although they do not believe that devils exist except in the imagination of the ignorant and vulgar, and the natural accidents which happen to man he wrongly attributes to some supposed devil.”‘
That convoluted sentence dovetailed with a curious line Stephens knew from Il messaggiero, a work from 1582 by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso: ‘If magicians and witches and the possessed exist, demons exist; but it cannot be doubted that in every age specimens of the former three have been found; thus it is unreasonable to doubt that demons are found in nature.’
Stephens, the Charles S. Singleton Professor of Italian Studies in the Hopkins department of romance languages, is a literary critic, and he sensed that something intriguing was going on beneath the text on the page. Tasso, and especially the Malleus’ author, a Dominican theologian and inquisitor named Heinrich Kramer, had in their works invested a striking amount of energy in refuting doubt about the existence of demons. What was that about?
For the next eight years Stephens read every treatise he could find on witchcraft, as well as accounts of interrogations, theological tracts, and other works (his bibliography lists 154 primary and more than 200 secondary sources). Most of the 86 witchcraft treatises he cites had been written in Western Europe in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, and one after another (including the Malleus) contain accounts of sexual intercourse with satanic spirits. Why? Were the authors’ remorseless misogynists hell-bent on portraying women in the worst possible light? Were they lurid, repressed celibates who got off by writing accounts of demon sex? Stephens didn’t think so; the texts, in his view, didn’t support that reading. Elsewhere in the Malleus he had found a key reference to accused witches under torture as being ‘expert witnesses to the reality of carnal interaction between humans and demons’. These guys are trying to construct proofs that demons exist, he thought. They’re trying to convince skeptics. And then he thought they’re trying to convince themselves.
Stephens’ thesis profoundly revises the conventional wisdom about centuries of cruelty and injustice. The great European witch hunts, he says, were the outgrowth of a severe crisis of faith. The men who wrote books like the Malleus, men who endorsed the torture and burning of tens of thousands of innocent people, desperately needed to believe in witches, because if witches were real, then demons were real, and if demons were real, then God was real. Not just real but present and attentive. Carefully read the works composed by the witchcraft authors, Stephens says, and you will see how profoundly disturbed these educated, literate men were by their accumulating suspicions that if God existed at all, He wasn’t paying much attention to the descendants of Adam.
… The Church itself fractured, riven by massive organized heresies, and by a schism that led to as many as three men simultaneously laying claim to be the true pope. How could a world created by a watchful, benevolent, and engaged God be such a mess? (Johns Hopkins Magazine, 2002; emphases mine.)
The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were a time when the forces of nature ran amok, and the powers of the time needed to save face and keep control: how was it that they, who overcame paganism by the promise that their God could protect his believers from the forces of nature, now were exposed as totally incompetent to do so? There was, undoubtedly, a resurgence of Paganism and to prevent that it was probably seen as ideal to blame the enemy – pagans – for destruction that they had nothing to do with. Protestantism was on the rise, of course, but its proponents did not see it as politic to go after the Mother Church which still held a great deal of power, so some other sin-bearer had to be found. At the end of the Hundred Years War and the Black Death, and the Thirty Years War – all of which may have been periods of cometary destruction on the earth – the Witch Persecutions were utilized to hush up completely any hint that the Earth was not securely hung in space, and history and truth was suppressed with blood and burning human flesh.
Such persecutions were a means of controlling those who uttered ‘heresies’ against the ‘providential’ order of the universe established by the Church and State, like pointing out that an increased number of fireballs and comet sightings may very well suggest that the planet and its inhabitants are in potential danger. This was the period of Galileo, after all, and he was accused of being a ‘heretic’ for not supporting the potency of God Almighty.
Another point to note is that, before this period, witches were still comprehended as beings that could use a technology to control the powers of nature – shamanic; after this period, they were known as beings that only channeled evil into the world because they were under the control of the Evil One. They were all purely Satan’s puppets and no good could ever come from them. The Malleus Maleficarum specifically mentions that “witchcraft is chiefly found in women because they are more credulous and have poor memories”, and because “witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable”. (Sprenger and Kramer. Malleus Maleficarum. 1968, pp. 41-48.)
The political uses of these ideas should be obvious. Sprenger and Kramer, et al., came along and wrote books describing healthy, competent, intelligent women as witches, and presto! Problem solved. All the excess women (or anybody, for that matter) can be gotten rid of; all the autonomous women with property can be done away with and their property confiscated; and, at the same time, the psychological control of men over women, re-establishing the subservience of women to the Church, can be accomplished in one fell swoop! (One also has to consider the destruction of many genetic lines of powerful women – shamanic lines – in this process, which has been ongoing, so it seems.)
One of the most distressing results of this change in attitude toward witches was the creation of witchcraft as a systematic anti-religion in the minds of its persecutors; it became the opposite of everything that Christianity – both Catholic and Protestant – stood for. Witchcraft as an elaborated system of religion was unknown before the fifteenth century. (This is why modern-day reconstructions are not likely to be very accurate.) This was a period in which a theory of supernatural demons was invented and crystallized as an explanation for the evils that fell upon mankind. How else to explain the Black Death which killed indiscriminately in spite of the prayers and supplications of the priests of the Christian church, both Catholic and Protestant?
It seems that the legends of gods fighting in the skies (the break-up of a giant comet 13,000 years ago) were later corrupted into certain Gnostic ideas such as the ‘cosmic error’. Certainly, at a certain level, there is duality, otherwise nothing would exist, but this Gnostic take on things went way too far with these ideas. (See: The Other God by Stoyanov for a better understanding of Gnosticism, keeping in mind the work of Victor Clube and Bill Napier.)
The ‘witch myth’ was created in the late 1400s in reaction to the Black Death – cometary destruction on an almost unimaginable scale – and this ‘myth’ consisted of a whole, coherent system of beliefs, assumptions, rituals, and ‘sacred texts’ that had never existed until this time and that were created by a couple of psychopathic accusers! The Dominicans developed and popularized the conceptions of demonology and witchcraft as a negative image of the so-called ‘true faith’, and the Protestants were just as busy!
What all this means is that being a ‘Witch’ in the time of the witch persecutions must have meant something more akin to following a dualist belief system similar to the Cathars, being an observer of nature, astronomy, speaking truth to power, really, more like how Burton Mack described the early Jesus People. It probably also meant being able to ‘see the unseen’ in terms of cosmic, social and human energies, to ‘walk between worlds’ as the Paleolithic shamans did, and to use these abilities on behalf of other people. Perhaps the image of the witch flying on her broom across the face of the full moon was actually a corrupted ancient symbol of a comet with a tail personified as woman?
A comet came and nearly destroyed humanity at the end of October 13,000 years ago, and impacting debris from the same comet brought Judaism, Christianity, Islam and, later, the imposition of Christianity on the Western world. Later still, the same comet stream brought the Black Death and the persecution of witches, both male and female. This scape-goating was utilized to get rid of a lot of individuals who threatened the status quo – the control over the masses – and that included a great many strong, independent women. And so, today, we associate witches with Halloween, the end of October, and the anniversary of the destruction of nearly all life on Earth. It is just a variation on the ‘Eve ate the apple and brought about the fall in Eden’ story, created by psychopaths who hate women and all they stand for: Creation, Nurturing and Service to Others.
Indeed. The calamities of that time – of any time – assault religious faith. And anyone who talks about such calamities in a reasonable and factual way as just what Nature does, and who backs it up with scientific data, must be silenced because they threaten the very foundation of Western Civilization: Judeo-Christianity, and Uniformitarianism, and Fascist control of humanity.