THE BURNING TIMES
WITCHCRAFT, CANNABIS AND THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH
“There are very few Catholic apologists who feel inclined to boast of the annals of the Inquisition. The boldest of them defend this institution against the attacks of modern liberalism, . . “Why,” they ask, “do you denounce our Inquisition, when you are responsible for Inquisitions of your own?” No good can be accomplished by such a false method of reasoning. . . . It does not follow that because the Inquisition of Calvin and the French Revolutionists merits the reprobation of mankind, [that] the Inquisition of the Catholic Church must needs escape all censure. On the contrary, . . . . What the friends of the Church will not mention will be spread, broadcast by her enemies. . . . We ought not to be afraid to-day of the light of truth; but fear rather the darkness of lies and errors” ---- The Inquisition by E. Vacandard 1908OK, first lets get this over with; about the e-mail address the author used at the time of this writing -- [firstname.lastname@example.org]. Granted, I’m half Mexican, or Latino, or what-ever and YES, I did grow up in a Roman Catholic home; ---ok, there it is. BUT, at this time I see myself as an Episcopalian with some pagan overtures. However, this book is NOT the proper place to discuss the status of women, nor claims of infallibility etc.
Suffice it to say, my personal beliefs or background will not cloud the present subject. Here before (see Section I), I have strongly defended the Catholic Church, against false and what must be considered out and out malaises and/or myth-Information. I have done this because as a historian I have felt it my duty to do so. Those ‘so-called’ pro-Medical Cannabis activists that are spreading such dis-information do themselves and all others a great disservice.
However, be that as it may, it is also a historical fact that between the 14th and 17th Centuries, between 30,000 and 300,000 individuals, many of them innocent, were (under the auspices of the Church) put to death as witches.
WHY IT MATTERS:
Now here one can ask the question; What has all this to do with the subject of Medical Cannabis? Simply but, over 80% of those accused, tortured and executed for witchcraft were women. And unfortunately many of these women were older hags.
Here I use the term “Hag” in its traditional form, meaning, “An older women of great wisdom, to whom people go to for advice.” Hags, that possessed much of the then known knowledge of medical herbs and plants. But maybe this needs further explanation.
And the persecution of these women may hold the key to understanding why western medicine fell so far behind the Chinese, the Mohammedans, and just about everyone else. Remember that before the advent of modern chemistry; almost ALL our medicines came from medicinal herbs. And while in today’s world, most of us tend to think of gardens as solely places to grow roses or beautiful flowers etc., ORIGINALLY gardens began as places to grow medicinal herbs, spice plants etc., the beautiful flowers associated with gardens today, only came along sometime afterwards.
Now, remembering that (at most) only 2% of the population at that time knew how to read/write, it then becomes obvious how much damage to our medical knowledge (including the use of Medical Cannabis) was done by the witch hunters. Had they not occurred, a lot of medical knowledge would have been able to have been orally handed down, instead have having to have been relearned from scratch.
BURN THE WITCH -- A TIME LINE:
There are numerous time lines that can be found on this subject on the Internet (but watch it, ---many of them are full of errors). This one here is simply concerned with the origins of and the mechanical creation of the Witch-Hunters.
As an aside; anyone who has studied the subject, can’t help but notice the similarities between the creation of the anti-witch laws and the anti-Medical Marihuana laws of the 1930’s. Between the creation of the Inquisition back then, and the Narcotics Police today. Things started out slowly, but then bit by bit, they became stronger, until a hysteria campaign was in full bloom.
1-AD - 300-AD:
“The reason that there is a great deal of discourse over the role of women in the (Christian) Church today, is because they had a role in the early days of the church.” --- Bart D. Ehrman Anyone who has read the scriptures knows that women played a key and important role in the early church. Their houses were used as meeting holds and places of worship. They not only help finance the early church but served as ministers and preachers etc.
Because women had such a high place in the early church and thus played a central role in running / decision making etc. It is no accident that no persecution of women healers was allowed to occur. The official position of the church in those days seems to have been that witchcraft (while possible), was null-and-voided through the power of Christ. That as long as you believed in Jesus, no demonic power could possible be used against you.
Although playing a large role in the early church, by (around) 300-AD, women’s role/input in the affairs of the church had all but vanished, with an ALL-MALE high-archly firmly in place. [Just look at an Islamic society today and you’ll get the picture] And although very slowly at first, Christian attitudes toward the role of women now began to change. Elderly Hags, went from being seen as women of great wisdom and equals in the body of Christ, to more of a role resembling pray, pay, and obey. And, while NO active organized persecution accrued during this time, woman came under increasing social pressure to leave the medical professions and let more qualified males take over.
