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The European Witch-Craze of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries

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Frank 013
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Re: The European Witch-Craze of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuri

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Quote:MadAgain, I'm not trying to remove religion as a motive. Again, it really seems like you are.Quote:MadBut I don't think you can always take people's word for what motivated a particular action, and it doesn't make sense to me that some of these supposedly pious actions were really motivated by religion. So your assumption is more accurate then? Quote:MadNot because I have some facile association between religion and moral action, but because I don't see any clear religious benefit.As I mentioned before, benefit does not always go hand and hand with motive. And I should not have to remind you that religious thought rarely has any logic driving it. Quote:MadBut I have admitted as much. They certainly did seek out justification in Biblical precedent, but only after adjusting tradition and providing an interpretation that conflated Biblical precedent with contemporary figures.Actually from what I have read (some of which came from this thread) the people did seek the authority of the church even before the "flip flop" in the church's position. Some apparently did not bother (knowing the church's position) and burned the "witch" in the name of god anyway. It also appears that they got their way, eventually. Quote:MadThat finding Biblical precedent required so much gerrymandering is part of the reason I suspect that, had they been denied the authority of the Church, they would have found some other (probably judicial, since there was no lack of anti-witch laws in the pagan judicial authorities that served as the basis for most medieval law) means of justifying witch persecution.And you are welcome to suspect that, but that's all it is, you suspecting. Quote:MadIf what you want is a forum in which every criticism of religion is given a pass from scrutiny, count me out.Please... what fun would that be? What I would appreciate is leaving out the coffeehouse philosophy when debating a subject from a position of reason. Quote:MadI've never felt the need to in this forum. Any theist foolhardy enough to post in favor of religion gets an instantaneous response from every die-hard atheist on the site. If you feel like cruising through the religion forum archives, you'll see that I've definitely differed with other theists on issues of fact. But on the whole, they get hit with the anvil of approbriam the moment they put their foot in the door, so my criticism is hardly necessary.But you do still seem to feel it necessary to defend the theists at nearly every opportunity. Still not quite neutral. Quote:MadI don't think there are a lot of what I would consider "secular" voices on BookTalk. There are a number of proselytizing atheists, but that's a different stance than simple secularity. Now you are just mincing words, you know what I meant.Quote:MadI don't see any particular reason why a secular voice would feel the need to constantly raise the topic of religion just to smother it in obloquy.See how good you are at determining motive... you can't see any particular reason... Hmmm... How about fun, or practice, to show off, maybe just to expose one new person to an argument they may not have been exposed to yet? Are any of these possibilities logical? Quote:MadThere are a few genuinely secular voices in the mix, and they tend to be far more level, and to give me far less reason to object.Yea!Quote:MadYou elaborate on the scenario -- show how those two motives worked in unison, and connect it to the factual information we've already discussed -- and I'll be glad to give it some thought.Mad what I am suggesting here is that these are the types of things that you should have considered in the first place. And from what you wrote above it seems as though you haven't. Quote:MadThat's because I've had the time to log onto the internet about once a week at the most.I hope it's nothing disagreeable, I remember you mentioned something positive happening in your life a while ago, so hopefully it's that. Later Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a wellpreserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out,shouting..."Holy Crap...what a ride!"Edited by: Frank 013 at: 5/18/07 9:59 am
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Re: The European Witch-Craze of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuri

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I pulled out my Malleus last night and noted a few sections on women and their role in witchery. Just perusing a few lines, I see that it was casting women as weak and prone to the seductions of the devil and such. I only skimmed. I am going to read some of those sections in full.We cannot deny that the Malleus most likely had a profound effect on the craze...after all, CENTURIES later, we are still referring to it as a pretty major source for understanding the craze.Mr. P. But atheism is no more a religion than not playing chess is a hobby. - Robert Sawyer - Sci Fi AuthorI'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.What is all this shit about Angels? Have you heard this? 3 out of 4 people believe in Angels. Are you F****** STUPID? Has everybody lost their mind? - George CarlinI came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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Re: The European Witch-Craze of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuri

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I haven't checked into this lately but I remember reading somewhere that the malleus was second in printing only to the bible at that time, which seems to indicate that it was available nearly everywhere. So I am forced to ask why would this manuscript be so popular if the people did not believe in witches? Later Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a wellpreserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out,shouting..."Holy Crap...what a ride!"
