This week a new article on WitchVox by Zan Fraser takes aim at my article called The Burning of Margaret Murray. My article took on the various theories that Murray came up with about the Burning Times, the figure of 9 million women killed, the idea of the Women's Holocaust, the supposed witch cults, covens of 13, the ancient Wiccans, and more. The findings in my article said that, while Murray and her contemporaries had some basis for what she said, the data was wholly misinterpreted and blown out of proportion.
The fascinating thing about this article is that while Fraser doesn't seem to disagree with my information, Zan seems to disagree with me calling the modern notion of the Burning Times - and all the cockamamy ideas accompanying it - is false.
I said that Murray was not the first person to talk about the witch hunts of Europe and the Americas, but I did say that she took the information that was there, skimmed it, and then made up her own thing. Fraser argues against this by saying that Murray wasn't the first to talk about the Burning Times, which I didn't disagree with. But, merely talking about the veracity of witch trials doesn't mean the modern interpretation and idea of the Burning Times is accurate.
Another major point that Fraser takes on is the number and gender of people persecuted and killed for being a witch. While he concedes that 9 million is overblown by a factor of 90, Zan states that the amount should really be 100,000 dead and 200,000 jailed for being a witch. My highest estimation comes from Levack, who said that despite the recorded numbers, possibly 60,000 were killed. Fraser gets this number, and all of his facts about the amount of witches and such from one book by Anne Llewellyn Barstow. Barstow's book is an extremely sympathetic retelling of the Burning Times, never doubting for a second those that were killed were, indeed, witches and that those women were outspoken heroines.
Not to take a thing away from those that were killed, but they weren't all witches. Records tell us that very few of them probably were. In reality, desire for land, wealth, political power, etc. were the reasons behind many of the killings. Calling someone a witch was a nice neat way of relegating someone to the gallows without the messy task of proving their guilt of a physical crime.
Barstow also discounts the trials of Finland, Estonia, and Iceland as not being true witch hunts. Thus discounting the vast amounts of men who were put on trial and killed for witchcraft. Without these number, witch hunts look a lot more like a Women's Holocaust, but the problem is that you can't just wipe away numbers of dead folks. Around 25% of those killed in these trials were men. 1/4th of all killed being a different gender does not a gendered holocaust make.
Fraser's article is a good one, and makes the point that I made at the end of my article: you can still believe in the Burning Times. However, my article went one step further and said that to do so, you need to recognize you're doing it out of faith. Facts don't support the Burning Times hypothesis. And, the problem with accepting part of the Burning Times hypothesis, is that you sort of have to accept the other parts, right? You can't really believe that so large a number of women were killed without a good reason, and the best reason is the church's persecution of lesser pagan religions. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Fraser ends his article with 3 points:
- The Burning Times 'phenomenon' goes beyond Murray. I agree recordings came before; I disagree that the overblown nature of Murrayite theories are accurate.
- Barstow's numbers are correct. Umm... Nobody has an accurate number. Nobody. Barstow's 100,000 dead might even be true. It's the highest estimate I've ever heard, but who knows?
- It was indeed a female holocaust. I've covered this point already. The answer is no.
I challenge you. What is YOUR opinion about the Burning Times? Leave a comment, send an email to IncitingARiotPodcast@gmail.com, or tweet me @IncitingARiot! I'd love to hear from YOU!
Love and Lyte,
PS. Could you spare a quick vote over at Podcast Alley? I'd be oh so grateful!