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Was the Orthodox Church ever involved in witch trials?


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#21 Kosta

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 12:20 AM

As far as I know only the British did this. We really need to identify the nationality and the customs they were raised with. It certainly was not the Italians or greeks or spaniards or cypriots.

#22 Daniela S.

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 01:00 AM

Dear Andreas,
I have realized that your very first response was directly addressing my question. I thank you and I apologise.

#23 Anton S.

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 11:46 AM

According to a great body of historical evidence, magic has been practice in every culture and in every country in the world. And everywhere it has been used on purpose to cause harm. How efficient it has been, is a moot point. (As far as I understand, Church fathers do teach us that witches, wisards, etc. can really establish contact with demons and, thus, can cause harm, although only if God removes His protection from the victim.) Whether witches' powers have been real or imaginary, people have feared them and sometimes killed them out of this fear. This is still quite a common occurence in many African countries where pagan traditions are very much alive (and lots of people get killed by wisards who use their victims' body parts in their gruesome rituals).

 

Thus, persecution of presumed witches has never been limited to Christian societies. It has happend in pagan ones too. Moreover, in Christian societies murder or torture of presumed witches was often done on the initiative of lay people, often uneducated ones, and not on the initiative of the clergy. Traditionally, Orthodox clergy has tended to consider that a witch or a wisard causes much more harm to himself or herself by communicating with the devil than to anyone else, and had more pity than fear of such people, while spiritually ignorant lay persons were much more fearful and, therefore, aggressive. Witchcraft was often punished in Orthodox countries, but often not with death but lighter punishments. Sometimes priests restrained peasants who were going to lynch a presumed witch.

 

However, the Orthodox world has never experienced such an overwheming, exaggerated fear of witches and witchcraft, as did the Catholic and Protestant worlds in the 14th-17th centuries. It seemed that Western Christians came to fear the devil much more than they feared God in that period. And they tried to combat the devil not by fasting and prayer but by material means - i.e. by killing his human servants.

 

I believe that it is quite logical that this obsession with the devil and black magic appeared at the time of Renaissance and reached its highest point during Reformation. Renaissance was very much a revival of a pagan world view, and pagans all over the world have always lived in fear of evil spirits and their false gods, and, of course, of magic. Reformation further weakened Christian faith by rejecting or putting into doubt a number of important Roman dogmas, and by undermining the authority of the Church hierarchy. It also ushered in an epoch of ruthless religious wars, destabilising not only spiritual but also worldly life, making people feel unsafe and unsure of anything. Superstitious fears thrive in such an atmosphere.

 

The Enlightenment, with its cult of reason and rejection of almost anything supernatural, put an end to the witch hunt. However, the cult of reason was unable to stifle human striving towards things spiritual, including in its perverted forms. It further weakened the authority of Christian churches, thus making various occult teachings and practices more attractive. Nowadays, we live in a period of advanced deChristianisation and utmost materialism. However, faith in infallibility of human reason is also declining, and people get progressively more attracted to occultism and other forms of unhealthy mysticism with its promise of material advantages (health, wealth, and suchlike) to be achieved by 'spiritual means', as well revelation of tantalising esoteric mysteries. It is no wonder, that more and more people are now turning to witchcraft and other sorts of magic, carefully read horoscopes, consult fortune-tellers, etc.

 

I tend to think that we are on the threshold of a very dark age.



#24 Kosta

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 12:18 PM

Believe me its no coincidence that this happened at the time when the west severed itself from the Body of Christ during the council of Florence. Once the Grace of God finally vanished the Pandoras box was opened



#25 Olga

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 11:57 PM

Believe me its no coincidence that this happened at the time when the west severed itself from the Body of Christ during the council of Florence. Once the Grace of God finally vanished the Pandoras box was opened

 

I'm sure that dabbling in fortune telling, magic and the like existed even during Chrysostom's day. The saint certainly said this about the youth of his time: You are a hopeless lot. You know the names of all the charioteers but not even the names of the evangelists.

 

There really is nothing new under the sun.



#26 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 10:08 AM

I'm sure that dabbling in fortune telling, magic and the like existed even during Chrysostom's day. The saint certainly said this about the youth of his time: You are a hopeless lot. You know the names of all the charioteers but not even the names of the evangelists.

 

There really is nothing new under the sun.

 

Indeed. In Russia, there is and always has been a widespread and strong current of superstition. Even today educated Muscovites who are churchgoers (sometimes) will turn to some 'wise woman' as easily as or more readily than to a priest. Many people believe that misfortune may well be caused by someone putting the evil eye on them. I have encountered gross superstition among many 'babushki' in the churches in Russia.