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Frank:Here is a website devoted to the Malleus. I am not sure of its scholarly credibility, but it is a starting point and it mentions that the MM was indeed only surpassed by the bible 'in it's public notoriety'.Malleus MaleficarumMr. P. But atheism is no more a religion than not playing chess is a hobby. - Robert Sawyer - Sci Fi AuthorI'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.What is all this shit about Angels? Have you heard this? 3 out of 4 people believe in Angels. Are you F****** STUPID? Has everybody lost their mind? - George CarlinI came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy PiperEdited by: misterpessimistic at: 5/23/07 12:31 pm
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Re: The European Witch-Craze of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuri

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Mr. PThanks for the link I will check it out. Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a wellpreserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out,shouting..."Holy Crap...what a ride!"
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me: So you're going to elaborate, or you're not?Frank: Give me a particular case with the "secular" benefits and I will.Why not take the example we've been hashing over in this thread. I've claimed that in most cases, and certainly in general, the major benefits of the witch-crazes weren't "religious" -- specifically as defined by Church dogma, but also according to the general "functional" criteria I described to Mr. P -- but that you could find any number of secular (eg. political, economic, personal and sociological) benefits that would explain both the fact of the crazes and their modus operandi.For example, the religious motivation provided by the Church was the salvation of souls, and Church doctrine provided a set of rituals and professions that outlined the official means of achieving that goal. It's difficult to see how witch persecutions achieved anything along those lines.Just as a reminder, what prompted my call for elaboration is your argument that "that greed combined with true religious conviction could have caused what you [meaning me] call 'secular' actions". There are a few problems, as I see it. The first is that of how you determine whether or not a genuinely religious conviction is operative. Simple professions won't cut it, because people are as capable of disingenuous statements of belief as they are of genuine statements of belief, and we don't have a sure fire way of telling which is which in a historical scenario. That becomes incresingly more complicated when their behavior could be explained by reference to another motivation as well. In other words, if it were clear that the only motivation a sane person could have for a particular action were religious, we wouldn't have a problem. If you can come up with some rational, evidence-based criteria for determining the ingenuousness of a profession, that would make things much easier, but I don't think it likely.Another problem is that of what you mean by "greed combined with true religious conviction". Are you looking at the whole event, in which case combined might only mean that one person was acting from religious conviction in preaching about the dangers of witches, while another acted from greed in making accusations or meting out punishment? If that's your argument, I don't have much in the way of objections -- but then, nor do I find it terribly convincing as a condemnation of religion. If greed is the motive behind the act (as opposed to the exhortation), then the secular motive is far more culpable.If, on the other hand, you're talking about the combination within the mind of the individual, things get much more problematic. Again, how do we determine which, or how many, individuals were acting from that combination?Probably the best route (and this is advice I fully expect you to ignore, and probably sneer at as well) would be to demonstrate first the possibility that such was (given the specific conditions of the moment) possible, then that it was operational (ie. that it makes sense to see that combination resulting in witch persecutions) and finally that it was likely.And really, I don't expect you to make much an effort at any of that....and besides we are just trying to level the playing field a little, as atheists we are slandered regularly so when we see someone who is acting like a complete ass and are doing so because of a belief in their one and only true god, we say so with no apologies.Then why not take it to the playing field? Who in this thread has attempted to malign your atheism? Raise your hand if you've attempted to convert an atheist on BookTalk. Anyone? Anyone?What it looks like is that you've retreated to a forum that's managed to attract fairly moderate, reasonable theists who are willing to live and let live. You complain about all of the stings theist give you out in the real world, but then you come in here and poke a stick at every hornets nest you can find.So what is my attitude Mad? Since you have evaluated me so perfectly.Religion is irrational and pernicuous; religious believers are prone to intolerance and need to be corrected as firmly as possible; society as a whole would be better off without religion. Is that so far off base?misterpessimistic: So you think it was more women persecuting women?Persecuting implies (to my mind) a whole field of activity -- everything from conducting a trial to actual execution. That women were particularly involved in those practices seems, to me, unlikely. But Rose cited a figure that women were often the accusers in witch trial cases, and I'm taking it for granted that she has a reputable source for that claim.Incidentally, in my reading, the accusers have often been children as