Friday, May 22, 2015

The Neodiabolist Clique in Modern Witchcraft Scholarship and It's Agenda

[This is really just a very rough draft. But I think it gets the point across.]

Anyone who wishes to learn about the history of the Burning Times has a very tough row to hoe. Not only is there an ever growing mass of scholarly literature to sift through, but it turns out that a great deal of this scholarship is tainted by systematic bias. This bias does not render the works in question totally, or even mostly, without value. But it does create an even greater-than-usual need to treat these works critically, rather than simply accepting and assenting to the conclusions and assumptions therein.

To be somewhat more precise, certain scholars in the field of historical Witchcraft studies are aggressively and systematically promoting a set of seven interconnected claims about the nature of Witchcraft in general and of the early modern European Witch-hunts in particular. I call this scholarly clique "neodiabolists" in order to draw attention to the fact that their guiding ideology is in many ways little more than a slightly sanitized version of the early modern Christian theory of diabolical Witchcraft.

The main thrust of neodiabolism is an exculpatory narrative, addressed as much (and often more so) to public opinion as it is to their fellow scholars. In promoting this narrative, neodiabolists openly seeks to exonerate both Church and State of any blame for the Witch-hunts. Simultaneously, neodiablists try to shift the blame to "the common people", and even to the accused Witches themselves, or at least to what it was that they were supposedly imagined to be (by "the common people"): universally hated workers of purely malefic magic.

Neodiabolism rests upon seven main pillars:

1. Demonization
Neodiabolists assert that Witches and Witchcraft are intrinsically (and even metaphysically) evil. This requires the absolute rejection, despite all evidence to the contrary, of any connection between Witchcraft and beneficial magic, or any other positive portrayal of historical Witchcraft and Witches. This assertion flies in the face of the well-documented linguistic history of the English word "Witch". A major theme of public pronouncements by neodiabolists is their robotic insistence that all positive connotations of the word "Witch" invariably constitute very recent deviations from the "traditional" use of this word, and that such deviations are due only to the ignorant and ahistorical confabulations of romantics, feminists and modern Pagans. It is first and foremost because of their insistence on the equation of Witchcraft with Evil that these scholars are appropriately labeled as "neodiabolists".

2. Exculpation
Neodiabolists assert that "the common people" were to blame for the Witch-hunts, not the religious and political leaders and institutions of the day. Thus, both Church and State are absolved of any blame for the Witch-hunts. In fact, the political and religious powers-that-were are actually portrayed by the neodiabolists as high-mindedly resisting Witch-hunting when they could, and only very reluctantly acquiescing to Witch-hunting when they were powerless to hold back the bloodlust of the ignorant masses (and even then, the elites are congratulated for slowing down and tempering the violence of "the common people").

3.  Obfuscation
Neodiabolists assert that Witch-hunting is a relatively generic and nearly ubiquitous feature of human societies, rather than a well-defined historical phenomenon specifically associated with early modern European Christendom. More specifically, neodiabolists attempt to draw specious parallels between early modern European With-hunts and isolated incidents of supposed Witch-hunting in modern-day (20th and 21st centuries) non-European societies, especially in Africa and India.

4. Compartmentalization
Neodiabolists either ignore or outright deny any connection between Witch-hunting and other forms of religious persecution and social violence generally. In doing so they decouple Witch-hunting from the context in which it must be understood: as just one aspect of the generalized atmosphere of persecution and intolerance that was characteristic of medieval and early modern Christendom.

5. Minimization
Neodiabolists insist that both the absolute scale and the historical significance of the violence involved in the early modern Witch-hunts has been wildly exaggerated. By focusing attention on isolated instances in which genuine exaggerations (which are today taken seriously by precisely no one) have taken place, the neodiabolists attempt to produce the impression that, in essence, all those who express concern, let alone outrage, over the early modern Witch-hunts, are naive romantic simpletons misled by fictionalized accounts. At the same time, the neodiabolists also aggressively argue that the Witch-hunts do not actually represent any great moral failing on the part of either European society or Christendom.

6.  Exaggeration
Neodiabolists exaggerate (often wildly) the quality, completeness, and accuracy of the available historical data on the Witch-hunts. This is especially notable in their fixation on low-ball estimates of the total number of trials and executions based on data that is difficult to interpret, incomplete and often misleading.

7. Pontification
Neodiablists present themselves to the public as objective and high-minded debunkers who have a responsibility to "set the record straight". Through popular book-length works, websites, articles in the mainstream media, public speaking, youtube videos, etc, neodiabolists promulgate their personal opinions of Witchcraft and Witch-hunting, presenting their heavily biased point of view as established fact.

