Witches of The Colosseum
Use of Curse Tablets and the Philosophical Trials
The stereotypical witch is proliferated in the average individuals mind as the ugly deformed elderly hag dressed in long black dresses or robes with the pointed hat flying across the full moon on a broomstick along with the companion of the black cat. What the general student tends to forget is that sorcery in some fashion or another has been part of society long before this idea was spawned into the commonplace of human understanding.
Sorcery as a practice can be traced as far back as to the ancient roman times with the use of tablet curses and the trails of the philosopher Apuleius. In all societies there is a distinct focus on competition this can create a myriad of situations where in the competitors as well as the spectators to attempt to get a leg up on the competition. Rome a city built surrounding basically a huge stadium is no exception to this rule. One of the steps where in that many citizens of Rome attempted to sway the odds in their favor was the use of the curse tablet. These tablets fashioned from stone or lead were etched with invocations calling for the defeat of specific drivers in the Colosseum. The tablets were etched then the were pierced with a sharp object or nail in most cases where the name was located. The tablets implored the actions of pagan deities as well as demons to inflict harm to win sporting events.Examples of roman curse tablets were found outside of the realm of competition as well most of these were produced to take revenge for perceived wrong doings.
Example of non competitive curse:
“ nec plum(i)bis nec auro nec argento redimere a numine tuo nisi ut illas uorent canes uermes adque alia portenta exitum quarum populus spectet”
“Neither through lead nor through gold nor through silver can they redeem themselves from your divine power, unless dogs, worms and other monsters devour them. May the people watch their death”
The trial of the philosopher Apuleius took place mid roman empire in the court of Claudius Maximus. Suspicion arose when Apuleius married an older wealthy widow it also arose from his deep interest the occult. soon after the marriage the family of the widow accused Apuleius of using sorcery to win the affections of the widow. The evidence can be connected to the trials later in history. Evidence is listed include the buying of specific kind of fish and the bewitchment of a young boy to fall and collapse in the town square in Apuleius's presence . Befuddled with these accusations he argued the true definition of sorcery is what Plato describes as the “cult of the gods” he goes on to compare the disciplines taught to the crown prince of Persia after he reached the age of 14. Where in the the crown prince learns the acts of worship and paying homage to the goods which is comparable to the the standards that define witchcraft in the ancient world. Then moving on to to quote Plato in the his explanation of a Thracian, Zamolxis stating that “there is a certain therapy in incantations” and they consist of beautiful words and argues that he should be permitted to use these beautiful words. He continues buy discrediting his accuser stating that “this is not the kind of charge a man who believes in the truth of this sort of thing would make” and then insulting the individual's intelligence as well as complimenting himself buy comparing himself to other scientists who “investigate the simple causes and elements of matter” and are accused of being anti religious. This list includes Anaxagoras, Leucippus, Democritus, Epicurus. He then moves to dismantle the “legitimate” evidence that his accuser brought into the court. On the idea of the buying of specific fish he answers with the statement “ why should a scientist not be allowed to do for the sake of science what a gourmand is allowed to do for gluttony”. Next he provided a rebuttal to the original charge that he had bewitched a widow into marrying him by stating that it was pure love explained in a letter that he brought to the court . finally there was the bewitchment of the boy who fell in his presence. He compares this to a fairy tale stating that miracles involving boys are not only popular in superstitions but the are popular stories in the academic sector. He recalls multiple stories that he has read which describe young boys as divine and having special affinity for divination and magic. He discredits the boy whom he supposedly affected by stating that he could not of spouted such prophecies without disastrous effects to is mind as well as body. Ending his argument with the a statement concluding the ridiculousness of the charges brought against him as well as the use of the fallen boy as evidence “ as a matter of fact -Thallus - you mentioned his name - needs a physician rather than magician”
The German Annihilation of The Heretical Beasts
The Excessive Use of Force in the Trials in the German City-States
The German inquisition was a horrendous example the fanatical persecution of unliked or unwanted members of community. The papacy of pope Sixtus iv was the starting point of the terrible time for these individuals on his order he began the inquisition to remove the Jews and Muslims from the territory of Germany and to prosecute others the church viewed as heretics this devolved into the individual territories massively over using this power executing huge numbers of people lumped into these categories. While Sixtus wanted to take steps to prevent this mass malevolence he was blocked by the monarchy do to the benefits gained by the persecution of said people. This included land and capital, as well as a the benefit of increasing the power of whatever faith said monarch was attached to. While many executions happened in Sixtus’ time Germany's inquisition was just starting.
