Witch Hunts and the Christian Mentality

Dean R Dowling

The Catholic Inquisition was set up by the 4th Lateran Council in 1215 A.D. by Pope Gregory 9th to institutionalise what had been going on for years. It was handed over in 1232 to the Dominicans (Domini canes “the hounds of the Lord”), the Papal secret police. The Inquisition was dissolved in 1870 (only in 1982 did the Church admit the inquisition was a “mistake” (note not immoral or wrong). Its purpose was to seek out and destroy heretics (the enemy within) pagans (the enemy without), and witches (the hostility to sex and women). We will just look at the witch-hunts.


Sex to the Christian is sinful, evil, dirty and unclean. Sin is inherited physically by the sex act. Marriage is a licence to commit sin and only begat children (“Bonum prolis,” St. Augustine.)

The present Pope John Paul ll proclaimed (22- 11- 92) that in heaven there is no sex because the residents are like angels. Galatians 3:28 “In eternity there is neither male nor female.”

Paul 1 Tim 2: 11ff ordains women to keep silent, submissive, veiled in church, no authority over men and will be saved by bearing children. The silence of women in church was a reason why castrati were used in the Sistine Chapel up to 1920 and as Sixtus 5th (1590) said “God could be praised more sweetly by eunuchs.” (Orphans)

The disobedient Eve, not Adam, brought sin into the world. From some of the heavies of the Christian religion:-

TERTULLIAN (160 – 220 A.D.) “Women are a gate through which the Devil enters – woman was the cause of the Fall and therefore ultimately to blame for the death of the Son of God.”

St. JEROME (died 420) who was the first to translate the Greek into the latin Bible, the Vulgate, and is patron saint of the misogynists: ” woman is the gate of the devil, the way of evil, the sting of the scorpion, in a word, a dangerous thing.”

St. AUGUSTINE (354 – 430) “Sin – concupiscentia – reaches its peak in sexual desire that is in the libido qua obscenae partes corporis excitantur, the desire in which the indecent parts of the body are excited.”

The sixth century bishops debated whether a woman was really a human being, as did Luther at Wittenberg in 1591. Paul I Cor 11:7,9 only man, not woman, is in the image and glory of God woman is created for the glory of man for the sake of man. If so what does God look like and where does he live?

The great St. THOMAS AQUINAS (died -1274) the angelic teacher, called woman “a failed man” (mas occasionatus). Aquinas described masturbation as a greater sin than harlotry. Apart from the sinful pleasure, he believed in “humuncleos” i.e. it was the male sperm which provided 100% of the basic material for the future foetus. The mother’s womb was only the soil in which the seed grew. Science and the microscope refuted this male egocentricity.

Wet dreams were a sin to be punished by the immediate recitation of 7 penitential psalms and a further 30 in the morning.

LUTHER (1483 – 1546) “No marital duty takes place without sin.” “Wives to be beaten.” “If they become tired, or even die in child-birth that is why they are there.” Luther coined the phrase “woman’s place is in the home.”


As an antidote to the sinful disobedient Eve there had to be the pure, sexless, no carnal lust or desire, sinless, obedient and therefore virgin Mary semper virgo, the Perpetual virgin. (Although how did Jesus have at least 4 brothers and 2 sisters as in Mark 6:3, 3:31, John 7:3, Gal 1:19) It was impossible for mortal women to achieve the ideal of both virgin and mother, so they had to be either virgins (nuns) or prolific beaters of children (the good mothers). Matt. 13:55.

But the myth that Mary was “semper virgo” is also mainly due to a translation error. In the prophesy Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold a young woman shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel”, the hebrew used the word “almah” which means young (unmarried?) woman. But when the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into the famous Greek Septuagint in 270 B.C. “almah” was erroneously translated into the Greek “parthenos” (our “virgin”)

The Greek gospellers Matthew (1 :22ff) and Luke (1:27ff) read the Greek Old Testament and wishing fulfilment of prophecy recorded a virgin birth. The Jewish Mark and John do not mention any virgin – birth. (presumably they read the original Hebrew?)

Christians try to slip out of this by saying “almah” can also mean “virgin.” But the Hebrews have an explicit word for “virgin” which is “bethulah” and Isaiah uses “bethulah” five times elsewhere when referring to virgin and presumed virgin. So why didn’t the Hebrews use their explicit word for virgin instead of “almah”?

This translation error was pointed out in a dialogue letter between a Jew, Trypho and a Christian, Justin in 150 A.D.

