Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Burning Times



"No more burning times," shouted the man on the stage. Dressed in a buckskin suit with a long braid running down his back, the man raised a militant fist. The pagans around me raised their fists and returned the chant.

"What burning times are we talking about?" I asked the person next to me.

"You know, in Europe."

As a person who considers himself well-schooled in history, I scratched my head. "The Inquisition?"

"It's called by many names. We were persecuted. My people have been persecuted for centuries."

"Your people?"

"The Wiccans. Witches. The Christians tried to exterminate us."

"Wicca hasn't exactly been a codified religion," I protested. "And the Inquisition wasn't just a religious event, it was also political. The church was using its power to solidify its control. They were burning anyone who got in their way."

"They were burning witches."

"And a bunch of other people. Besides, most of the people burned as witches weren't witches."

The person looked at me with a hurt expression. "I expected you to be more understanding about genocide. Look what the Germans did to your people. The Jews."

I didn't trust myself to respond.

Someone came by selling candies shaped as something called "The Green Man". The man on the stage had stepped aside for entertainment: a man with a bare torso who was spinning in circles while banging a tambourine and singing elongated vowels.

I nodded and bought myself a "Green Man."

18 comments:

Leigh Russell said...

How disappointing about the Horror Writers' Association. I agree, it's disrespectful when people don't even bother to reject you! They should let you know one way or the other. Your post is presumably intended to be a little unsettling... It seems every generation finds its excuses to conduct genocide against someone, it doesn't really matter who, as long as they're different - race, colour, religion, it seems any excuse will do. Thank you you very much for visiting my blog and commenting on the cover design. Let us know if you ever hear from the horribly rude Horror people. I'd like to be charitable and think your application was lost en route, but somehow, the old cynicism kicks in, doesn't it?

Mark Rainey said...

That's an intense little piece, Stewart. I likes it.

There's some snafu with the HWA application; it's not a matter of "rejection." I'll drop a couple of notes and see what I can find out.

--M

Stewart Sternberg said...

Thanks Mark, to be honest, I really want to become a member. Of course, it's bad enough I belong to the teachers' union. Funny thing is that I share emails with several members of the HWA.

Leigh, I am willing to give the HWA the benefit of a doubt. As for the Wiccans, what they really need is to put together a good softball league.

Vwriter said...

I can't believe you're picking on the Wiccans again and using only the pre-approved history of the establishment to make your case. As a natural religion, it isn't really surprising that they don't exhibit codified rituals or work from position statements when nature is their guiding spirit.

Also, as a religion where the sacred feminine is exalted, it is not much popular with establishment types who by and large are more oriented towards patriarchal religions or non at all. Hence, many of its practicioners feel that it is a target of derision for gender based reasons as well- paralleling those religions working hard to lift up the role of women in their religions but finding resistance from older men in power.

One of the difficulties with discussing Wicca, is, of course, that most of the history of the burning times was written by the patriarchal religious victors.

Separating religious goals within historical contexts is, as Marx pointed out, a tool of the capitalists in that in practical matters religious and political maneuverings are often one in the same in the re-enforcement of moneyed interests.

Vwriter said...

Also, many key members of the HWA are Wiccans, which may explain your current problems with the organization.

Vwriter said...

Next you'll be implying that Stongenge isn't an Intergalactic Bookstore.

spyscribbler said...

I don't doubt that many Wiccans or witches have been persecuted over the years. BUT, like you said, most of those burned or drowned or whatever were not witches. I suppose we can never know the exact statistics, really.

In general, though, some Wiccans are like many of the religions, in that they tweak and bend history to "prove" their beliefs.

Although I don't know many Wiccans or pagans personally, I know some exist who take a less biased view of history.

At least, I do. :-)

Kate S said...

Good Goddess.

Vwriter said...

Spyscribbler, I was really just kidding Stewart, but if we can't ever know what the actual numbers were, how can someone say that the majority of those burned weren't witches? By assuming that they weren't without a substantive evidentiary basis, aren't we really proving the Wiccans point?