Related posts from this blog:

Monday, May 11, 2015


once upon a time there was an Ancient Forest. and then one day the humans came and cut it all down and put up a parking lot for one of their "shopping malls". and then one day the humans left.

after the humans left, more and more cracks stated opening up in the parking lot, and more and more weeds started growing up through the cracks.

some of these weeds remembered the Ancient Forest. that's because they were descended from those few weeds that had continued to look for every crack in the concrete, back when the humans were still around. no matter how fanatically the humans tried to keep their shopping mall parking lot weed free, there were always little sprouts of green poking up through the inevitable cracks. there had always been weeds like this. and they were the ones who remembered the Ancient Forest.

some weeds, however, were embarrased by these weeds-that-remembered. they said, "please stop being such Romantic Fools. you are embarrassing us!" They also said, "we are just weeds, and weeds is all we ever were and all we ever will be. the humans cut down the forest and it is gone. get over it. it is gone forever. it will never come back."

but there were still other weeds who said, "it's good that the humans are gone, but the Old Forest was bad, too. we are weeds, and the Old Trees were our oppressors. they blocked the light from us and lorded it over us. in our New Forest we must all be equal, so no plants should ever grow too high. that way we can learn from our past mistakes and Make Progress."

but wait, there's more. there were also weeds who said, "hey! we are not 'weeds'!! as a matter of fact, 'weed' is a perjorative term, and no plants in the past ever called themselves 'weeds'. we reject 'weed-privilege' and demand to be called by various hyphenated verbal monstrosities that we either make up as we go along, or that we borrow incorrectly from scholars whose works we have never read, much less understood!!!!" who knew weeds could shout like that!

but mostly the weeds were just weeds. they kept busy pushing up through the cement toward the light, but remaining firmly rooted in the darkness that will always be there if they ever need to return again. they were busy, too busy for much anything else, slowly turning the vast parking lot erected by the humans back into a Forest.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Doth Trithemius Protest Too Much?

 From the preface to Trithemius' Polygraphia:
All and singular arise from God, with a true conscience, without injury to the Christian faith, with the integrity of the Ecclesiastical tradition, free of any superstition, without idolatry, with no involvement or implication at all of evil spirits; without suffumigation, adoration, veneration, worship, sacrifice or offering to demons, and free from all guilt or sin, both pardonable and mortal.

omnia & singula cum Deo, cum bona conscientia sine iniuria Christianae fidei, cum integritate Ecclesiasticae traditionis, sine superstitione quacunque, sine indololatria, sine omni pacto malignorum spirituum explicito vel implicito; sine suffumigatione, adoratione, veneratione, cultu, sacrificio, oblatione daemonum, & sine omni culpa vel peccato tam veniali quam mortali

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"It is impossible to see all this as a mere coincidence."

In 1486-1487, Pico and Ficino were forced to write Apologiae for their theses on magic, which form the core of (respectively) Pico's Conclusiones and Ficino's De vita coelitus comparanda. In the same years, two Dominican monks, Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Institoris (Kramer) published Malleus maleficarum, a tract directed against adepts of magic who, of course, had few speculative, dialectical, ad political means at their disposal to defend themselves. Just before condemning Pico, Pope Innocent VIII was induced by Kramer to issue his famous bull against witches. This bull, the Summis desiderantes affectibus, was included as a preface to Malleus maleficarum in 1487--the Pope's stamp of approval. Together, the bull and the tract established the criteria for repression for two centuries to come. Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola were undoubtedly very different in culture and influence from the simple countrywomen accused of witchcraft. Nevertheless, these two scholars aimed at establishing a natural theory of magic urgently needed in a period when more and more witches were being burned at the stake. It is impossible to see all this as a mere coincidence. Only then could they return--without incurring too much danger--to their readings and hymns, free to continue their speculation and fumigation in peace.
Excerpt from White Magic, Black Magic and the European Renaissance, by Paola Zambelli (link), pp 21-22.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Nuns making out and other things that will not cause deadly rioting (yet more blasphemous imagery)

Digging up another old post that still seems relevant. This one originally appeared on April 3, 2011. And be sure to check out the list of other blasphemous material at the bottom.

Christian preacher Terry Jones finally made good on his threat to burn the Koran. And, predictably, this has resulted in a wave of deadly violence in the Muslim world.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The following images say more than any quantity of words ever could about how different Islam is from other religions, including even it's closest rival for most violent and intolerant religion of all time.