Similarly Jesus to be sinless had to be a virgin and never marry, although as Bishop John Spong in his latest book “Born of Woman” shows that there are clues left in the tampered texts that Mary Magdalene was his wife.

To my mind, women who remain in the Christian religion, let alone want to be priests, must be stupid.


The hostility to women reached its peak in the witch-hunts. The biblical justification: Exodus 22:18, “Thou shall not permit a sorceress to live.

Deuteronomy 18:10, “There shall not be among you a witch.” Galatians 5:19

The first witch trial by the Inquisition was in 1234 near Treves. The last witch was drowned 600 years later in 1836 near Danzig. (no doubt there were top level theological debates whether burning or drowning better saved souls.)

The real existence of devils, demons and evil spirits was presupposed in all the gospels and Paul: Luke 7:21, 8:2, Acts 19:12ff, Mark 3:14,15 “and he appointed twelve (disciples) and to have authority to cast out demons”. At baptism, evil spirits are driven out in the name of Christ.

Aquinas taught that storms etc were caused by demons and Luther warned (1529) against bathing in lakes and rivers because the devil lived in them.

The 1484 Witches Bull by Pope Innocent 8th made the denial of the reality of witches heretical. Legal infallibility and irrefutability.

Witches had taken an oath to renounce Christ and give their souls to the Devil. Satan rewarded them with the power of magic. The Devil could make himself invisible to all but witches. More irrefutability like the invisible, in principle unobservable, fairies at the bottom of the garden or the invisible gremlins which cause radios to break down.

Witches were the cause of men becoming impotent, women infertile, miscarriages, bad harvests, cattle deaths, plagues, illness, storms etc. Ideal scapegoats for everything.

For an explanation of the images click on the caption.


In 1487, two Dominicans, Sprenger and Kramer wrote the infamous Malleus Maleficarum (the Hammer for Witches). It had 3O reprints by 1669 and was the Inquisitor’s handbook of questions and torture to be asked by the best legal and judicial brains of the time at the witch’s trial. Another example of how the legal mind can come to any conclusion it wants, or needs to, irrespective of reason and evidence. Careful accounting records, just like at the Nazi concentration camps, were kept for subsidiary tasks like cataloguing, imprisoning and torturing costs.

Midwives who carried the knowledge of the ancient contraceptive methods were special targets of the Inquisition.

Anonymous dobbing-in was much encouraged and children denouncing their parents justified (Matt 21:16).

Since the Malleus manual questions were mostly sexual and since most people are sexual in some way or another, guilt was guaranteed. Infallible! The infallible rules for differentiating between the results of witchcraft and ordinary illnesses – any disease which the doctors could not cure was due to witchcraft.

The authors of the Malleus are a casebook study of the sexual psychopathology of typical religious authoritarian nuts in positions of power and projecting their own unconscious desires on their victims, e.g. “all witchcraft comes from carnal lust which in women is insatiable” and witches had intercourse with the Devil with the utmost lechery.

Witches now joined Eve as the bad mothers and antitype to the Virgin Mary. Infantile psychological decomposition.

The Protestants were just as bad. Luther in the Wittenberg sermons urged his followers to hunt and torture witches. Calvin advocated mass executions and thought the court at Geneva far too lenient.


The accused was chained and imprisoned, stripped naked and all hair removed to find a mark that Satan had imprinted on her body. Warts and moles were infallible signs. If a spider, louse or fly was found in the dungeon then these were demons in disguise and provided evidence of association with Satan. Insensitive spots on the body were evidence of guilt and the skin was pinched with bodkins to the bone to test this (apparently this did not constitute torture).

The first question asked was whether the accused believed in witchcraft: If “no” then the offence was proved beyond reasonable doubt as the slightest doubt about the existence of witches was a heresy. Anyone defending (or criticising the torture) was in danger himself of despising the word of God and being a heretic. More legal infallibility.

If “yes” then what was she doing in the field before the storm etc. Confession, mandatory, was obtained by three levels of torture (hence the term “the third degree”).

These witch-hunts were continuous for 600 years and world-wide (Europe and America), some worse (Germany and France) than others.

Since most of the estimated 9 million victims were women (90%?) it is now called the Women’s Holocaust. If not already destroyed the Catholic records would be locked away in the miles of Vatican archives.

Church historian Walter Nigg (1962) said the only answer that the Inquisition was surely not as bad as that, was that it was bad, very bad so bad it could not have been worse.


Christian apologists for what happened goes like this:

(1) Ignore, suppress and pass it over in silence. Keep the person in the pew ignorant of church history.

(2) “Luther was a child of his times.” Answer. Religion set the spirit and laws of the time.

