Secrets of a witch-hunt

November 27, 2011 7:36

Secrets of a witch-hunt

Medieval witch processes — processes of witches — and today continue to confuse the minds of scientists and those interested in history. Hundreds of thousands were accused of witchcraft and communication with the devil were then sent to the stake. What has caused such crazy flash of fear of evil spirits, witchcraft that swept Western Europe in the XV-XVII centuries? They are unclear to this day. Science is almost always sees a medieval witch hunt as something secondary, completely independent of external circumstances — the state of society and the church.

The proposed article also attempts to explain the phenomenon of the witch hunt, based on individual facts, seemingly insignificant and not merited the attention of researchers. Much in the published article may seem surprising. I hasten to assure: manifesting their conclusions, I do not aspire to the sensation, but firmly believe that the facts and analysis deserve attention and further study.

For most historians (domestic and foreign) witch hunt — a phenomenon even terrifying, but it corresponds to the general formation of superstitious, dark Middle Ages. This point of view is very popular today. Yet it is easily refuted by history. Most witches burned at the stake of the Inquisition was not in the initial period of the Middle Ages. Persecution of witches was gaining ground in Europe, along with the development of humanism and the scientific world, that is, in the Renaissance.

Soviet historiography has always considered a witch hunt as a manifestation of expanding sheysya in XVI-XVII centuries of feudal-Catholic reaction. True, it does not take into account the fact that the servants of the devil vengeance burned in Protestant countries: victim could be anyone, regardless of social status and religious views. Not escaped this view and the most popular now social theory: a witch hunt — a very bright exponent vnutriobschestvennyh aggravation of relations, the desire to find a "scapegoat", which can be blamed for all the problems and difficulties of life.

Of course, the witch hunt, like any other historical phenomenon can not be studied in the abstract, apart from the general historical canvas. With this debate is not necessary. However, when this approach is prevalent, are entitled to ask the question: Does not lost for the general conclusions of the phenomenon, with its inherent features? Facts and evidence sources often only illustrate t painted a picture researcher. Although it is the study of facts, they are the primary components in any historical research.

None of the authors, telling about the witch hunt, turned his attention to all stages of the process of witch: arrest witches, investigate crimes, sentencing and punishment. Perhaps the most attention is paid to various tortures, brings almost total acceptance in all the most infamous and heinous allegations.

But pay attention to the much less known procedure that preceded the torture and in fact served as the main proof of guilt. This is the search for the body of the witch or sorcerer so-called "print the devil." She searched, first simply examining body of the suspect, and then dealing with a special needle pricks. The judge and the executioner tried to find a place on the accused, which differ from the rest of the skin surface: whitish spots, sores, small caps, have generally decreased pain sensitivity so that they did not feel the needle prick.

But that said on the matter prerevolutionary Russian historian S. Tuholka in the "process of witchcraft in Western Europe in the 15-17 centuries": "Even before the witch torture subjected to a search technique stigmata devil. To do this, the patient was blindfolded and stabbed in the body long needles. " Says the same and I. Kantorovich in the work "medieval witch processes", published in 1889: "If anyone on the body turned out to be an ulcer or some trace the origin of which was unknown, they attributed the devil. So first of all applied to the test needle. Often such insensitive place really is on the body. " The fact that the presence of a "witch print" was considered an absolute indication of guilt, and informed the Soviet researcher I. Grigulevich. True, cited such facts only to show the superstition and obscurantism that exist in both the medieval world in general and priests in particular.

However, the ratio of direct participants in the events, especially the demonology of witch marks on the body was extremely serious. One of the first to say in his writings on the diabolical mark, — theologian Lambert is given: "There is no witch, to which the devil would not bet a certain mark or sign of his power." This view was shared almost vce theologians and demonology. For example, Peter Osterman's treatise, published in 1629, argued: "It is not brought to justice the man who, with the stigma would lead perfect lives, and none of those convicted of witchcraft had been convicted without the stigma." The same view is taken in the crown Demonologist — James I Stuart. This tireless fighter against witches in his treatise "Demonology" declared: "No one is Satan, and not called to worship before him, not being marked by its sign. Stamp — this is the highest proof, much more certain than the prosecution or even recognition. "

At the very existence of the human body of any spots or marks is not strange and wonderful. But if we recognize that the stories of witches' marks are the real implications, we must ask the question: what were these markings?