1100 - 1200-AD:
The “Official Position” of the church was that while some women fantasized that they were witches and had the power to fly around on broomsticks etc. That it was all in their imaginations. In order to clarify the situation, the Church in 1141 even issued “The Canon Episcopi,” parts of which read as follows:
“It is also not to be omitted that 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 beasts 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. . . . .In other words, stories of the existence of witches were all so much bunk. A good correlation would be something that happened just before the beginning of the Reefer Madness era. In reply to a letter from the Drug Police critical of Medical Cannabis, the head of the AMA’s legal department replied with “Absolute Rot.” 
However, the political/religious landscape was changing, with a serious back and forth discourse taking place over the issue of witchcraft; Was it real or was it all imaginary?
1AD-to-1150-AD Up until this point, ignoring isolated incidents, NO officially sanctioned persecution of women by the church has taken place. However, the church did, through social stigma, discourage women from leadership and medical roles. This “Dis-Empowerment” of women, would at a later time (in effect) leave them powerless to defend themselves during the persecutions soon to come.
Pope Lucics III, issues his AD ABOLENEDAM: [Warning: Try as we may, the museum has NOT been able to obtain the exact wording, only what others say that it says]
“Pope Lucius III, at the council of Verona in 1184, ordered [Ad Abolenedam] sovereigns to swear, in the presence of their bishops, to execute fully and conscientiously the ecclesiastical and civil laws against heresy. If they refused or neglected to do this, they themselves were liable to excommunication and their rebellious cities to interdict." --- E.Vacandard 1208 -AD:
A holy crusade against the Cathars or Albigensians is declared by Pope Innocent III.
1227 -AD: In order to root out heresy (false religious teachings), Pope Gregory IX officially established the Inquisitional. However, it should be noted that this was only a formality and that the papal Inquisition had already been in existence for quite some time. By way of analogy: Everyone today has heard of the D.E.A. (Drug Enforcement Administration). BUT Wait, before then it was known as the Bureau of Narcotics (Harry Anslingers old group). BUT Wait, before that it was known as the Bureau or Prohibition. BUT Wait, before that it was known as the Bureau of Chemistry, BUT Wait, before than . . . . . only the Devil knows, but it was there in some form or another. --- Point being made, the Inquisition had already been in existence long before this time.
Pope Gregory IX, enters the fray by writing his now famous, Letter to the King of Germany, describing (in his own words) the black masses that are taking place in his neck of the woods:
“Then all sit down to a banquet and when they rise after it is finished, a black cat emerges from a kind of statue which normally stands in the place where these meetings are held. It is as large as a fair-sized dog, and enters backwards with its tail erect. First the novice kisses its hind parts, then the Master of Ceremonies proceeds to do the same and finally . . . . . . . When this ceremony is over the lights are put out and those present indulge in the most loathsome sensuality, having no regard to sex. If there are more men than women, men satisfy one another's depraved appetites. Women do the same for one another. . . . . . . . . Furthermore, these most miserable of men blaspheme against the Lord of Heaven and in their madness say that the Lord has done evil in casting out Lucifer into the bottomless pit. These most unfortunate people believe in Lucifer and claim that he was the creator of the celestial bodies and will ultimately return to glory when the Lord has fallen from power. Through him and with him they hope to achieve eternal happiness.” [MORE]While the author is not gay, this really does sort of remind one of the Reefer Madness Hysteria campaign, just as it was beginning to take off in the early 1930’s.
Pope Innocent IV on May 15, 1252 issues the papal Bull "Ad Extirpanda" that in effect:
Pope Alexander IV, although reaffirming the use of Torture, tries somewhat to rain-in the Inquisitors by limiting the Inquisitions powers solely to Heresy and NOT to investigate sorcery etc., UNLESS heresy itself was involved:
“The Inquisitors, deputed to investigate heresy, must not intrude into investigations of divination or sorcery without knowledge of manifest heresy involved. It is reasonable that those charged with the affairs of the faith, which is the greatest of privileges, ought not thereby to intervene in other matters. The inquisitors of pestilential heresy, commissioned by the apostolic see, ought not intervene in cases of divination or sorcery unless these clearly savor of manifest heresy. Nor should they punish those who are engaged in these things, but leave them to other judges for punishment. . . “ [C]Unfortunately, his wording of and of itself, left that one loop-hole, concerning the “Involvement of Heresy.” This would soon be translated into -- “All Witchcraft involved Heresy or false teachings,” thus a green light would be turned on.
The Knights Templar, were accused by the church of invoking Satan, consorting with female demons, and worshipping black cats. Their order was disbanded by Pope Clement V.
