THE RISE OF SATANISM IN THE MIDDLE AGES



For the common folk of Europe, the Middle Ages (c. 500–c. 1500) were a time of fear, oppression, and despair, thus providing fertile soil for the seeds of the old pagan practices to take root and flourish anew. The ancient rituals and nature rites that were practiced with joy and abandon by the peasants came to be feared by the Medieval Church as demonic witchcraft that worshipped Satan and sought to destroy Christendom, which was at that time the official religion of all European countries. According to a number of scholars, the Church itself may have been greatly responsible for the revival of the Old Religion by its having increasingly exercised extremely repressive regulations upon the private lives of the common people. Then, once excessive doctrines and dogmas had provoked a rebirth of paganism, the Church saw the nature-worshipping rituals of the common people as a threat to its authority and condemned these men and women as being practitioners of an organized satanic religion that never really existed.

An analysis of the Medieval Church's sexual code reveals that its basic law was that the act of sexual intercourse was to be performed as seldom as possible. Stern-faced Church authorities encouraged their flocks to avoid cohabitation completely, even if married. In the eyes of the Church there was no love, only desire. To have feelings toward a member of the opposite sex, even though no actual physical intimacy took place, was inherently sinful. And the holy state of matrimony provided no sanctuary for love. To love, or desire, one's lawful marriage partner was considered sinful. One of the Church's defenders stated that if a man loved his wife too passionately, he had committed a sin worse than adultery.

In his Sex in History (1954), G. Rattray Taylor summarized the strict system of Church morality as it was set forward in a series of penitential books. Every imaginable misdeed and every conceivable misdemeanor is discussed and analyzed at great length and appropriate penalties are set forth for each sexual misstep. Taylor explains that the basic code of the Church was composed of three main propositions:

  1. All who could were urged to accept the ideal of complete celibacy;
  2. An absolute ban was placed on all forms of sexual expression other than intercourse between married persons, and prohibitions were drawn up to thwart an exhaustive list of sexual activity, the violation of which resulted in terrible penitential acts;
  3. The days per year upon which even married couples might consummate the sex act were decreased in number.

The frustrated populace were left with the equivalent of about two months of the year during which they might, for the purpose of procreation alone and without invoking any sensations of pleasure, engage in sexual connection. If a child had been born to them and had been delivered at a particular time of the year which would fit in a certain manner in the Church calendar, the anxious parents might be prevented by their faith from having intercourse for a year or more.

The penitential books developed the mystical concept that all virgins were the brides of Jesus Christ (c. 6 B.C.E.–c. 30 C.E.). Therefore, any man who seduced a virgin was not only committing fornication, but, at the same time, the more serious sexual crime of adultery. Christ was cast into the role of the indignant and outraged husband, and Mother Church, as his earthly representative, was thereby empowered to exact the terrible penance which the angered deity demanded. The maiden, unless she had been forcibly raped, was also held to be in mortal sin, for she had committed adultery against her husband, Christ.

Chastity was honored as the Church's sexual ideal and the virtuous wife was the one who would deny herself to her husband. It was not only the sexual act for which the penitentials prescribed prohibitions and penance. Kissing and fondling also brought down severe penalties.

It was, according to Taylor, in a spirit of desperation to save the souls of weaker brethren that the Church passed such ruthless codes of personal behavior and repeatedly distorted and falsified the pronouncement of biblical texts in order to obtain justification for its laws. Such an extreme asceticism was certainly not preached by Christ, and such a sexual code is supported by neither the Old nor New Testaments.

The Middle Ages had become a time of intolerable sexual frustration and sexual obsession. In its attempt to eradicate sin by means of enforced sexual repression, the Church inadvertently created fertile ground for the rebirth of the dormant Old Religion. With the sanctioned state of Holy Matrimony open to only a few, the stories of the old ways, the old customs, and the old mysteries with their emphasis on fertility and communal sex rites became appealing to the common folk.

In the early days of Christianity, the Church Fathers permitted women to preach, cure, exorcise, and baptize. By the Middle Ages, women had lost all vestiges of any legal rights whatsoever, and the Church regarded them as responsible for all sexual guilt. It was woman who had precipitated the Fall by tempting man, who would otherwise have surely remained pure. Women were considered a necessary evil. In the Old Religion, she would once again be elevated to the status of priestess, healer, and a respected symbol of fertility.