#27 Kosta

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Posted 16 January 2014 - 05:02 AM

What does that have to do with witch hunts, inquisitions, the 30 years war, rise of protestantism, sensualistic art which evolved into todays pornography, (un)enlightenment, feminism, freemasonry, etc.

#28 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 16 January 2014 - 09:44 AM

Whilst the Orthodox Church seems not to have been involved in witch trials (the question raised by the thread), I, and, I think, Olga, were responding to post #24. My point, which was an extension of Olga's post, was that, whilst witch trials did not take place in the East, it was full of the same underlying superstition as led in the West to witch trials. Superstition persists among Orthodox people in the East far more than in the West, and all the evils from Pandora's box were well out and to be found everywhere at all times and not just in the West after Florence.



#29 Kosta

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 02:48 AM

So Andreas are you saying the schism had no spiritual effects for the worse, only good ones? That schisming has absolutely no effects whatsoever but is a vehicle towards improvement?

So I guess the schism begot the renaisance , the enlightenment, and the industrial revolution, freedom of church from state and many other improvements but absolutely no spuritual effects that are for the worse.

#30 Olga

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 04:11 AM

So Andreas are you saying the schism had no spiritual effects for the worse, only good ones? That schisming has absolutely no effects whatsoever but is a vehicle towards improvement?

So I guess the schism begot the renaisance , the enlightenment, and the industrial revolution, freedom of church from state and many other improvements but absolutely no spuritual effects that are for the worse.

 

Andreas can answer for himself, of course, but it seems to me that you are putting words in his mouth that he simply didn't say.



#31 Kosta

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 04:34 AM

No one argued that there werent superstitions, but only after the schism it became a problem. Why were they tolerated as superstition before the schism but not after. Why did it happen right when the renaissance art emphasized the carnal and why was britain ground zero for this?

#32 Olga

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 05:09 AM

Again, you're putting words in people's mouths. Several people here have pointed out that superstitions existed throughout the existence of the Church, and her continual condemnation of magic, witchcraft and the like. The Church has neither accepted nor condoned such things. Yet, certain people, in their pride and vanity (and sometimes honest ignorance), continue to pursue such things, much like the continued painting of God the Father as an old man in icons. Council after council has condemned such portrayals, but it still happens.



#33 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 07:23 AM

A little delving into the history of trials of witches (and we might recall Exodus 22:18) reveals that witches were tried in antiquity and in the centuries between then and the renaissance. It is incorrect to say that witches were tolerated before the schism: those found guilty were scourged, fined and excommunicated; Charlemagne's rule saw witches imprisoned and tortured. England was by no means the main place of such trials: far more took place in Germany, France and Austria. In the middle ages, trials were as much about heresy as about the casting of spells, and outbreaks of hysteria against witches generally followed the lead of some particular leader as in the case of Pope Innocent VIII.



#34 Anton S.

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 06:53 AM

I would like again to stress that, while witchcraft and superstition, have existed everywhere, the massive witch hunt in Catholic and Protestant Europe during Renaissance and Reformation was something out of the ordinary (although a bit exaggerated by atheist historians) and that the reason behind it was that Europeans at that time come to fear the devil too much, apparently more than they feared God. I may be wrong, but I tend to think that it was caused by weakening of Christian faith and revival of pagan culture during Renaissance.

 

It might also have something to do with the Catholic church's striving for temporal power, on her reliance on material means to reach spiritual goals, briefly on her wordliness. The juridical spirit of Roman theology logically led to the establishment of the Inquisition and witch trials. We see the same worldly,  materialistic spirit in modern Catholicism - for example, in liberation theology with its utopian dream of building a perfect society by means of social and economic reforms. The spirit of Protestantism is even more worldly, so it was perfectly logical for Calvin to fight withcraft by material means.

 

By the way, the Inquisition may have played some positive role by formalising and thus limiting persecution of supposed witches. Massive unorganised persecutions might have been more large-scale and murderous.

 

In the Orthodox Church, to the best of my knowledge, the fear of witches has never reached such a hysterical intensity, for Orthodox theologians while recognising the power of the devil always stressed that God's power is infinitely greater. Although, the more ignorant people in Orthodox countries did sometimes kill people suspected of witchcraft.



#35 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 January 2014 - 09:03 AM

I think the question raised has been answered and I would respectfully suggest that unsupported opinions concerning what may or may not have been behind the attitude to witches in the Roman Catholic and Protestant countries of western Europe many centuries ago are outside the scope of this forum.






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