well.Do you discount any misogynistic motive at all?No; I just think that, given some of the evidence and patterns we've seen, the role of misogyny in witch persecution must be fairly complex. A simple conclusion like, "the witch crazes were a way of limiting the influence and authority of women in patriarchal societies" just wouldn't cut it. And if women did make up a disproportionate number of the accusers as well as the accused, that complicates it a great deal. But you still have to take note of the fact that most of the authorities officiating in these cases were men acting in patriarchal roles.me: Why did they want to dispense with the older, more tolerant, tradition?Mr. P: You mean the earlier Pagan religions?No, I mean the 800 year old Christian tradition that mitigated against belief in witches. The men who started the witch-crazes and wrote the anti-witch tracts were actively involved in suppressing a tradition that promoted reason and erred on the side of tolerance. Why?me: but most of the reasons can probably be subsumed under the category of social uniformityMr. P: But why at this specific period and why in this way all of a sudden? Had not these people been around for centuries prior to this, these outsiders?Re: why at this specific period -- there were a number of events taking place both inside and outside of Europe that were leading to a great deal of social change and instability. Just as an example, advances in maritime technology had recently made it possible to explore vaster areas, including Asia, Africa and the New World. And intellectual influence from these places were providing indirect challenges to traditional social modes within Europe -- challenges that couldn't be faced directly. I wouldn't argue that external influence was the primary cause, or even a consistently felt influence, but it is important to note that Europe was, at that period, emerging into a much broader sphere of influence that might have made stability at home seem much more desireable.But this is what happened to the Albigensians no? They were 'imbedded' in what we now call southern France...yet they were persecuted because of unorthodox beliefs, not to gain land for the Church.My understanding of the situation is that the inhabitants of Southern France were regarded as a barely assimilated people living within Europe. That they subscribed to unorthodox beliefs was not, in itself, threatening. What instigated their suppression was the danger of sedition and separatism. H.C. Lea is emphatic on the point that the Albigensian Crusades did little to further religious causes, and Lea is, himself, no friend of religion.The Innocent VIII got the whole thing really going with the Bull...and then a sect of the Church wrote the ground rules and instruction manual and led the charge!!If Trevor-Roper is correct, the Bull was leveraged by the Dominicans. And I'm not at all sure that it's proper to consider the Dominicans a part of the Church offices -- everything I've read about the Mendicant Orders and the Holy Office (ie. the Inquisition) depicts them as acting independently, and sometimes in opposition, to the explicit efforts of the Papacy.And whether we call it political or not, a religious organization was looking to consolidate power under its own dogma.And that much I've never denied. I don't think that the witch-crazes were a direct effort to consolidate Church power, but I'm clear on the fact that the Church of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance did act frequently in order to consolidate its power. But I consider that a political action, and it doesn't seem to me that very many officials within the Church were acting from religious motives when they supported such actions.Again, we have a point in common here: we both think that it's best to keep a conscious and deliberate distinction between religious and political institutions. Where we seem to diverge is, that I believe that a great many (not all) of the Church's abuses during this period can be attributed to the fact that it was acting as a political institution, whereas it seems as though you're arguing that a religious institution is prone to the same abuses as a political institution.This is a good point. Atheists are slandered in this country every day.And I sympathize. But I'm not the one doing it. Frank isn't achieving any sort of balance or bettering the lot of atheists by bickering with me.And another point...if we are SOOO bad, why do the theists here stick around so long? ... Obviously you guys like it here.I stick around because there are periods when the conversation is very civil and really interesting. I feel like I've gained a lot from talking with people like Interbane, Fiske, Rose, and Niall. And in this thread you've demonstrated something I tend to forget, which is that we don't always nitpick one another to death. If Frank and I ever had conversations like the one I've having here with you, I'd probably have less to complain about. Frank: I would like to know how much influence texts like the malleus might have had, manuscripts like that were incredibly popular during the crazes and to ignore that sort of influence seems careless to me.They had to have been broadly influential, if for no other reason than that they're the only source for the methodology and a great deal of the standards of evidence on which the witch trials were based. But again, there's good reason to draw a distinction between motivation and facilitation. The Malleus and texts like it provided the basis for conceiving witchcraft as an organized phenomenon with regular features amenable to legal investigation and proceedings. But that gives us very little basis for determining whether or not these texts actually inspired the accusations. And I'm not sure that there's any practical way to determine their influence as a motivation.