Beginning with the issuance of the summis desiderantes by Pope Innocent VII ,successor of Sixtus’ IV, in his first year of the papacy he bequeathed the full power and jurisdiction of the german inquisition to two individuals Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. With this change in line-up as well as the support of the new papel body the execution rates began increasing steadily. With the implementation of these dominicans to the ranks of the inquisition the papacy believed that they had a true weapon against Heretical Bull
Subsequent causes for the mass number of witch trials in germany
First in the long list of the reasons that Germany was a proverbial power ceg for the trial of witches was simple enough. The constant conflict between the Catholic and Protestant churches this led to the multiple trials of a single due to the fact that if you were cleared by one church you could still be charged by the other. As well as the spiritual conflict there was the issues surrounding the government and the borders set by it. Germany at this time was a grouping of small City-States governed by separate princes all with differing opinions as well as very little supervision. this allowed for the indiscriminate killings of those accused of witchcraft or heresy. Among the princes there were especially vicious cases these include the rulers of the cities of Waldsee, Endidhiem , and Thann. These boasted of there almost three hundred trials between the years of 1502-1620. Even with these numbers the princes of the church were even more heinous in the prosecution of these individuals.
Bishop Johann Gottfried von executed 368 witches in the abbey of st. maximum from 22 different villages leaving two of these villages unpopulated or abandoned.
Bishop Johann Georg II executed 600 witches and built a special prison called Hexenhaus that held 40 witches and all the requisite equipment. For das torture. He also broke many of the conventions that were in place at the time such as the torture of pregnant women in seeking confession. Lastly the Bishop Philip Adolf executed 900 witches including children as young as 7 for have intimate relations with the devil.
The last and most important of the factors creation this mass epidemic of witchcraft in Germany was the way that they gleamed confession from those accused. In Germany unlimited torture was allowed to acquire a confession from an accused person and a person could only be executed after a confession was made and their soul could be cleansed. The german inquisition also believed that only under torture a true confession could be given also in some cases a confession was not enough for you to be executed you had to give up your so called confidants leading to more trials.
Rules for the torture of witches
There were multiple guidelines and laws set in place for the torture processes but in the majority of cases they were bent or broken.
Witches were only aloud to be tortured three times unless new information was gained
Pregnant women were never to be tortured until one month after the birth of the infant
Torture had to stop after blood was drawn
The typical introduction to torture
The prisoner was brought to the prison, striped and then give a tour of the facility. Then the were shown all of the equipment and had all the various devices explained to them in depth and then they were wiped or possibly hung on the rack. The second day is when the torture began one of these miraculous devices was the strappado a device where an individual was hung from his arms behind his back allowing their own body weight to dislocate their shoulders. In that same vein the squassation added weight and the person was bounced up and down dislocated more of the body. Also adding some more flavor to the process the accused was kept in constant thirst eating only salty food and drinking only water mixed with brine and were deprived of sleep.
Common Found Symbols in Witchcraft and There Effects on Popular Culture
In many aspects the world of witchcraft follows specific patterns in a set grouping. This is true of ,with very little exception, all of the many cultures that provide the image of the stereotypical witch. Theses symbols are a pervasive through the cultures and have permeated throughout time bleeding into the social and cultural aspects of the modern world.
Blood and hair
when we think of the bubbling cauldron and the hag menacingly circling and adding the plethora of ingredients need for her witches brew what is the final ingredient you may ask? If your answer in your head was something belonging to the intended recipient of the brew you're on the right track. In an attempt to connect the intended effects to the victim a item connected to the victim was needed this could be a item that belonged to said person but for a more resounding and complete connection a piece of the body was used. The use of blood or hair in spellcraft is one of the most widely used mythos in all of the world, but why are these two things so commonly used as compared to other parts of the body? First off I think that all and all these two things are extremely easy to collect from an individual covertly because in most cases a witch can't just walk up to a person and lob off a piece of a person without causing a major fuss. As compared to hair that is most likely already prone to fall out or blood that can be easily collected without drawing attention. Secondly the choice of blood holds a power in itself being one of the four humors links the theft of blood to nefarious purposes from the definition of bloodletting and the concepts of the humors that state they must be in line for the body to remain healthy. Secondly on blood the comes the tie to memory or in some cases the soul as in its movement throughout the body as well as the belief that it was a power source for the body. Finally on blood is the tie to family or heritage in society based on family hierarchy your blood ties become more important and this is another way we impart blood with more power
Common items associated with witches
Multiple items are found throughout the cross-country cultural profile of what we believe is true about the world of magic.the first of these is the witches main form of transportation the broom almost every modern image of a witch has her placed on or near a broom. The second most common imagery used in the witching world is the familiar or companion animal usually a black cat. The strange part about this imagery is the fact that no male witches are depicted on broomsticks or with companion animals. This in my mind is for the same reason they are such a prevalent presence in the witching world. This centers on the the same concepts defined in the german witch hunts where they described woman witches as a foil to motherhood expressing all opposite values of what a mother should be. The pervasive use of brooms in imagery surrounding witchcraft can be construed to an even heavier degree as the witch in question is using a object for the famine act of cleaning for nefarious purposes. Secondly the use of a familiar points to the need for assistance in their actions as compared to male sorcerers whom are never depicted with familiars or companions.
