This is an introduction to a thread on the merger of Christianity to Paganism as it occurred in both ancient and modern times.
Being the resident "Catho-Witch" here, I sometimes find myself on both sides of the street, as it were. I can certainly relate and react with horror to some of the history, and yet, I do know as well there were good folks who were not Pagan and who helped those who were.
Interesting to me is that the Catholic Church, who had members perscecuted for, what..400 years I believe, and stoned to death, etc, then had those in authority during the time of the Inquisition, turn around and do the same thing. It boggles ones mind. The Germans did somewhat the same during WWII. Does it not all boil down to holding life sacred? And Tolerance? And remembering we are all Human?
Well, as a Catho-Witch you should fit right in! Christo-Paganism is very hard for some to accept, but it's certainly a venerable tradition. By the Burning Times, "pure" Paganism was rare. Instead, you tend to see "folk Paganism" -- an odd merger of Christian and Pagan beliefs. Historians often say that these people were "really" Christian; Pagans, that they were "really" Pagan. But I think they were what they were: people who reconciled two different religious systems. Quite nicely, I might add! I'm Pagan, but I think the Christo-Paganism of the Burning Times was a beautiful religion in its own right. I hope that as I get more bios up, the diversity of early Witches' beliefs will become more apparent.
And you're right, there are good folks on both sides of the religious fence. The Basque "Dream Epidemic", the largest Witch hunt of the Burning Times, was derailed by a handful of Christian clergy and a junior inquisitor. They squared off against the senior inquisitors of the Spanish Inquisition -- and won, saving hundreds of lives.
More sadly, there were Christians who died trying to save Witches. There's a bio I'm still researching, one I hope to have up in a month or two once I've located a couple sources. Basically a German mid-wife was accused of killing a Christian infant and using its body in one of her spells. The child's parents denied this. When the judge refused to drop the charges, the parents actually dug their child's body up to prove that it was still intact, that it had not been used in any spell. Not only did the judge refuse to accept this evidence, he retaliated against the parents by accusing the wife of Witchcraft, too. Her husband began frantically searching for some higher authority who could stop the judge. In the end he succeeded, but not before his wife, the mid-wife, and six other women were dead.
I have seen some interesting stuff on the Web, and a couple of book-titles, on something called "Culdean" Christianity. The way in which I heard it described made it sound very like a synthesis of old folk-pagan ways and the new religion. The name "Culdee" is supposed to have come from "Celi De" which is supposed to mean "Servant of God" (don't know what language.) It sounded pretty interesting, anyway, the way all of these folk were rubbing shoulders in tolerance, as it were.
Unfortunately, the organized Church - or rather, the political authorities behind it - apparently felt that this independent spirit was some sort of defiance of their authority, and so supposedly flattened the Culdees. I don't know how authentic these sources were, but these folk were supposed to have been the ones who did things like the Book of Kells and the Book of Lindisfarne and a couple of other similar artistic treasures. Sure was interesting, anyhow.
That's a good point, that the people who were persecuted, persecuted others in turn. I wonder if they did not think about the comparison of "martyrs" and those they tortured and put to death.
An excellent series on the Crusades was just re-broadcast on The History Channel, and it was the first time I'd heard that the "pilgrims" of the First Crusade roasted and cannibalized Pagan babies. Although I've been a student of the times and have read many books on the subject, that one fact was more personally devastating to me than all the combined violence of all the crusades. The same series reminded us that every crusade brought another wave of persecution against the European Jews.
Thought I'd throw that in, since it was the time between the early martyrs and the Inquisition. The 60,000 crusaders who ripped their way toward the Holy Land on that First Crusade, and the many who followed them over the years, certainly made their mark in the killings.
<<<<That's a good point, that the people who were persecuted, persecuted others in turn. I wonder if they did not think about the comparison of "martyrs" and those they tortured and put to death.>>>>
I don't think that is a particularly religious trait so much as it is a "human" one (although not a very "humane" one). We can see parallels in fraternity hell weeks where the incoming freshman are "tortured" and harassed/humiliated by the upperclassmen ... the same way the upperclassmen were tortured and harassed/humiliated by upperclassmen when they were freshmen. It's the "it's my turn now and boy am I going to give it to them good" way of thinking.
Recently, news programs have shown footage of the Marines "initiating" their new Marine Brothers. It was so barbaric and torturous that there is now an investigation going on to get all the facts and hopefully put a stop to the practice. (Although I have doubts that it will ever stop ... merely go "underground")
It's human nature (base human nature that is) to want to do unto others as you have had done unto you. If you're the last person to "have it done to you" then you have no one to vent on ... and somehow that makes you the scapegoat or the "omega" of the pecking order of society's "pack". There is always someone at the end of the chain and no one I know wants it to be them. Nobody wants to be thought of as the weakling.
I think it is this type of mentality that has perpetrated this "pass it along and get it off my back" behavior throughout mankind's history ... Unfortunately, it's still going on today. Until, people find a way of breaking the cycle it will always be a part of human history. Much like the chain of physical or sexual abuse and abusers. It is self perpetuating.
Sorry to make this comment so long after this thread has passed, but I REALLY wish I had been here then, it's a really great thread. One thing I have read a couple of times, and oh how I do so hope it's true, and really I believe it was, was that during WWII the then-Cardinal who became Pope John XXIII smuggled a shipload of Jewish children out of Axis-occupied territory, claiming that they were Catholic war-orphans and the Church must take care of its own, etc. Then he had them shipped to a place of safety (I believe it was this country, but I read this many years ago) and *turned them over to the local Jewish community authorities*, because the children were indeed for the most part war-orphans. Some of them were sent to live with relatives who had successfully escaped; others had no one left and were put up for adoption within the Jewish community. That, in my book, is heroism.
Another similar incident was when Denmark was occupied and the German government demanded that all Jews must wear the Star of David. Well, no less a person than the then-King of Denmark himself also affected the Star, and recommended it to his subjects as a gesture of solidarity and caring toward their fellow Danes who had been marked for terrible religious persecution.
Gutsy, caring people! Some of the major tenets of most faiths, which a lot of 'em tend to forget sometimes, are love, compassion, and responsibility. Folk who put the spirit of the Law (we are all One Family) ahead of the precise and sometimes wrong rules written out of fear, ignorance, revenge, or any other such thing, are the most human of us all and should be lights on the way for the rest of us. I simply don't care WHAT religion such people follow: I'm cheering for them just as loud as I can anyhow!