Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Witch Hunts and Holocaust Denial

by Golden Dawn Imperator
David Griffin

Regular readers of the Golden Dawn blog will recall ongoing debate regarding the survival of important aspects of ancient Pagan times and their relevance to contemporary esotericism. There are still leaders in the Golden Dawn community, for example, who even today remain in denial of the extent of witch trials and other persecution. For example, on July 17, my esteemed Golden Dawn colleague, Peregrin Wildoak, wrote on his Magic of the Ordinary blog:
"I was surprised that some magical folk still referred to ‘the Burning Times’ as a factual series of events, where Pagans were persecuted by ‘the church’. Nick Farrell, in his normal wise manner, responded by saying, “It is an article of religious faith a bit like the virgin birth.” If this is so, and I think Nick is technically correct, then have all my previous articles and postings back to 1989, where I critique the Burning Times as myth not history..." -Peregrin Wildoak
I respectfully differ with Fratres Wildoak and Farrell about this. Witch trials are not at all an article of religious faith. They are, on the contrary, a question of historical record - A record that, tragically, been misrepresented, understated, and denied over and over for years - in the same propaganda-like manner that"historical revisionists" have tried to minimize or deny that the Holocaust in Nazi Germany ever occured.

Once in a while it comes as a much needed breath of fresh air, when a serious Pagan scholar reminds us of the actual historical record - bringing the discussion back to reality - away from the realm of conspiracy theories and the propaganda tactics of Holocaust denial.

Such is the case with a wonderful article written by "Apuleius Platonicus" over on the Egregores blog that you can read HERE. The article is entitled "Witch trials were comparatively rare?"

Egregores Blog

The data Apuleius presents over on Egregores is so important in dispelling the notion that witch trials are merely an "article of religious faith" like the virgin birth, that I am reproducing it for the benefit of Pagans in the Golden Dawn community in its entirety:
Once again I must turn my attention to the unedifying public spectacle of a noted scholar grotesquely misrepresenting the most basic historical facts in the name of dispelling "myths". The following is from an op-ed piece written by Malcolm Gaskill ("one of Britain's leading authorities on the history of witchcraft", if he does say so himself, and, to be fair, he is in fact a well respected scholar and author of innumerable important publications on historical Witchcraft) and published in The Guardian on April 5, 2010 (Witch-hunts then -- and now): 
"The history of witchcraft helps us to understand this tragic phenomenon [modern cases of violence against people accused of Witchcraft]. Unfortunately, the subject remains littered with powerful myths. Some modern witches sing a protest song called Catch the Fire, which mentions the 9 million women burned during the "witch-craze". Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code says 5 million. The actual figure was about 50,000. This still might seem a lot for an imaginary crime, but viewed in context of time, space and population levels, it's clear that witch trials were comparatively rare. Plus executions followed in only about half of trials."
Were witch trials really "comparatively rare"? (Uh, and "compared" to what, exactly?) Well, in the comparatively small nation of Scotland, which was hardly the epicenter of the European Witch-hunts, there was one year (1649) in which there were 399 documented Witchcraft trials. In fact, during the next 12 years there were over 1000 more trials, for a sustained average of over 100 a year from 1649-1661. If we view these Scottish Witch trials "in context of time, space and population levels", this would be the equivalent of nearly half a million 21st century American citizens being put on trial for the crime of Witchcraft over a span of 13 years. And while it is true that only half (a mere 250,000 or so!) of these would be convicted and then publicly burned at the stake, the other half would still be severely tortured before being acquitted. And by "severely tortured" I am referring to methods that would make Guantanamo look like a tropical vacation resort. Here is another way of putting these deaths in "context": the rate at which people were burned at the stake for the crime of Witchcraft in Scotland between the years 1649 and 1661 was three times higher (or more) than the rate at which young Americans died in Vietnam between the years 1963 and 1975. For more information on the Witch-hunt in Scotland, see these three posts of mine and links therein:

