- Nov 2016
The witch topic is OT, but I say only one thing about it here. I agree with most you say, but you are understating the church´s role by far, I think. Without the encouragement and support of the Church, the later cruel excesses against innocent women and men would not have taken place to the extent that they did. Initiating were the teachings of Thomas Aquinas in the mid of the 13th century, inspired by Augustine, on the sexual intercourse of demons and devils with humans and the pact of humans with demons.The medieval catholic church was dead against witch hunts and in fact largely denied even the existence of witches for large parts of the medieval period. Witchcraft started becoming part of the accusations directed against heretics in the late medieval period but the witch hunts as such are mostly an early modern phenomenon, from about 1500 onward and especially in areas touched by the reformation wars.
Such intercourse happens in such a way that the demon or devil first takes on a female form (succubus = lying underneath) and picks up a man's seed and later pours it into a woman in male form (incubus = lying above) in order to produce a devil's child. Heinrich Institoris modified this idea in his "Hammer against Witches".
The pact with Demon/Satan can be made expressa (explicitly, by words) or tacita (implicitly, by thoughts).
All this and the theological concepts further developed on this basis served in later secular trials against supposed witches and sorcerers as legitimation for the indictment. Without the theological dogmas about the connection of Satan and humans these processes would not have been feasible at all. Often theologians were involved in the processes as "experts".
Moreover, the method of "finding evidence" was based on the Church's trials against heretics. Since there was no empirical evidence of a connection between supposed magic and a worldly damage attributed to the accused, the judges used the torture customary in church heretic trials since the 13th century (bull "Ad extirpanda" by Innocent IV) to force a confession. Only on the basis of such sham confessions could the secular courts pronounce a verdict.
The thread opener includes Asia in the question, so we can also address this region. In contrast to the Western and Near Eastern tradition, dragons have positive connotations in China, for example, but they are drawn as powerful and dangerous beings, similar to elsewhere, albeit in a positive function, especially in a spiritual respect, as they promote a spiritual transformation in people. This difference doesn't exclude these dragons from this thread, because it's about dragons in general and not only about ´evil´ dragons.We are talking about Europe here of course, dragons in Asia have completely different symbolism attached to them.
This peculiarity of Chinese dragons is explained by the fact that the female (with which snakes were religiously associated all over the world, see my first article above) has a higher status in the old Chinese religion than in the religions of those cultures where the dragons received a negative status (e.g. Babylonia, see Tiamat). It is assumed in anthropology that shamanism in China was originally and for a long time only practiced by women (Chinese shamans = Wu). Some experts (e.g. J. Ching 1993, S.M. Nelson 2008, L.W. Hurtado 1990) are convinced that the Wu in prehistoric times were exclusively women. According to G. Boileau (2002), the religious sphere in China until the Shang dynasty was a matter for women and the political sphere for men; only the Shang kings had assumed an additional priestly role, without female Wu being abolished. In the following Zhou period, according to Boileau, the reputation of the shamans declined; they were said to be close to impure spirits and even to black magic.
As far as the Chinese shamanic goddess Xi Wang Mu is concerned, Despeux and Kohn (2003) consider her to be the oldest Daoist deity. The image below shows her sitting on her throne, with a dragon head to her right and a tiger head to her left.
During the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE) Xi Wang Mu was regarded as the savior of mankind from terrible plagues and, like the gods of the Western mystery cults, as the lender of immortality. For this reason, according to the Han-Shu texts from the 1st century CE, processions of thousands of singing, dancing and hashish smoking people often took place in honour of the goddess through the whole country towards the capital. The same behavior was practiced by those who remained in their villages. Many of them wore their hair just as wildly as Xi Wang Mu.
The importance of female Wu suggests that prehistoric Chinese shamanism was practiced exclusively or at least also by women. The importance of the shamanistic goddess Xi Wang Mu as well as the fact that no male god in China is even nearly as shamanistic as Xi Wang Mu is characterized, is also an indication of the original femininity of shamanism.