There are two main types of mysterious characters — the devil and witch spot sign. The latter is a kind of bump or outgrowth of the human body and, in the opinion of demonology, witchcraft was used for feeding various spirits with his own blood. Stamp of the devil possible compared with a birthmark.

Researcher N. Przybyszewski in the "Synagogue of Satan" gives a fairly detailed description of the characters: "The surface of the body marked by obsessive and outside special signs. These are small, no more than a pea, place skin numbness, bloodless and lifeless. They sometimes form a red or black spots, but rarely. As rare are marked deepening of the skin. For the most part they are not visible from the outside and on the genitals. Often they are in the eye ages, back, chest, and sometimes, but rarely, they change. "

Italian Demonologist Sinistrari M. said: "This mark is not always the same shape or contour, sometimes it looks like a rabbit, sometimes on foot, a toad, a spider, a puppy, Sonia. She put … men under the eyelids or under the arms, or on the lips, or on the shoulders, in the anus or elsewhere. Women usually on the chest or in the intimate area. "

Still, the main ground on which the Middle Ages distinguished devilish spot — his insensitivity to pain. Therefore, when viewed from a potential witch suspicious spots carefully pierced with a needle. And if the injection is not followed by a reaction, the prosecution is deemed proven. (Another significant feature of the "devil's marks": the pricking these places are not only felt no pain, but did not bleed.)

Turn away from the fantastic details, like a flaming rage devil, branding his own hand (or other limb) of its adherents, and acknowledge that there is in the human body for any specific markings. But in fact the description of "witches 'sign' is very similar to a skin disease.

Indeed, why not assume that the vast majority of people accused of witchcraft, was common to all disease? Only one disease fits all of the above symptoms. This leprosy or leprosy — and today is one of the most dreaded diseases, and in the Middle Ages — the scourge of God.

Here is what this disease medical encyclopedia, published in 1979: "It starts usually unnoticed, sometimes with general malaise and fever. Then the skin appear whitish or red patches in these areas the skin is not sensitive to heat and cold, touch, and does not feel the pain. " Is not it true picture of the disease is very similar demonological treatises?

In the information gleaned from the medical literature, it is possible to find an explanation, and the phenomenon of witch's teat. With further development of the disease is beginning to thicken the skin, ulcers are formed, the nodes that are really their shape may resemble the nipple. We give one more quote: "Sometimes not changing skin appear limited lepromatous infiltrate in the dermis (bumps) or in the hypodermis (nodes) that can be collected in a more or less powerful conglomerates. Oily skin under them, may be different scaling, the sensitivity of normal at first, later frustrated and reduced to varying degrees. " Location coincides even "evil characters" and lepromatous spots on the body.

Finally, another argument, we can identify leprosy and "devilish marks": in the modern medical data, "in violation of the sensitivity of skin lesions was observed only in leprosy, and for any other skin diseases."

So, It is safe to say that almost all the wizards and witches condemned to death, were in some stage struck with leprosy. Suggests itself, and the following conclusion: the basis of the persecution of the witches of medieval society lay a desire to protect themselves from a terrible disease, which is spread in the XV-XVII centuries, reaching its peak. Eliminating leprosy (a measure, no doubt, cruel), Europe at the end of the seventeenth century, to some extent cope with an epidemic of leprosy.

They believed if the judges themselves in what is sent to the stake is the Devil's spawn, not the sick and marginalized people? This question has not totally confident answer. However, it is likely that people in the Middle Ages is well known symptoms of leprosy, and, at least, the privileged, educated stratum of state and church leaders realize that fighting is not the servants of Satan, and a communicable disease. After accidental huge role in the process belonged to witch doctors. By the remark of one of the modern researchers, doctors "took a lively part in the professional witch trials. They are responsible for diagnosing diseases caused "by magic", and medical torture. Often chooses to their unhappy fate of witches. "

Yet, seeing in the hunt for witches only a quarantine measure, and judges and executioners — fighters with a dangerous illness, we too are modernizing phenomenon more than five centuries ago. Leprosy at that time could be considered, and probably seen as a sign of the devil's possession by force, and that is why the carriers of the disease declared relentless war of extermination. This aspect deserves careful study.

Yet there is good reason to believe that the witch hunt was objectively anti-leprosy.