Just curious. I live with Wiccans and Pagans who tolerate me only because I mow the lawn during the summer and shovel the walks during the winter.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I have other stories, Kate. And thank God or Goddess that no one is taking Vwriter seriously, debating him until harddrives fry. I'm not sure I could stand it.

I accept Pagans and Wiccans; I think people should worship as they please without persecution.

Vwriter said...

What'd I say?????

I was serious about the Intergalactic Bookstore part.

SQT said...

My mother-in-law decided she was going to be a Wiccan about two years ago. Between that and the tattoos it's been interesting.

I wish I was kidding.

Lana said...

I appreciate your comments about the Burning Times, as I've grown more than weary of the usual, Wiccan claptrap (aka; victim mentality.) Can you tell I doubt I'm a pagan anymore? <:\

Charles Gramlich said...

Pagans can be fun, but sometimes a little flighty. But then, can't we all.

Vwriter said...

Hey Stewart- You know, not to add fuel to the fire, but I showed this blog to the Wiccans and Pagans I live with since I thought it was a rather humorous light-hearted look at former radicals not taking natural religions seriously, and to my surprise the head Wiccan lady had only one comment, "Ridicule is not respect."

I disagreed with her and pointed out that in many circles, ridicule is the highest form of respect, showing that at a group is at least noticed enough to be made fun of.

So she tells me, "Isn't funny how people ridicule everyone else's religion in public print except their own?"

So I said, "You Wiccan folk are pretty sensitive arent' you? I mean common, nature related stuff is pretty well dead. Maybe that's why nobody takes you guys seriously. I mean, the Internet versus trees is a losing deal if we find another way to replenish oxygen electrochemically and build enough swings for the world's birds to sit on."

She answered me that Wiccans were getting more and more influence in society and I asked her for proof and she pointed to the growing number of Wiccan organizations in universities and the drive to integrate Wiccans into a voting block. So I asked her to reconsider and look at how long the hippie movement lasted.

She asked me to attend a Wiccan rally so I would know what I was talking about.

Although I've already attended several, I am going to do this again because the food is good and I like some of the music.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Rick, if you attend a Wiccan event, feel free to bring me along. I'll gladly help educated your pagan friends. And as for attacking religion, I answer: "So?"

As for their gaining political influence..it reminds me of a line from Monty Python where Roberta keeps trying to get the group to defend his right to have children, even though he has no womb, which is no fault of his own, or even of the impressive regime under which they toil. So as for Wiccan political influence, I'll defend that non-existent, hobbit loving delusion to their death.

I just get tired of Wiccans telling me they're following ancient ritual. They aren't. There are no ancient rituals written down that I am aware of. Maybe some stuff that a monk invented for propaganda purposes. And it's not like there was a European Wiccan community.
Most of the crap they quote is from someone named Silverwing Proudfoot or something and was written during the sixties. Where's that drum circle?

Vwriter said...

Cool. I'll find out the next big Wiccan event and we can drive over together. We can disguise ourselves as reporters, that way we won't be designated as Republican spies or used as bait in their ongoing investigations of crop circles. Both of us should decline free offers from the event organizers that have the word "goat" stenciled on the back.

Katherine said...

Hi, I stumbled across your blog trying to sort out where a songwriter got his figures from. I like the song but something just didn't sound quite right about the numbers in it.

I was raised by a pagan mother. Pagan, not Wiccan. I have tried several times to get involved with my local "pagan" community, small as it is, only to find people have no concept of history. I was raised that "ok, we have no way of knowing how people worshipped in ancient times, so what we're doing is what seems natural to us. A certain amount of formality seems appropriate when speaking to a higher being, but nobody here can say you have to do it a certain way or which gods/goddesses you even have to follow." Top that off with "we can learn from everyone's commandments and laws, because they are things designed to keep a community of faith together" and you've got a recipe for someone who will never fit in with most neo-pagan groups of any flavour. I know there are more people like me, pagan moderates or whatever you would like to call them, but perhaps we're afraid to come out because then we'll be not only ridiculed and harassed by non-pagans, but by the Wiccan/pagan community as well. "The Burning Times" seem to be to some pagans what the purported lion-feedings at the coliseum are to some Christians, so bringing logic into may never get you far.