The loss of civil rights, the tyranny of the feudal lords, and the imposition of sexual repression by the Church provided the fresh fuel for the smoldering sparks of the Old Religion among the common people. But the Church and the feudal establishment would soon move to combat the "evil" influence of the resurrected Pan, god of fertility, nature, and freedom. Church scholars would soon consult the ancient manuscripts to determine how best to deal with the formidable adversary who had returned from the past. The feudal lords would soon lose all patience with the rebellious serfs and set about to slay them as methodically as a farmer sets out to remove noxious weeds from his fields of grain, and the Church would ignite a flame which would eventually destroy thousands of innocents in the Inquisition. Pan, the horned and goat-hoofed god of the ancient mystery rites, had been transformed into Satan, the enemy of the Church, Christ, and all good.

In The History of Magic, (1948), Kurt Seligmann offered what seems to be an astute analysis of the situation: "…the ancient survivals, the amusements of serfs, the most innocent stories, were henceforth Satanic, and the women who knew about the old legends and magic traditions were transformed into witches.…the traditional gatherings, the Druid's Festival on the eve of May Day, the Bacchanals, the Diana feasts, became the witches' sabbath…the broom, symbol of the sacred hearth…became an evil tool. The sexual rites of old, destined to stimulate the fertility of nature, were now the manifestations of a forbidden carnal lust. Mating at random, a survival of communal customs…now [were] an infringement of the most sacred laws."

To the Church, the devils solidified into one—Satan, enemy of Christ's work here on Earth. To the people, who could not really care about the philosophical dualism of an evil adversary for the Christ of the Feudal Lords and the Church, the Old Religion offered release from oppression and unrelenting drudgery.

According to Seligmann, the peasants of the Middle Ages did not view their Old Religion as a perversion, but as "…primitive and innocent customs. At the sabbat [the peasant] was free to do as he pleased. He was feared also; and in his lifelong oppression, this gave him some dignity, some sense of freedom."

It was in his enjoyment of the excitement and vigor of the Old Religion that the peasant could allow himself the luxury of experiencing pleasure without the interference of Mother Church, which sought to control and repress even human emotions. But it was in rebellion against church and state that provoked the feudal and church establishments to denounce the Old Religion as satanic and to declare its practitioners witches, Satan's willing servants. And it was in that same time of unrest, despair, and fear of demons that "woman" and "witch" became largely synonymous. St. Augustine (d. 604) had declared that humankind had been sent to destruction through one woman (Eve) and had had salvation restored to it through another woman (Mary). But, as many writers have since commented, woman had, to the medieval and Renaissance man, become almost completely dualistic.


DELVING DEEPER

Hunt, Morton. The Natural History of Love. New York: Anchor, 1994.

Russell, Jeffrey Burton. Witchcraft in the Middle Ages. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1972.

Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic. New York: Pantheon Books, 1948.

Taylor, G. Rattray. Sex in History. New York: Van guard Press, 1952.

Trevor-Roper, H. R. The European Witch-Craze. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.

DELVING DEEPER

O'Keefe, Daniel Lawrence. Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.

Rhodes, H. T. F. The Satanic Mass. London: Arrow Books, 1965.

Taylor, G. Rattray. Sex in History. New York: Van guard Press, 1952.

Trevor-Roper, H. R. The European Witch-Craze. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.

Williams, Charles. Witchcraft . New York: Meridian Books, 1960.

DELVING DEEPER

Cavendish, Richard. The Black Arts. New York: Capricorn Books, 1968.

Rhodes, H. T. F. The Satanic Mass. London: Arrow Books, 1965.

Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic. New York: Pantheon Books, 1948.

Williams, Charles. Witchcraft. New York: Meridian Books, 1960.

DELVING DEEPER

Lyons, Arthur. The Second Coming: Satanism in Ameri ca. New York: Award Books, 1970.

Masters, R. E. L. and Eduard Lea. Perverse Crimes in History. New York: Julian Press, 1963.

Trevor-Roper, H. R. The European Witch-Craze. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.

Williams, Charles. Witchcraft. New York: Meridian Books, 1960.



User Contributions:

Ampie
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Jul 6, 2007 @ 7:07 am
Riveting story of a period in history so often misrepresented by the theist religions. The Christian religions literally dumped mankind into the "dark ages" by denying the animal in all of us humans for almost 2000 years. This oppression is still being perpetuated by about 3 fifths of the world's population. We should have lived in a better world by now, but still we follow these preachers, ministers, priests into oblivion...
zeit23geist
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Dec 17, 2007 @ 9:09 am
What is fascinating to me is that so-called Traditional Satanist should have so deconstructed the Black Mass as to totally ignore its unsavory origins (not to mention the apostatic intention of its author, Guilborg) and now believe that it is a sacred text of the spiritual celebration of a real, existent Deity, but one who challenges believers to love and trust him, despite his fearsome and bloody reputation!

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