Pop Culture nods to ancient witchcraft
While there is not the same intensity as in the olden times the modern world is obsessed with witches stories like harry potter or tv shows lasting countless seasons depicting witches in the modern world litter the media. These are full to the brim with tropes and stereotypes including familiars and brooms as well as the tropes surrounding the dress and appearance of witches. Theses modern adaptations also push the boundaries and define reasons in new ways. A excellent example of this is the harry potter books/movies. The magical world of jk rowling’s creation takes both of the the big troupes and redefines them in new ways. As goes for the use of brooms she has created an intricate sport called quidditch played by the majority of the populus and in the same vein of mythos surrounding black cats the children in the harry potter were required to pick from a cat owl or toad as a pet for the time they spend at school.
The Evolution of The Craft
The way we have perceived practices of witchcraft has followed a distinct pattern for the multiple centuries since its conception in ancient times. This basic pattern follows a two part system where in the practitioner's are held at a high esteem then systematically destroying said esteem by prejudice and persecution.
The evolution from the simplicity of the folk magic to the severe consequences propagated by the church in the times of the witch trials. The cunning folk of the that held prominence over most of the european continent in the pre-church controlled times. They were masters of herbology and other healing related techniques this view was transferred on to the other folk magics of the day including divination love magic and countermagic. The ideology of the time was that these practices were natural and broke no spiritual covenants this allowed for a dualistic belief system where the patrons of the the church could attend service as well as practice these magics because they were considered white or good magics where other practices such as the use of popets were viewed in a as black or bad magic. This was the norm until the involvement of the church when all magics where deemed affronts to god and lumped into the same category of crime as heresy meaning that they carried a death sentence this belief is the core of the numerous inquisitions that swept the globe where in numerous individuals were burnt or hung for “ practicing “ these dark arts and this disdain or reservations lasted throughout media and culture until the early modern era.
The development of hostility was long seeded in the history of witchcraft it had a long lasting effect on the culture of the early modern era this is evident in the production of the crucible in the early 50s it told a fictional account of the story of salem and the trials that took place in the colonies in 1692-93 the representation of the accused were still seen as the villains and the accusers as the heros. This belief follows into another film the wizard of oz where the wicked witch of the west makes her debut this can be constrought in different way because of the other existing magic users but if you are familiar with the wizard of oz the only character referred to as a witch is the so called wicked witch of the west. These movies do seem to be another turning point because not long after there was a change in the types of films produced tv shows like bewitched or sabrina the teenage witch made there way to the stage flipping the stereotype on its head and putting a witch in the front of the audience and making them the star this follows through almost 60 years into the current era. This new view mirrors in some ways the old cunning folk mentality focusing on the purpose of magic rather than the heresy of committing magic. This brought magic back to the dualistic belief where it could be either black or white. As this trend has lasted for so long it seems that a new trend is on the horizon it seems that the majority of the new movies or shows focused in the genre of horror turning these characters back into how they were before the change happened making them out to be villains
The Puritan Mind
“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere might be happy.”
Who were the Puritans?
They started in England as a breakaway sect of the Church of England whose goal was to purify the church. Their solution was to strip away the rituals and elaborateness and replace it with three hour long sermons and non flamboyant practices of that the church of England was known for, they wanted the people to practice what they preach all the time. Meaning that theater, drinking, and dancing or other acts of expression were all considered to be ostentatious and in that vein affront to god as they understood him. The Puritans belief system was based on the process of constantly readying themselves for salvation because their believed in predestination, this belief was centered on the fact that from before birth each individual was fated to heaven or hell with god being to only one to know where each person will end up. The problem in this belief system is whenever they began to feel secure in their salvation, they believed that was a sign they were becoming too arrogant and confident and a sure sign that they were not saved. One of their more interesting beliefs was that all souls were female and that it was all souls become married to Jesus, meaning there exists a large amount of literature that is basically Jesus porn.
