marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

witch hunts

grumble grumble grouse grouse grouse. . . .

Read a bit of world-building where a writer was talking about a Dark Ages analog in his world.  And then threw in a comment about having latter concepts such as inquisitions -- and witch trials.

Talk about thinking in cliches.

Witchcraft beliefs -- beliefs in evil people who use magic to harm you -- are not a peculiarity of the European witch craze era.  They are in fact found in every human culture except certain hunting-and-gathering and modern industrialized European ones, in which "modern" means very recent indeed, as at the end of the nineteenth century there was a case in France where two men stoned to death an old man and defended it on the grounds he had bewitched their cow.

And many, many, many of them had witch hunts.  The largest witch hunts on record, with thousands of victims, happened in the Roman Republic.  And Kipling had his point when he had the character discuss Mogwli's adoptive parents.



Buldeo said that nothing would be done till he returned, because the village wished him to kill the Jungle Boy first. After that they would dispose of Messua and her husband, and divide their lands and buffaloes among the village. Messua's husband had some remarkably fine buffaloes, too. It was an excellent thing to destroy wizards, Buldeo thought; and people who entertained Wolf-children out of the Jungle were clearly the worst kind of witches.

But, said the charcoal-burners, what would happen if the English heard of it? The English, they had heard, were a perfectly mad people, who would not let honest farmers kill witches in peace.

Why, said Buldeo, the head-man of the village would report that Messua and her husband had died of snake-bite. THAT was all arranged, and the only thing now was to kill the Wolf-child. They did not happen to have seen anything of such a creature?




If anything, the Church was a countering influence.  Charlemagne propogated laws forbidding people to put people to death on the pretense they were witches.  The Spanish Inquisition enforced the rules about evidence, doing much to quell the witch craze in Spain; killing witches, which still sometimes happened, was the pretext for lynchings, and secular authorities who ignored the Inquisition's jurisdiction.

Perhaps the use of actual magic would help quell supersitious nonsense, but without enough world-building, it would be illogical to omit witchcraft beliefs from a world that doesn't have an obvious rip off of Christianity in it.
Tags: always evil, cliches, genre: dark fantasy, rants, the past is a different country, world-building: law, world-building: magic (effects), world-building: religion
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