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Re: The European Witch-Craze of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuri

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Quote:Madthat you could find any number of secular (eg. political, economic, personal and sociological) benefits that would explain both the fact of the crazes and their modus operandi.But it does not take into account the very real fear of witches, the element of mythical thinking, or the depth of their religious belief. And I explained that the benefits are not (in many cases) a good indicator of motive.In addition you "secular" explanation seems a bit weak because you are basically asking me to accept that all of these separate countries and communities got the idea to get rid of those pesky misfits nearly simultaneously.Do you realize how hokey that sounds? As Mr. P pointed out, those people were around before the crazes, why the sudden assault? Quote:MadFor example, the religious motivation provided by the Church was the salvation of souls, and Church doctrine provided a set of rituals and professions that outlined the official means of achieving that goal. It's difficult to see how witch persecutions achieved anything along those lines.Ok, but the church was not doing most of the accusing was it. The people (who you admit you can't even get a grasp of what they believed) were doing the accusing. Quote:MadJust as a reminder, what prompted my call for elaboration is your argument that "that greed combined with true religious conviction could have caused what you [meaning me] call 'secular' actions".That's fine, but I offered it as an example of a type of motive, one you seemed to have never considered. Quote:MadThere are a few problems, as I see it. The first is that of how you determine whether or not a genuinely religious conviction is operative.And I am saying that the same problems arise when you try to establish a purely secular motive. Quote:MadSimple professions won't cut it, because people are as capable of disingenuous statements of belief as they are of genuine statements of belief, and we don't have a sure fire way of telling which is which in a historical scenario. That becomes increasingly more complicated when their behavior could be explained by reference to another motivation as well. In other words, if it were clear that the only motivation a sane person could have for a particular action were religious, we wouldn't have a problem.My point in all of this was to explain that the way you have gone about determining their motives is just as flawed, because you have neglected to give ample credit to their religious beliefs. Quote:MadAnother problem is that of what you mean by "greed combined with true religious conviction". Are you looking at the whole event, in which case...This is what I meant when I said you have a tendency to overcomplicate a subject.My illustration was simply an example of the type of motive your method doesn't and can't include. That's it, no hidden meaning, no traps, just my observation of the type of scenario that your theory does not take into account.Quote:MadProbably the best route (and this is advice I fully expect you to ignore, and probably sneer at as well) would be to demonstrate first the possibility that such was (given the specific conditions of the moment) possible,Ok was it possible that these people were so afraid of witches that they wuld start seeking them out for extermination? From what I have read it seems possible. Quote:Madthen that it was operational (ie. that it makes sense to see that combination resulting in witch persecutions) Well the one book that nearly totally invaded their lives law and culture said to kill witches, and several other popular manuscripts confirmed this.This seems to pass the operational phase. Quote:Madand finally that it was likely. Well given that most people are motivated by fear and a desire to protect themselves and their families it seems (to me) likely that they would act to do so. Are these the only possibilities, of course not, it is simply one extreme version.I wrote it only to highlight a point that I have been attempting to make for a while now. For every secular reason that you can come up with I can find an equally reasonable religious one. Speculating does not serve to further this argument or to reveal the truth of the matter.My problem (and it seems Mr. P's as well) with what you are saying, is this...You tend to down play the role of religion in those peoples lives. The church told them how to behave, how to dress, what to eat, how to have sex, even what to think. And you expect me to accept that they made completely secular decisions, their religion influenced every aspect of their lives it likely influenced those decisions as well.In my opinion your downplaying of this influence is bordering on the absurd, the vast majority of those people were deeply religious, they truly believed what the bible and their preachers told them. Keeping this information in the equation is mandatory if you expect to find the actual truth. Yet you would discard it as trivial. Later Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a wellpreserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out,shouting..."Holy Crap...what a ride!"