Back to the less erotic religious beliefs , they believed in providentialism stating in short, all things are God’s will. With this ideology it follows that , they believed strongly that good events were direct rewards from God, and bad events were punishments from the same source. In the event of “God’s punishment” the immediate reaction of a Puritan was to fast and pray for forgiveness. To prevent this punishment they created and held to the principle of moral stewardship, meaning they had placed moral obligation on themselves to ensure that their neighbor didn’t sin. In other words, they were guilty of the sin their neighbors committed if they did not prevent it.
“City Upon a Hill”
John Winthrop the first governor of the massachusetts bay colony set in motion the idea of creating a “city upon a hill” , meaning that they wanted to establish a perfect religious community to shine a light into the world. Besides the obvious pressure of this, they had to bring sinners along too to fill out their ranks these individuals were the craftsmen and other professionals that would make this possible. These individuals were not necessarily of the same faith but were allowed into this perfect or ideal state for the purpose of creating it theses individuals in most cases were ran out or converted after the establishment said township.
There were three institutions that they believed could be used to establish this “City”. The first is the family, or “little commonwealth” as they called it, was the foundation. If children were raised properly, there would be no need to establish a police force or teach respect for the governor because these ideals would be instilled in them by the parents. A further source of discipline and training were apprenticeships where in some cases the children were traded about the town. For example the if one family had five children one would learn the craft that the family practiced and all the other children would apprentice under the various other craftsmen in the village. A festering problem was spawned from the definition of adulthood in the puritan communities, a person was an adult when they owned land this in most cases was only possible when it was given to them by their parents due to price. This also prevented them from getting married and caused the “children” to become more and more disgruntled as their parents hung onto controlling them in some cases into their thirties.
The second pillar of the community was the church attendance in church was required on threat of a fine. Each service was three hours long and happened twice a week everyone in the township willingly paid a “tax” which paid the minister’s salary. There were two levels of church membership full members had a vote in church actions; membership was attained by sharing your conversion story in front of the church and the current members voting on your acceptance into the church. Women formed a significant majority of the “full” members as it was the only way for them to hold any power in the town. The rest were simply churchgoers, with no say in what went on in the church. The final pillar was government, a democratic body formed by free, white, adult males. They would elect people into (and out of) offices.
More Fun With The Puritans
More About The Culture and Possible Causation for The Outbreak at Salem Village
The Role of Women in 17th Century New England
In Puritan theology regarding women focuses on pre-lapsarian (before the fruit incident) Eve. From this they deduce that women’s role was to serve as a “help meet” for men. This fell into three categories: economic, natural, and theological. For economic, they were expected to help in the fields when needed, but primarily supply all things necessary for the house. They also filled the role of “deputy husband”, meaning that when the husband was unavailable the wife was legally considered to be the husband in dealings that would normally have been his. The second duty was natural, a fancy term for companionship and reproduction. This led to most women being “chronically pregnant” after marriage, often having a child every two years. On average, they had eight to twelve living children. Finally, the woman served a theological woman. Although they held men and women to be equal on a spiritual level, the man was considered superior in the earthly church.
The Puritan Home
Evolution of Puritan Houses and Physical Layouts
In 1690, the average Puritan home was sixteen by twenty feet. No separated rooms, not necessarily all related (apprentices), and no windows so they were extremely dark.
Symbolic Layout of the Home
Houses were considered reflections of the “body politic” and “Christ’s divine body”. There are labeled diagrams of homes as human bodies.
Furnishings and Material Goods
Very plain furnishings. Multi-use furniture. Silverware, plates, and cups were shared during meals. Only one bed with a “rope frame”, the rest of the family slept on bedding that was kept in a large trunk during the day. Only a few chairs in each house, maybe a stool. If you were especially fancy, you might have a “necessary chair” instead of a plain chamber pot.
Instead of having pockets in every dress, women wore a “pocket” that went over the petticoat. All dresses had a hole in them for reaching into the pocket. If a man was wealthy he might own underwear, but otherwise he would tuck a long shirt in to serve as underwear.