Pope John XXII - Finally authorized the Inquisition to go after witches, but only in a limited form. The "Decretal Super Illius Specula."
“Grievingly we observe . . . that many who are Christians in name only . . . sacrifice to demons, adore them, make or have made images rings, mirrors, phials, or other things for magic purposes, and bind themselves to demons. [MORE]1347 -AD:
The Black Death - Killed between 25 to 50% of Europe’s population. Witchcraft, Jews and Mohammedans are suspected of somehow creating/spreading the disease.
Pope Eugenius IV - By this point what is very apparent is the fact that the whole atmosphere has now changed. Instead of debating whether witches were real or not, it was now only a matter of how to deal with them. These (selected parts) of two letters clearly show the concern:
A Letter to the Inquisitor Pont s Fougeyron, [era 1434]Once more the whole atmosphere had completely changed. Instead of debating whether witches were real or not, it was now only a matter of how to deal with them.
Gutenberg invents the printing press, making mass productions of book possible.
Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, request the creation of the Spanish Inquisition.
1150-to-1492-AD As has been seen, throughout this time-period the instruments of terror had come into existence ever so slowly. Church laws changed, new institutions were created and old ones modified. Even some of its original theologically ideology was modified to meet numerous factors (wars, plague etc.), many of which were well outside of the churches control. Additionally, numerous other civil factors had taken place. Where once whole populations laughed at witchcraft, now it was accepted as common place. Yes witches were real.
Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull "Summis Desiderantes" on Dec 5, 1484 which promoted the tracking down, torturing and executing of Satan worshipers.
“. . . . It has recently come to our ears, not without great pain to us, thatRemembering that by this time the Structure of the Inquisition, as well as its power to use torture and total immunity from criminal law, was well established in place. Thus many (maybe rightfully so) feel that this Papal Bull authorizing its use in Germany marks the beginning of the witch-hunts, or the Burning Times.
[NOTE: It is untrue that this instrument "labeled cannabis as an unholy sacrament" nor did it place a papal ban on cannabis medicines" -- [See Section I]
The Malleus Maleficarum: aka The "Hammer of Witches", was first published by two sick-o’s, Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer. It basically described the process for seeking out, finding and destroying witches. It took some pains to warn against women who posed as healers and midwives as they were in a position to do evil.
Syphilis: - Europe was hit (many now believe that it was brought back with the crew of Christopher Columbus), with a very virulent strain of Syphilis. Europeans who had no biological defenses or knowledge of what Syphilis was at the time, naturally turned to the God for help.
AFTER THIS POINT, THE WITCH HUNTS WERE WELL UNDER WAY, AND WOULD CONTINUE UNTIL THE EARLY 17th CENTURY. The only analog that can be used is the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. To this day there are still people who believe that Medical Marihuana is the Killer Weed, the Weed of Madness etc.
MARTIN LUTHUR: - Guided either by conscience or by stupidity, on Oct 31, 1517, Marin Luthur posts his 95 point theses against Indulgences on a church door. He is soon labeled a Heretic by the church but it is too late, many of Europe’s peoples had had it with the church, with its taxes, and with what they perceived as corruptions etc.
PROTESTANT MOVEMENT: - Within 15 years, half of Europe has joined the protestant movement against the Catholic Church. But unfortunately (for women, herbalists etc.) they would go on to make the situation even worse. [see next section below]
The PROTESTANT PERSECUTION:
Once more, no one is trying to dodge the bullet by pointing the finger at others. No one is denying the past; even Pope John-Paul II has officially apologized for what happen during that era. However, be it Protestant or Catholic, history is history and the facts are that the protestant movement (at least at first) did little or nothing for the status of women. In fact, they may have done more to drive women away from the medical profession than the Catholics ever could. Need proof, in the words of Martin Luther:
"I should have no compassion on these witches; I would burn all of them."Below, are quotes from Martin Luther and John Calvan, both of which (no matter what your viewpoint) were both spokespersons in their day for the protestant movement.
“. . . . it cannot be denied but that the devil liveth, yea, and reigneth throughout the whole world. Witchcraft and sorcery therefore are the works of the devil; whereby he doth not only hurt men, but also, by the permission of God, he sometimes destroyeth them.Which is the same as saying, Same-O, Same-O, on with the oppression of women. And in case you think that all of the above is just so much idle-chatter, let us look at what was said just three years before the Salem witch trials by one Cotton Mather. Note that he was nether a Catholic nor a European.
