What were the Burning Times?

The Burning Times is the name used by many modern Witches and pagans for the era of the Inquisition, and of the other witch hunts (including Salem) which sprang from it. During that time, many women and some men were persecuted for practices objectionable to the Church, especially witchcraft. The _Malleus Maleficarum_ was a guide on how to torture accused witches into confessing to whatever they were accused of. At the height of the persecutions, entire towns were left with only one or two women in them, and to this day no one knows for sure how many people were brutally murdered during this craze.

As is often the case, this horror sprang from fear and misinformation -- most of the people who were arrested, tortured and killed were not Witches (or witches) of any sort, but simply people who had gotten on the wrong side of someone who had the local magistrate's ear, or who somehow didn't fit in (particularly beautiful or ugly women, widows who had wealth or owned land, the handicapped and retarded, and even overly intelligent people are all examples of those who became primary targets of this persecution).

Although discrimination still exists against Witches and pagans, we now enjoy comparative freedom of religious practice after those dark times. But this time is considered a very important event by most Witches and pagans (comparable to the atrocities and devastation perpetrated during the Holocaust ), one that should never be forgotten, and many do active public education work to assure as best they can that it will never happen again.


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