London — A 350-year-old notebook which documents the trials of women convicted of witchcraft in England during the 17th century has been published online.
The notebook written by Nehemiah Wallington, an English Puritan, recounts the fate of women accused of having relationships with the devil at a time when England was embroiled in a bitter civil war. The document reveals the details of a witchcraft trial held in Chelmsford in July 1645, when more than a hundred suspected witches were serving time in Essex and Suffolk according to his account.
Of the 30 women on trial in Chelmsford, 14 were hanged. – msnbc
Leaving aside the titillation factor inherent in accounts of tortured women – well, maybe that’s a bad start. We already referenced Mark of the Devil-style movies. What’s the real point here?
First, a vital component of the trial was to get the woman to confess to having sex with Satan. That simple. The irony is that today, having sex with Satan wouldn’t even get you a divorce. Most married women take it for granted. If you have a good agent and few videos, it might get you a porn contract or a reality show, but more likely, just laughed at.
Second, not one of these women was guilty of witchcraft, and it’s doubtful that the rat bastards in charge believed they were. This was all about power, property, and keeping the unwashed peasants in line, cleverly combining terror and entertainment. It worked for Rome, it worked for Britain. Today we have the Adventures of Charlie Sheen.
Third, it’s instructive to see how well religion functions as a dangerous weapon in the hands of established politicians as well as ranting terrorists. If any stick will do to beat a dog, then religion is, um, fetching.
Fourth, my favorite, and finally: do these trials remind you of what’s happening at Gitmo, and the hearings planned by Rep Peter King of New York? Not a perfect fit, and in Gitmo, at least, head games replace thumbscrews. But power, religion, and fear are menu items in common, and it seems as though the players on the receiving team are already convicted, not because of something they did, but because somebody has an agenda.
One big difference: nobody is accused of kissing Satan’s ass.