(3) Admit in the vague and abstract, then minimise and play down the atrocities, but say they were not committed by “true” Christians.

(4) Reply: Every cruel act can be justified by direct unambiguous quotes from the bible. The principles of the Bible themselves are perverse, like its practitioners.

(5) This one beats the lot: It was not the “witches” themselves, but the mad delusion of those who persecuted them that came from the Devil. The Inquisitorial judges were the deluded agents of Satan. (Nigg)

How does one refute that infallible argument, except to say that anyone who believes the fairy tales of the Christian religion are technically certifiable? But how and why have the Christians got away with their Orwellian lies for nearly 2000 years? The Christians, if they had the political power, would do the same again and do so in the drug laws.


The drug laws are based not on the pharmacological harm of the drugs but authoritarian Christian and Moslem temperance religious wowsers getting control of the U.N.W.H.O. Narcotics Commission and determining drug policy for the whole world. The death penalty, confiscation of property and anonymous dobbing-in (Operation Noah) are world wide and have all the characteristics of the earlier world-wide heresy and witch hunts.

The same religious mentality.

PS. The loving Bible prescribes the death penalty for the following offences:

(1) Premarital promiscuity. Dt. 22:20-24
(2) Fornication. Hebrews 13:4, 1 Thes 4:3, Paul I Cor. 6:15, Rom 1:15-27
(3) Adultery. Dt. 22:22, Lv 20:10, 1 Cor 7:2 Exodus 20:14-17
(4) Homosexual intercourse. Lv 20:13
(5) Divorce. Mark 10:11,12, Matt 19:9, 1 Cor 6:9,10
(6) Bestiality. Lv 20:15,16
(7) Incest. Lv 20:11-14 along with…..
(8) Witches. Exodus 22:18, Dt 18:9
(9) Blasphemy. Lv 24:16
(10) Apostasy. Dt passim.l3.
(11) Defiance of parental authority. Dt 21:15-21
Paul accepts these, Rom 1:32, 7:3

Explanation of Illustrations.

1. For Blasphemers
Called branks, or shames, iron masks were placed on the head of the blaspheming offenders, but they were heated before being fastened. The funnels at the orifices were for the convenience of introducing melted lead, boiling oil, or sharpened instruments through the brank. Often there were also inner sharp, iron spikes which were forced into the heretics’ mouths, or shoved through the apertures. From 1500 to about 1800 the branks were most often used against women who were labeled “scolds.” In the latter instance, the principle underlying the use of the branks was mulier taceat in ecclesia (Let the woman be silent in church.) This, of course, was finally reduced to the idea of “Let the woman be silent in the presence of the male.” George E. Macdonald Thumbscrew and Rack(Austin, 1983).

2. The Spider
This instrument, a cluster of steel hooks pointed like needles, was designed to be spread over the breast of the woman. The central ring is then pulled, drawing the points together and tearing the flesh away from the breast. The reproductive organs of both male and female were the first objects of torture.

Women’s breasts were torn off with the spider rather than cut off cleanly with the sword, or knife. While men were, in the mercy of god, strangled or otherwise killed before being burnt at the stake or wheel, women were fried alive. The most bestial, pain-producing tortures were uniformly reserved for the female, usually after sodomising and raping.

3. The Water Test
Most (perhaps 85 percent) of the victims of death by torture were women.

It is estimated that during the period 1450-1800 between two and four million women were burnt at the stake. But there were other niceties of killing.

One of these was called the “water test.” In this, the victim was usually shackled hands and feet together as in the illustration. She was then thrown into a river. If she sank, and died (foreground) she was innocent. If the water rejected her, this was proof of her guilt. Alan C. Kors & Edward Peters Witchcraft in Europe, 1100-1700 (Philadelphia, 1972).

4. Witch’s Seat
For the female there were no supporting belts or pulleys to bring even temporary respite when the victim’s body was pulled up occasionally from the pyramid. Instead weights were attached to both arms and legs. The illustration is one of a “treatment” frequently inflicted on witches. Austrian archival sources, reprinted in Roland Villeneuve La Musee des supplices, (Paris, 1982).

5. The Water Ordeal
Note the priest taking down the forced confession.

Illustrations and notes obtained from”Unzipped – The Popes Bare All (a Frank Study of Sex and Corruption in the Vatican)” by Arthur Frederick Ide, American Atheist Press , 1987, Austin, Texas.

The Misery of Christianity – Joachim Kahl
Sex in History – Gordon Rattray Taylor

Dean R Dowling B.Sc. Retired Physics lecturer from the University of Ballarat