Work Inside the Home
Spinning, the refinement of raw flax or wool into cloth, was one of the banes of women’s existence. It has to be beaten or combed, spun, and woven. It is something that was often done by firelight after working all day. The footwork involved was equal to fifteen miles of walking and would produce about a mile of thread a day. There was almost always something on the stove, even if it was just water boiling.
And Outside the Home
Fences were loved because they separated things and brought order to chaos. They kept people and animals “out”. Some fences were stone, but many were made of split logs.
Witchcraft in Colonial New England and Building to Salem
In total, 243 New Englanders were accused of witchcraft in the 17th century. Of that number, 36 were executed, out of a population of 100,000. 80% were female, so higher than Europe. Disliked, extreme ends of wealth, older, single, guilty by association. Accusers were neighbors, 86% female, possession was a common source of accusation/evidence, not strangers. Laws and trials follow the same conventions as England.
Building to Salem
A chain of major crises that started in 1675. So bad that they couldn’t imagine making it to the year 1700. The first was Metacomet’s War. Relationships had been deteriorating between Native Americans and Colonists for a number of reasons. Livestock ruining their farms, attempts at converting Indians in Praying Towns (kidnapping Indians and preaching to them, although most died of European diseases), and the final spark was the death of a Praying Town Indian named Sassoman. Sassoman was cheating his fellow Indians in translation transactions, so they killed him. However, the Puritans decided to try and kill the Indians since Sassoman was from a Praying Town. This sparked the war. It lasted for a year, half of the towns in MA were badly damaged while 12 were destroyed completely, and 1 in 16 men of fighting age were killed. 1677-1678 was a smallpox epidemic. In 1685 James II was made King of England. His wife was Catholic and he was very friendly towards Catholics. Catholics and Puritans were very hostile to each other. Because of this, James revokes all the New England colonies’ charters and groups them into the royally controlled Dominion of New England, which would last from 1686 to 1689. Edmond Andros was appointed Governor of the Dominion. Andros was flamboyant, Anglican, and insisted on a tax that would build an Anglican Church in Boston. As a bit of a salt-in-the-wound rub, he said they could instead use their existing taxes (which paid their ministers) to build the church. Furthermore, Andros decides to go and make peace with the Indians and fails. A conspiracy spreads that he paid off the Indians to finish the Puritans off. Before the Puritans actually resorted to murdering Andros, James was kicked off the throne and their governor’s power disappeared. However, William, James successor, was at war with France, and France had Indian allies. The final straw was a growing community of Quakers.
Moi, Tituba, Sorciere…Noire de Salem
The trials at Salem village have had a lasting and pervasive effect on the modern world with dozens of adaptations in film and literature and just as many theories stating reasons or explanations for the trials. Set among the accurate depictions based around the truthful depictions and accurate historical documents there is a great deal of falsehoods in the literature as well as the films. These inaccuracies most likely stem from a need to make the story more exciting and to make it follow a narrative form to make the story easier to digest.
This is epitomized in the story Moi, Tituba, Sorciere…Noire de Salem or I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem. This french novel published in 1982 and then translated into English in 1992 was a very dramatic adaptation of the story of one of Reverend Samuel Parris’s two slaves that he brought with him when he became the leader of the clergy in Salem village. The account details Tituba as first biracial and secondly as African, neither of these were true both of Parris’s slaves were Caribbean Indians from Barbados. Also the novel goes into detail about Tituba's past stating that she was born out of rape and her mother was hung for resisting the same man. Apparently then she became a maroon and lived with no master and stayed with a spiritual herbalist and learned traditional healing methods from her. Both of these sound like possibilities but their exists no record of these events, also by the accounts of Tituba's accusations of witchcraft had nothing to do with healing these accusations being the creation of a urine cake on request by Mary Sibley and, the accusation that she was teaching divination to the young girls of the village.
Also the author makes the assumption that Tituba and john (the other of Parris’s slaves) are married this has never been proven and the connection is made over and over throughout multiple accounts. One thing that Maryse Condé (the author) writes that pushes this inaccuracy further is that John Indian and Tituba were married before being bought by Parris and that Tituba was so in love that she would “willing to return to slavery on his behalf”. This story and others like it are extremely loosely based on the actual historical documents from Salem village and serve as fiction not accurate accounts. The mistake lies in the individuals who take them as fact and as true accounts this creates a disconnect from reality and creates false hoods that spread through our culture. They are so pervasive because it gives an easy explanation to the craziness that is the witch trials.