In Iceland, an even smaller country and another place that does not figure prominently in the history of Witch-hunting, there were "only" 20 executions for Witchcraft (that we have good documentation for). But this was in a nation with a population at the time of about 50,000 inhabitants (about 1/20 that of Scotland). And all of these executions took place in less than three decades. That means that if we again look at the "context of time, space and population levels", Witch-hunting was almost as intense in Iceland as it was in Scotland. For more in the Witch-hunts in Iceland, check out these links:

So much for the periphery. What about the places that were at the center of the action? In just a few regions of what was at the time the Holy Roman Empire (in what is today western Germany and some bordering regions of France and Switzerland), the phenomenon of Witch-hunting reached such a frenzy that otherwise staid and sober scholars have actually felt compelled to employ the term "superhunt". These are the very same scholars who, like Gaskill, never tire of lecturing modern Pagans on the grave sin of historical exaggeration. In just one of these outbreaks (in Alzenau, just east of Frankfurt) nearly 10% of the adult population was put to death (and these were predominantly women, so one in six adult women were executed). 
Although the European Witch-hunts lasted over three centuries (from the Witch trials in Valais which began in 1427 and in which over 350 people were put to death in 20 years, to the last trickle of official trials and executions in the mid 18th century), and  ranged from one end of Europe to the other (from Transylvania to Scotland and from Sweden to Spain), the superhunts were highly concentrated outbursts of murderous Witch hysteria that accounted for almost a quarter of all executions for Witchcraft in Europe (according to William Monter). These concentrated outbreaks of Witch killings occurred in Trier (1586-95), Mainz (1593-1631), Fulda (1602-06), Cologne (1627-35), Bamberg (1616-30), and Waldenburg (1616-30), leading to the deaths of at least 10,000 people in a relatively small region of Europe over a span of just 45 years. [See Monter on "Germany's Superhunts" in Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, Volume 4: The Period of the Witch Trials.] 
The bottom line is that it is an act of scholarly malfeasance to blithely state that "it's clear that witch trials were comparatively rare." Sadly, though, it has become de rigueurfor certain self-appointed demythologizers to squander their academic credentials in the service of this kind of revisionist propagandizing, which aggressively promotes the (comforting to some) notion that Witch-hunts, Inquisitions, heresy-hunting, and other sins of the past, really weren't all that bad after all. I mean, well, "comparatively" speaking, you know!" 
See also: 
"Witches and other evils": Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud on Witches and Witchcraft 
Julian Goodare Contradicts His Own Data on Witches and Healers
- Apuleius Platonicus
For Pagans in the Golden Dawn community interested in the question of Witch Hunts and Pagan survival, I strongly encourage you to follow the "Egregores" blog HERE. Another highly interesting blog about Pagan survival is "Aedicula Antinoi: A Small Shrine of Antinous" that you can follow HERE.

These blogs are each written by Pagan academics who dare not to toe the Hutton "anti-Pagan-survival" party-line. These academics blog under pseudonyms, apparently to preserve their jobs, since their positions are, after all, rather politically incorrect for the biases of today's academy.


  1. Wonderful article! This is a topic that has been avoided for far too long, and what better day to publish it than on Beltane (May Day)! Light the great bonfires G.H. Frater L.e.S.! Another great post among many on the subject of bringing accurate information to the public concerning Paganism. I salute you on your quest to "Divest the Golden Dawn of it's Christian trappings and return it to the Pagan roots, from which the Golden Dawn arises!"

    Fraternally in L.V.X.,
    Frater A.T.L.V.

  2. This link works:
    I couldn't get the blogger link to open.


  3. What is it that is driving this particular ideological bias against Pagan survival? Clearly academia is just as prone to become enthralled by politically correct lobbies as any other societal institution, and we have seen this effective lobbying from Feminism, from Zionism, and even in Physics, with String Theory adherents fighting to hold on to their funding by preventing publication of already peer-reviewed papers! In all these cases the purpose of the lobby is clear - we know who gains...

    Who funds these anti-Pagan academics?