But for a start address to the procedure of identification of witches existed in the nation. It is known that the fear of the evil eye and spoilage inherent to mankind since ancient times, is still alive today. What can be said about the time of the early Middle Ages? Mob lynching were often held over man, in which she saw the sorcerer. But to punish a witch or wizard, they must first be identified.

Which only means, born in the depths of a superstitious mind, it does not apply! Witch learned to fly a knife with a cross thrown through it. And in order to identify all the witches in his parish, the church should take an Easter egg. True, with a curious risk: if the witch has time to pull and crush the egg, he was to break his heart. Brought to the church smeared fat baby shoes threatened to immobilize a witch. But, perhaps, the most common test the water remained. Tied to the right hand of the witch left leg, and his left hand to his right leg, a witch cast into the nearest body of water. If it starts to sink, so innocent, if the water is not taken the sinner, then there was no doubt: just serve Satan. It was widely believed that the witch is different from other people less weight: not for nothing that she flies through the air. So often accused of witchcraft had weighting.

Each of these methods could be applied in the same place in Europe and in the rest remain unknown. But since the end of the fifteenth century to replace the spontaneous popular executions of witches comes clear system to combat them, which is the active participation of church and state. Witches used to identify procedure alone — pricking needle. Hitherto known test applies throughout Europe, from Sweden to Spain. And the procedure is the same everywhere. Is this fact alone is not suspicious?

An indirect proof of my version of the character is a witch and processes (not for nothing in the literature devoted to them, they are called epidemics). It is not that witches pursued regularly and uniformly throughout Western Europe. Rather, we can talk about local and time-limited outbreak of a witch hunt. In one town in full blazing fires, and in others of witches if no one heard — not because if that bitter struggle with witches deployed in areas most affected by leprosy, and ended in the destruction of threatening lepers.

If we assume that the medieval witches fighters knew what they actually fight, then calculate their logical desire as carefully as possible to isolate from society accused of witchcraft. Many authors (for example, J. and N. Kantorovich Speranski) mention that the witches were kept in special, separate prisons. Demonology is in their instructions warn of the dangers of close contact with the witches, and the judges recommended for questioning avoid touching witches. While theologians and believed that fighting the witch has the blessing of the church, and therefore impervious to their charms, practice often suggest otherwise. In the literature, there are cases when accused of witchcraft executioner and the judge who conducted the process. This is not surprising: they have had ample opportunity to become infected.

Of course, the greatest risk of infection threatened primarily relatives. They were the first to notice signs of a terrible disease, and then the fear for his life took precedence over the love of one's neighbor. Not without reason relatives often (so they say Kieu historical documents) become donositelyami. However, even such a move did not take them suspected witch commitment infection. Therefore, if at least one member of the family was executed on charges of witchcraft, then the rest of life lay suspicion. Otherwise it can not be: the incubation period of leprosy may be several years, and therefore, anyone who came into contact with an infected person, precarious. Often executed for hedging the whole family at once.

Has always been the greatest horror and was seen as a wild fanaticism punishment of children accused of witchcraft. In the XV-XVII centuries were building on fire, even two years. Perhaps the most shocking example is the city of Bamberg, where both were burnt 22 girls from 9 to 13 years. As already mentioned, the belief in witchcraft is widespread throughout the humankind, but mass witchcraft children differ only Western Europe XV-XVII centuries. Fact in favor of the stated hypothesis: leprosy does not discriminate age, and each infected, adult or child, is dangerous.

Sometimes, very rarely, with the accused of witchcraft were shooting charges. But after his release, he remained, in fact, rejected, subjected to strict quarantine: forbade him to enter the church and were taken to a special place, even in his own house he lived in isolation. Quite reasonable regulations for possible risk of infection.

Another evidence to support the hypothesis — the stereotypical image of a witch, to create a national consciousness. Ascended to the fire people, regardless of sex, age, social polozheniya anyone could be accused of witchcraft. But the description of a typical witches were the most stable. British historian Robert Hart in "The History of Witchcraft" is a testimony of his contemporaries about how, in their view, of a typical witch. Here is one of them: "They are the curves and humped, their faces etched permanently melancholy terrify everyone around you. Their skin is covered with some spots. Old, tattered life hag, she walks bent arc hollow-eyed, toothless, wrinkled, with pits and wrinkled face. Members of her constantly shaking. "

