Series 'Forbidden Knowledge'
Having traced through time the changes uncovered in Volumes 1 and 2, we arrive at the age in which Christianity began to spread. Volume 3 commences with the development of the Christian notion of the devil, then proceeds to construct the standard image of the witch from an analysis of three copper etchings by the artists Dürer, Parmigianino, and Goya, respectively. The skills and abilities of the accused are examined through the lens of the Malleus Maleficarum, additionally interesting for what it reveals about how 15th-century Europe viewed women in general. The discussion broaches the issues of infanticide, the consumption of new-borns, murder, healing, infertility, flight, fortune-telling, and the power to influence people and the weather. It furthermore defines such concepts as the “evil eye” and the nightmare and examines the identity of the individuals accusers at trial claimed witches had transformed or made vanish.
The power, abilities, and even spells appearing in this discussion are in no way without precedent, but rather, closely resemble the “practices” already outlined in Volume II. There, however, they drew respect and fear. Of the two, by the Middle Ages, only fear remained, accompanied by a new emotion: hate. Indeed, for maintaining her ancient connection with the world of the unseen, the medieval witch could expect nothing less than a death sentence.
Thus, to persist in the practice of magic was to risk one’s life. Yet, to those who felt the calling, to whom voices and inner compulsions spoke directly and insistently, there was little choice, even in the face of destruction. From the modern standpoint, the accusations made against such persons seem horrifying, the ideology that led to them saturated with fear of feminine power, of women’s ability to connect unaided to the intangible in a manner that, at the time, was conceded only to priests. For this reason, the actions of the accused were labelled as devil-born: works of Satan.
The result? The ecclesiastical tribunals known as the Inquisition and the auto-da-fé, the act of public penance that saw convicted witches burned at the stake. Yet in today’s radically changed world, where the male-female relationship no longer bears the marks of full-on hostility, an increasing number of women are attempting to revive the ancient skills. After all, with persecution a thing of the past, at least in most of the world, and the prohibition against “magic” lifted, anyone who likes may seek out and gather up what threads there are left to find. But can it even be done? And if so, what could a modern seeress do for the world? In our books, the question we seek to answer is this: what can we really hope to accomplish with the knowledge left to us by women of old? How should their legacy be treated if we are to help, rather than harm others – if we are to become as proud, courageous, and free as they were?