The Queen Who Made A Difference
With respect to official documentation surrounding the history and culture of negative and discriminatory attitudes, one compelling story on hatred of the diverse in medieval history is that of a queen who made a difference and promoted positive spiritual change. On May 15th,1536, at King’s Hall, Tower of London, Ann Boleyn, the Queen of England, second wife of Tudor royal, Henry VIII, was accused of treason and sentenced to life. However, these charges were false and made because Boleyn could not produce a male heir. The arrest was staged to legally dispose of Boleyn. Some claim that the restless spirit of Queen Ann Boleyn to this very day still haunts her childhood home at Blickling Hall, in Alysham, Norfolk, England.
Last month's highlight was on discrimination reinforced via means other than objective, yet sometimes biased texts; this month, it is focused on one radical and discriminatory document that raged through Reformation Europe like wildfire. Usually, what is omitted speaks volumes louder than recorded text, just as the documents that surrounded the public execution of Ann Boleyn. This month’s focus begins with a review of Kramer's notorious 1487 publication, Hammer of Witches, or Malleus Maleficarum. This discussion also stresses the subsequent, well intentioned, as well as malevolent and calculating intent of many who began a drastic social revolution in the Renaissance by means of surreptitious public corruption. The deliberate destruction of the good and innocent throughout the Europe's Grand Inquisition and Reformation was inevitable.
The first inklings to ever indicate that invisible magical power could easily outdo human will were the curse incantations placed on ancient Egyptian tombs. Those inscribed spells revealed evil curses placed on mummies. Warnings that ancient Egyptian tombs must never be entered because the mummies within had evil qualities and able to cast hexes on intruders were merely begun to scare looters, for mummies were buried with treasures and goods thought to aid their journey into the underworld.
The Vatican's mixed response to the existence of evil as a ruling entity indicated that what could not easily be distinguished as true "magic" and evil was perhaps best left alone. Pope Innocent VIII's 1484 papal bull within Malleus Maleficarum -- Summis desiderantes affectibus -- where Hebrews condemn witchcraft, spell casting, and consulting "ghosts and spirits" -- is evidence of the Renaissance Church's strong belief in other worldly powers. By the Council of Trent, 1545–63, the Jesuits became the official governing power of the Counter-Reformation within Europe and newly discovered regions. Subsequently, where most of Northern Europe was Protestant, southern Germany and Poland returned to Roman Catholicism. It was from that split that the witch hunt craze rapidly unfolded in courtrooms across Europe. The crime of sorcery allegedly included a routine use of formulaic words, incantations, inscriptions, wax figures, herbal concoctions, amulets, and use of mirrors for divination, all to induce a malevolent curse against an innocent person. Most of the population that transpired consisted of middle-aged females, especially spinsters and widows!
Other historical documents clarify that attempts to prevent and overcome sorcery stretch back well beyond the middle ages. The Hebrew Bible [Deuternomy 18:11-12] and the Irish Canons both condemned sorcery. Nevertheless, until the middle ages, capital punishment was inappropriately harsh for such a crime; rather, excommunication from the Church was a viable and apt punishment. In fact, prior to the Early Modern period in Europe, the Church did not view the practice of witchcraft as serious; influence from the Northern Reformation changed that. The earliest Inquisition trials in Europe mainly reflected Germanic laws and an aim to end heresy and the false preaching of heretic clerics, rather than the pursuit of "witches."
Consequently, even though Kramer's treatise originally responded to an isolated outbreak of witchcraft in the Rhine Valley, Germany, after its publication, its concept spread like wildfire. Kramer became a Dominican Grand Inquisitor in trials for victims accused of witchcraft throughout Europe -- mainly in Spain, Germany, and Portugal. Kramer also published the treatise out of frustration when the Vatican duly rejected his radicalized views. On the other hand, Inquisition trials were also a response that had retaliated against Roman Catholic Church abuses since 14th-century attacks by its wealthy, hierarchic families. Reformation began with Martin Luther's ninety-five theses in 1517, which thoroughly attacked traditional Church doctrine and customs. Luther’s revolution continued in generations to come. In Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Saxony, Hesse, and Brandenburg, supporters separated from Roman Catholicism to establish new Protestant churches. In Switzerland, Zwingli and Calvin sparked other spiritual movements.