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Frank: But it does not take into account the very real fear of witches, the element of mythical thinking, or the depth of their religious belief.None of which are measureable even in principle, much less in particulars. How do you guage "element of mythical thinking"? How do you verify "the depth of religious belief" in a historical personage, or -- more to the point -- abstract it to embrace an entire society? For that matter, how can we determine when a person or population was genuinely afraid of witches and when they're giving pious lip service?And I explained that the benefits are not (in many cases) a good indicator of motive.I didn't want to address your example because you drew it in very personal terms, but I don't think it's terribly applicable. It wouldn't make sense to apply the cui bono? question to an inheritor if the person acting was someone else. Of course it doesn't make sense to surmise that the inheritor encouraged the suicide in order to inherit. Unless there's some mitigating factor, it's safe to say that the inheritor has lost more than they've gained -- they've lost a benefactor and a family member, and all they've gained out of it is an object of limited utility. Nor does the act of bestowing property necessarily have anything to do with the suicide. The question is, what does the agent's actions indicate were his motive. If one person wanted to give their truck to another, they wouldn't have to literally kill themselves to do so, and if that were, in fact, their motive, then we'd have to conclude that, for that person, the fact of bestowing seemed like a benefit greater than that of continuing to live. Which isn't out of the question -- it all depends on how greatly the person valued their life.But in the case of the witch trials we're talking about particular people (we can generalize them as "Accusers" and "Authorities") making specific actions that are presumably motivated by one cause or another. If we were talking about an isolated instance, then it might be reasonable to suppose that the person made a mistake in suiting their action to their motive. But we're talking about a pattern of events that repeated itself thousands of times over, so if we assume that there was some mistake that perpetuated itself over and over again, with no exceptions, then we should probably also conclude that humans (or at least 16th and 17th century Europeans) are spectacularly unsuited to matching means and end. The cui bono? question applies specifically to the question of what it was they thought they were achieving when they settled on the particular course of action that led to the persecution of a witch. And the answer to that question is at variance with the doctrine that the Church laid down as the religious motive par excellance.Ok, but the church was not doing most of the accusing was it. The people (who you admit you can't even get a grasp of what they believed) were doing the accusing.And that supports your argument how?(Beyond which, I don't recall having said that the populace couldn't get a grasp of what they believed. They may not have known official Church doctrine very well, but that's a different matter altogether. Nor do I readily assume that they would blindly follow religious doctrine -- and that the Church thought it necessary to continually expose heresy ought to serve as evidence to that end.)My point in all of this was to explain that the way you have gone about determining their motives is just as flawed, because you have neglected to give ample credit to their religious beliefs.I think you've given too much credit to their religious beliefs. The impression I've gained from a lot of study is that most people were lukewarm towards religion so long as it didn't bother them and they hadn't settled on it as a way of escaping poverty or some other misfortune. There were zealots and pious people in the Middle Ages, of course, but your interpretation tends to situate them as the majority, whereas I think it very likely that they were a minority. It doesn't seem likely to me that people acted from religious conviction alone with any sort of frequency.For every secular reason that you can come up with I can find an equally reasonable religious one.Your religious suggestions are only reasonable so long as we're willing to assume that people routinely accept religious texts ver batim and follow religious dictates without reservation. There are extremists in any society for whom this is true, but I don't think that it's generally applicable as a rule.You tend to down play the role of religion in those peoples lives. The church told them how to behave, how to dress, what to eat, how to have sex, even what to think.And they routinely disobeyed and resisted its influence. You see less physical evidence