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The Rise of the Burning Times

Why Magick For Yourself Seems Bad

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I've often wondered where this funny idea has come from that if you do magick for your own benefit, there's something wrong with that.

I suspect it comes from the Burning Times, the time of the Witch Trials and tortures, when a hysteria of Witches was whipped into a wild froth. The fires of fear were stoked until people turned on their neighbours, friends, and even sometimes family!

But where did that fear originally come from??

Let’s pause for a little digression from this series, Is Magick Selfish?, to explore the origins of this fear of Witches that led to the infamy of the Burning Times.

The Burning Times: A Massive Victory For Propaganda

Part of it was of course the result of a very-effective propaganda smear campaign, as Christian patriarchy attempted a final and full dominance in Western society.

Women with magickal abilities were a direct affront — on many levels! — to the Christian religion which had risen from its own earlier “Christian hunts” to become the ruling religion of the West.

Women of power, just by existing, were a threat to patriarchy itself.

Women healers were also very persistent competition for the newly emerging Western medical doctors (all male). If it was anything like today, the Witches probably gave better results in most cases, and that doesn't sit well with the medical establishment. 😉

All 3 power structures had much to gain by discrediting Witches and removing them from their world. (Not to mention the property confiscated from Witches was a source of increased wealth.)

The Burning Times graphic  ©
So the propaganda went out in gossip, stories, bulletins, and the other media of the day — Witches are a threat to all decent, hard-working folk! They have wild, uninhibited sex with the Devil (probably stirring up secret jealousies)! They are causing illness, suffering, and death! They are selfish and self-serving, at the expense of society! They will cause wrack and ruin! They will bring about the end of civilization itself!

And when enough of the population had been whipped into a frenzy of fear... the Burning Times began.

One more in a continuing series of an unfortunately common scenario:

  1. First accusations
  2. Then dehumanizing (they're not like us: we’re good & right & true; they're wrong/stupid/bad/evil)
  3. Then restriction of rights and freedoms

  4. Then segregation
  5. Then genocide 😭

Enlisting The People In The War Against Witches

But why did the populace go along with it? That’s the big question!


You're living in a small village. You've probably known everyone there since the birth of their parents. You know some people have better skills than others: there’s one guy you always go to for help with the thatching, and one woman whose cheese is to die for, and the Wise Woman who has treated your aches and your cow’s injuries and your children’s fevers.

All of a sudden, she’s the person you have to fear? She’s drying up your cows? She’s gonna kill your children??

It’s hard to imagine how that twist in reality could take seed in people’s minds! But it did.

And the fuse was lit for the torture pyres of the Burning Times.

Evolution of Anti-Witch Bigotry

Frankly, i don’t know how they managed to convince everyone that white was black. It’s a stunning coup of disinformation, especially considering the limited media of the times.

Maybe it was just when they started to torture and kill women en masse that people started to pretend to go along with it... and then the pretense turned real over time, over generations. Much like the Christians threatened those who worshipped the Goddess, until the Goddess-worshippers turned to Mary... seeing in Her the same Goddess that they loved. And over time, that worship of the Christian “goddess” become their true religion.

With each generation that was raised with the Burning Times, either the fear of Witches or the terror of being named a Witch to the Inquisitors created a lasting belief that “Witch” was a very bad thing to be.

The Fear Fueling the Burning Times

Here’s something you can still see today, though: People are afraid of Witches not only because of the propaganda of centuries, but because these powers are unknown to them.

Because they believe Witches have strange powers that they can’t have (no matter how false that belief is), they feel threatened. Paranoid types fear that Witches will want to harm them.

Even if they don’t believe that, they may feel that people with magick have an unfair advantage over ordinary muggles. That may not even be conscious, but there’s this underlying feeling of unfairness. And all the ape family, it seems, hates unfairness.

Of course, the unknown — even the uncertain — is a source of fear for the human animal. And fear turns so easily into blame, rage, “othering”, domination, and violence.

I fervently hope we’re growing out of that!

As human consciousness — and the consciousness of Gaia — rises, we should see more people refusing to project their fears onto others, blame, accuse, control, shun, and ultimately kill those who live by different beliefs.

We can pray we never see another such genocide. Knowing the danger signs of the past, we can pray we are wise enough to recognise the early warnings and not fall victim to such fear and “othering” ourselves.

Here’s to that future! May it come on supersonic wings! 😄

With Brightest Blessings,

erin Dragonsong

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