Those Renaissance Inquisition trials cannot be likened to the legally justified trials of suspected criminals that take place today. Even though any scientific theory that truly validated an effortless manipulation of evil in human will was lacking, Inquisition Trials continued to spread and intensify after 1580 and until 1630, during Counter-Reformation and the Holy Roman Wars. Subsequently, inquisitors exterminated over 50,000 victims at the stake for intent to do harm with black magic -- metaphysical means -- all for the crime of daring to behave in ways deemed by the majority to be socially awkward, and not in any way related to sorcery.
It is evident that the representation of evil and the West virtually shunned sorcery in art, other folkloric mythologies of magic and the proverbial ugly crone at a bubbly black caldron remained vibrant in the imaginations of at least two Northern European artists: Albrecht Durer and his pupil, Hans Baldung Grien. Although Grien did not produce his 1508 woodcut, Witches, during the Protestant Reformation, he explored the concept of witchcraft in German art to introduce the realm of the supernatural as a mythological and local theme. The witchcraft theme allegorized and satirized Grien’s deeply religious pre-occupation – the inevitability of death. As the Grand Inquisition and witch hunt concept had still not fully evolved at the time Witches was produced, Grien based his representation of sorcery mainly on Germany’s oral mythological culture of witchcraft rather than the political propaganda upon which Kramer’s publication was based.
In true life Reformation, however, the belief in magic as a supernatural entity did evolve into the witch hunt culture and the inevitable Inquisition Trial. Unfortunately, those trials relied on terrorist tactics, which greatly distorted the distinction between truth and reality. A most outstanding example of the witch hunt and trial was that of England's Ann Boleyn, not an ugly crone, but rather, the young, privileged wife of King Henry VIII. Boleyn was accused of witchcraft as well as treason, and ultimately underwent an intense trial by ordeal. This included an application of pain torture during cross-examination.
Although Pope Innocent III banned trials by ordeal in the West in 1215 and they were finally discontinued in 16th century, witch trials are still legal to this day. Innocent VIII did support an investigation of fraudulent magicians and malevolent witches, but realized that the scope of Kramer's authority was out of regional bounds at the Vatican, and furthermore, his political propaganda was too controversial for the Vatican.
Disturbing links between medieval witch hunts and those of today are the infallible and incorrigible uses of espionage, deliberate lies, and false confessions -- all staged to unmercifully cast an innocent person as a criminalized persona. Today, the witch hunt logic is still a sad, infectious reality in western society: that mentality has roots mainly within the cultures of India, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Nepal. Witchcraft accusations are often made by females against a younger opponent; the exploitation of extremist venues via personal vendetta and jealousy originate from financial disputes between victims and conniving criminals. Even youth and older males are open to such political attacks. As espionage is a covert means to collect evidence against a victim (and renders trials as mistrials), a perpetrator's strong alliances to medicine and other professional institutions usually guarantee him or her as a favoured interest over the victim.
Realistically, most laws do not consider such drastic, aggressive, negative, yet slow assaults leading up to the devastation of victims as criminal; therefore, the vendetta mindset is rewarded rather than discouraged. The vendetta also continues until a murder or an arrest occurs against a victim. The false confession is typical of such a case. Moreover, the witch hunt logic is still surreptitiously reinforced and taught everywhere under the guise of "socialism", although schools and workplaces do have strict policies intact against discrimination. This issue often is rampant and beyond control in the public sphere, where hate is expressed at communal or anonymous levels -- grocery stores, parking lots, and even apartment complexes.
Political leaders and educational instructors should better strive to foster events and festivities that embrace ethnicity as well as equity and diversity, and incorporate public speaking, for instance, on related experiences as part of the transformation of a prejudiced community. Leaders who do not expect or desire change and do not engage in such issues prevent a chance for improvement. Sadly, our laws do not reflect a great need to reform the intense hatred of those who stand apart from others, for whatever reason. However, this transformation cannot simply take place within schools and communities, but within our court system as well.
Although this discussion has outlined the gravity of the witch hunt mindset, the solutions to this age-old misguided abuse is not too well defined. Nevertheless, it is time to appreciate the value and worth of every society member and to celebrate such diversity with love and peace, rather than hatefulness or disrespect. Despite her plain appearance, if King Henry VIII had not written countless love letters to Ann Boleyn before she finally accepted his marriage proposal, we would never have learned of her own real and personal charisma. English society disliked Boleyn because she appeared as a “bewitching” homewrecker. Nevertheless, Boleyn -- a true leader -- did want change, and directly engaged in the controversy of the Protestant Reformation during her life to bring about a heightened awareness of human spirituality. Therefore, our institutions could mark the improvement of human transactions in everday life by providing more opportunities for leaders to actively engage on important issues within the public sphere.