of that in large part because the Church itself left most of the documentary evidence, but if you look closely enough you'll see that the Church had its hands full trying to maintain orthodoxy and ensure belief. Religion had a foremost role in the life of the medieval commoner in large part because the Church served double time as the organizing political body that held Europe together as a cultural and political entity, but a great many contemporary people fell in line just as much as they had to in order to escape the notice of the Church. I see absolutely no reason to draw the conclusion that the most people swallowed Church doctrine wholesale or conformed their behavior to the standards of the Church.In my opinion your downplaying of this influence is bordering on the absurd, the vast majority of those people were deeply religious, they truly believed what the bible and their preachers told them.How do you determine that?
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Re: The European Witch-Craze of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuri

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Quote:MadAnd I sympathize. But I'm not the one doing it. Frank isn't achieving any sort of balance or bettering the lot of atheists by bickering with me.I am simply pointing out a flaw that I see with your argument, but instead of explaining why I should agree with you and dispense with the possibility of religion influencing motives; you demand that I prove a theory that historians still (as you say) bicker over. Quote:MadIf Frank and I ever had conversations like the one I've having here with you, I'd probably have less to complain about.So, when I point out what I perceive as flaws in your theory (which you have never convincingly justified) I am now the bad guy?Just so you know, Mr. P is making pretty much the same arguments that I am, yet he is not being described as argumentative. Quote:MadThey had to have been broadly influential, if for no other reason than that they're the only source for the methodology and a great deal of the standards of evidence on which the witch trials were based.I was under the impression that some old tales and stories about witches must have survived, since there were witch trials and burnings before then, as well as a church that was divided on the issue of their existence before the Malleus was written. Quote:MadThe Malleus and texts like it provided the basis for conceiving witchcraft as an organized phenomenon with regular features amenable to legal investigation and proceedings. But that gives us very little basis for determining whether or not these texts actually inspired the accusations. And I'm not sure that there's any practical way to determine their influence as a motivation.Why not just do what you have been doing... guess? But be sure to leave out any possible religious motivations. (I would not want you to be inconstant.)I have some questions, just for the sake of looking at the possibilities. When the word was out and preachers and inquisitors started actually arresting people for suspicion of being a witch, the other people who heard about this could not have been influenced or worried about their own communities? When the Church actually took the stance that witches were real, no one could have possibly began to suspect (wrongly) that their misfortunes were caused by said witches?When the Malleus began circulating among the populace, it's simply impossible that some of the readers recognized some of the witch warning signs in their neighbors and decided to take action? I suppose that none of the above examples are even remotely possible?Later Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a wellpreserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out,shouting..."Holy Crap...what a ride!"
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Frank: I was under the impression that some old tales and stories about witches must have survived, since there were witch trials and burnings before then, as well as a church that was divided on the issue of their existence before the Malleus was written.There were witch beliefs independent of the Malleus, but they never amounted in a concerted program of witch persecution, not did they find broad consolidation as a "theory" of witchcraft. What the Malleus (and other documents) brought to the table was a sense of organization -- not only among witch hunters, but the sense that outbreaks of witchcraft were not isolated incidents but were evidence of a continent-wide affiliation of witches.I suppose that none of the above examples are even remotely possible?I know what you're getting at, because it's the same thing you've been getting at all along. I just don't know how it is you think you're getting there.
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