It is worth pointing out that many, probably most, of the following examples of blasphemy were in large part motivated by a desire to grab attention, and also were done with the intention of being offensive, or at least in the full knowledge that they would be offensive.

Ticket to hell (from Marshmallow Ladyboy Jesus):

BRB (lol) (from

Jesus Kanye Christ (from Rolling Stone):

Sing-along Blasphemy from Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes:

Blasphemous Dog (from TheYoungTurks.Com):

Milo Manara draws a nun (from hyacint's soup):

Nuns making out:

Nun with whip:

Nun with pierced tongue:

Look on the bright side of life:

Leather Gas Mask Nun:

Artistic Blasphemy from Too Many Questions:

German soft-drink ad:

Love-Making Jesus:

Christopher Hitchens' book Missionary Position:

Jesus Tap Dancing Christ:

Kathy Griffin sez: "Suck it, Jesus!"

Evie Delatosso, from her x-rated film, Lost Salvation:

Last Temptation of Christ:

Priest (a personal favorite, here is a review at Alternate Sexuality):

Hail Mary:


more blasphemy at
e g r e g o r e s:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What is wrong with Islam? Five views.

[This was originally posted on September 1, 2010. This is actually the second time I have reposted it. It seems, to me, to be more painfully relevant now .....]

1. Religion = Bad
All religions are both irrational and intolerant, and they all have a natural tendency toward totalitarianism. All religions are, therefore, ultimately incompatible with humanist values, with liberal democracy, and with the ideals of individual liberty and human equality. At most, Islam is simply a worst case scenario, but the negative characteristics of Islam are shared with all religions, if to a lesser extent.
Proponents: Atheists, Agnostics, Secular Humanists [This position was formerly that of most of the Left, but nowadays leftists are among the most loyal apologists for Islam.]

2. "Islam is retarded."
Islam is uniquely irrational and intolerant, and its tendency toward totalitarianism sets it apart from other religions. Christianity, on the other hand, is especially compatible with, and in fact helped to give rise to, humanism, democracy and the ideals of equality and liberty.
Proponents: Geert Wilders, Sarah Palin, etc.

3. The Three Impostors theory
All monotheistic religions have their origins in totalitarian designs. In particular, Moses, Jesus & Mohammad were "grand masters of the art of trickery" whose sole motivation was the desire "to oblige the people to submit to them." The teachings of these "Three Impostors" have been cynically perpetuated down through the ages by "the ambitious" who used religion to accomplish "the propagation and perpetuity of their laws, as well as the culture of such ceremonies and fanaticism as they deemed proper to establish." [Quotes taken from]
Proponents: Variously ascribed to Friederich II, Averroes, Michael Servetus, Machiavelli, Rabelais, Erasmus, Milton, Giordano Bruno, Boccaccio, Gassendi, Spinoza, etc. The overall argument is similar to those found in the Enlightenment critiques of Christianity penned by Voltaire, Hume, Paine and Gibbon, and also to the writings of contemporary Egyptologist and historian of religion Jan Assmann.

4. The Evil Twins theory
As tempting as it is to classify the monotheisms together as above, it seems, at least to me, to be an outrage against common decency to lump the Jews together in this way with those who have expended so much energy to exterminate them. And I think there is also a need to give far greater weight to the practice of intolerance than to merely theorizing about it. We should look first to the historical record, according to which there can be no doubt that Christianity and Islam form their own aberrant subset of violently intolerant religions - religions that leave a bloody trail of smoking destruction everywhere they go. Having established this category on the basis of objective facts, we can then look to the "teachings", such as they are, of these Evil Twins, to better understand their behavior.
Proponents: Yours Truly

5. What is wrong with Islam? Nothing. And you are a vile bigot for even asking.
Islam is the Religion of Peace. It is not a mosque and it is not at Ground Zero. Arbeit macht frei. We will be greeted as liberators. The public was never in danger. It's morning again in America. We are the ones we have been waiting for. The smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud. Universal home ownership. With the Big Mind Process, a genuine kensho can occur in about an hour—seriously. Remember the Maine. We believe the products we make are not injurious to health. We have always been at war with Eastasia. Land Bread Peace.
Proponents: Karen Armstrong, Barack Obama, etc.

See also:
The Essence of Religion: Four Theories
Are there two kinds of religion?
Good Fences Make Good Religions?
Religions of the Library

[The "NEVER take your freedoms for granted" graphic was snagged from, a right-wing website that promotes position #2 above.]