In the medical literature describe exactly leprosy patients in the late stages of the disease. In addition, according to Medical Encyclopedia, "in advanced cases fall eyebrows, earlobes increase, expression varies greatly, eyesight weakens to complete blindness, the voice becomes hoarse." The typical witch tale speaks hoarsely, and has a long, sharp nose, prominent on the face. This is also a chance. In leprosy "very often affects the mucous membranes of the nose, leading to perforation and deformation. Often develop chronic pharyngitis, laryngeal lesion leads to hoarseness. "

Of course, I can easily be accused of that hypothesis does not find direct evidence in historical sources. Indeed, there and hardly ever appear the documents that would be directly talking about a witch hunt against the lepers. Yet the circumstantial evidence of this can be found. Take, for example, to the most famous treatise demonological — "Hammer of Witches."

Pious inquisitors Sprenger and Institoris ask it a question: can the witches Corrupts the people a variety of diseases, including leprosy. Arguing first that "there is a certain difficulty, read or thought possible naslanie witches leprosy and epilepsy. Because these diseases usually occur because of failure of internal organs, "the authors" Hammer "However, reports:" We found that these diseases are sometimes sends and witchcrafts. " A final conclusion is: "There is no disease that could didst send a witch on a man with God's permission. They can didst send even leprosy and epilepsy, which is confirmed by scientists. "

There are instances when even talk about demonology witchcraft as a contagious disease. Italian theologian Guazzo in his book «Compendium malefikarum» notes that "witch infection can often be transmitted to children by their sinful parents. Every day we find examples of the corruption of this contagion children. "

The great interest in the study of the processes causing witch works antidemonologov, people who in the period of general fear of witches dared to say a word in their defense. One of those rare individuals were physician Johann Weyer, who expressed his view on the issue of witchcraft in the book "On the antics of the demons." In it, he takes issue with certain demonology and tries to refute their views. What were the last? Oddly enough, one of them, Karptsov, believed that "by witches and lamiyam not benefit if their as soon as possible put to death." Weir believes that "the argument Karptsova great argument that can justify the murder, what if one of us would deny human life worthless, born only to eat the fruit of the affected Gallic disease, and would explain his conduct so that the best for him it would die quickly? "

Very interesting comment, especially when you consider that the Gallic disease called leprosy all the same. This lets you see the words Karptsova pleading to themselves and society, to assure everyone that the extermination of witches, lepers do a mission of mercy.


To sum up. Despite the apparent lack of historical records, we can still say that the hypothesis is put forward evidence. The main thing in it — the presence of the bodies of all the witches 'evil seals', which I identify with leprosy lesions. A natural question arises: was whether previous investigators witch processes different interpretation of "printing the devil"? Ironically, these markings on the body caused great interest of researchers. Find the witch 'evil characters "they only serve as an example to illustrate the absurdity of the medieval clergy and the authorities regarded as the" satanic press "ordinary lipomas, sores and the like.

The fact that witches are often not felt the pain of injections, tried to explain the disease and nervous exaltation caused by fear — the witch fell into a certain state of trance, similar to that observed in the session the hypnotist. Well, it's possible. But then become unresponsive or the whole body, or a substantial part of it. As previously cited facts about the "devil's brand" — a small, strictly limited area of skin. "If such a place with a needle prick, the blood does not go, and does not feel pain, which, however, is felt by all parts of the body," — writes in his paper of Pshibytaevsky. Unfortunately, any domestic or foreign historiography there is no attempt to look at the identity of the witch persecutions of the processes and the lepers. Perhaps only the French explorer Jean Le Goff in "medieval Western Civilization" considering options category lepers and witches. And those and others he considered a sort of "scapegoats" in which society places the responsibility for all the problems and sins. According to the scientist, "medieval society needs these people, their suppressed because they are dangerous, felt almost mystical conscious desire to transfer to them the evils from which the company has sought to rid himself." However, citing the persecution of witches, and the lepers by the same reasons, the categories themselves Le Goff in no way combine.

This fact speaks more in favor of my hypothesis. If the source was known about the simultaneous persecution of lepers and the witch trials in Europe or elsewhere, then they would have to admit two completely different phenomena. But they do not coincide spatially or chronologically, and then the version that the witch processes — a cover for the control of leprosy, must not seem so very strange.

Source: Science and Life

D. Zanki, historian (Volkhov Novgorod region.).

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