“WHAT Witchcraft is . . . WITCHCRAFT is the Doing of Strange (and for the most part ill) Things by the help of evil Spirits, . . . Witches are the Doers of Strange Things. . . . They do things which transcend the ordinary Course of Nature, and which puzzle the ordinary Sense of Mankind. Some strange things are done by them in a way of Real Production. . . . . Things which the Magicians of Egypt exhibited of old. . . . The Witches promise to serve the Devils, and the Devils promise to help the witches; . . . We have the Testimony of Scripture for it. . . . . Particularly, the Instance of the Witch at Endor, in [1 Sam. 28. 7].
. . . It should next be proved THAT Witchcraft is: . . . . The Being of such a thing is denied by many that place a great part of their small wit in deriding the Stories that are told of it. Their chief Argument is, That they never saw any Witches, therefore there are none. Just as if you or I should say, We never met with any Robbers on the Road, therefore there never was any Padding there. ---"A Discourse on Witchcraft” --- by the Reverend Cotton Mather, 1689 [MORE]
Just three years letter Cotton Mathers would have the opportunity to put into practice what he preached in Salem Massachusetts.
Due to the authors age, he has had the experience of meeting WWII holocaust deniers, Stalinist apologizers, Pol Pot, Edi Amin etc., deniers etc. Thus I must take some pains NOT to sound like one of them. But irregardless the truth is still the truth --- those who either deliberately, or through shear negligence, spread Myth-Information about the church/medical Cannabis, do all of us a disservice. Simply put they lower themselves to a level no better than that of the Drug Police.
But on the other hand we must not go to the other extreme and be apologists for the churches (both Catholic and Protestant) activities. Wrong is still wrong, right is still right, and history is still history.
Maybe at this point the words of a church apologist are appropriate:
. . That the church at the time saw evil and persecution throughout Europe . . . and recall that the Black Death took place at around the same time as the witch craze . . . thus people naturally believed that it was witchcraft, Jews, etc. . . and that the Inquisition had been created ONLY as a way to LIMIT the level of persecution . . . that given the level of hysteria at the time, it would have been much worse had it not existed etc. . . .And indeed there is some truth to his words, according to Johannes Nohl; Jews were so suspected of creating the Black Death that the Pope had to issued two Bulls, one in July 4th, and on Sep 26, 1348, both of them officially forbidding both their slaughter as well as the stealing of their property, on the pain of excommunication. But be that as it may, killing of Jews kept on going.
Maybe the following serves as a better example; I’ve always been led to believe that the Spanish Inquisition killed hundreds of thousands of victims etc. However historical records show that the actual figure was less than 1,900 in total. Given the fact that Spain had just been liberated from Mohammedan occupation, it can only be considered a miracle that the figure was so low. So maybe they were trying to “only limit”
Especially as people (given the times) were so desperately looking for scapegoats; As Marvin Harris put it:
“The best way to understand the cause of the witch mania is to examine its earthly results rather than its heavenly intentions. The principal result of the witch-hunt system (aside from charred bodies) was that the poor came to believe came to believe that they were being victimized by witches and devils instead of princes and popes. . . .did the price of bread go up, taxes soar, wages fall, jobs grow scarce? . . . the work of witches [not your local government]“And let’s face facts, what better scapegoats than a group of politically powerless women -- Man they beat Jews any day.
But due to the subject matter of this book, maybe the questions should really be:
[Note the Catholic church has long ago officially apologized for its actions, however to our knowledge very few protestant denominations have. --- Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to relieve it.]
[Left]-- Portrate of someone who looks a lot like Harry Anslinger [Right]
- http://www.portfolio.mvm.ed.ac.uk/studentwebs/session6/index.html -- www.religion444.mht
 The exact figure varies from historian to historian. The figure (although a little vague) is the closest we have to accuracy. Note that it represents deaths due to both protestant as well as catholic persecutions
- "Misquoting Jesus" by Bart D. Ehrman pg. 178
- William Woodward, legal medical director AMA, the quotation actually comes from a letter (sent to him by a pharmacists on the subject) that he attached to his own reply. April 28, 1930.
- pg. 144, “The Inquisition” by C-1908, by E.Vacandard [can be found on Google Books]
- It was a radio program, I forgot the exact words, but it pretty much followed the stated line.
- “The Black Death” by Johannes Nohl (1926) pg 182 - I have not seen these two Papal Bulls
- Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches pg. 237 by Marvin Harris
[A]- Woodcarving attributed to “Guazzo's Compendium Maleficarum"
[B]- Woodcarving attributed to “Historia De Gentibus Septentrionalibus Illustrateds” -- Olanus Magnus
[C]- Original information found via - Hansen, Quellen, p. 1; Liber Sextus, V.2.8 Corpus luris Canonici, ed. E. Friedberg (Leipzig, 1877), Vol. 11, col. 1071-72. As noted in the book Witchcraft in Europe, a Documentary History by Alan Kors and Edward Peters.
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