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 With the coming of Christianity there was NOT the immediate mass- conversion that is often suggested. Christianity was a man-made religion.

  It had not evolved gradually over thousands of years, as we have seen that the Old Religion did. Whole countries were classed as Christian when in actuality it was only the rulers who had adopted the new religion, and often only superficially at that. Throughout Europe generally the old religion, in its many and varied forms, was still prominent for the first thousand years of Christianity.

 An attempt at mass conversion was made by Pope Gregory the Great. He thought that one way to get the people to attend the new Christian churches was to have them built on the sites of the older temples, where the people were accustomed to gathering together to worship. He instructed his bishops to smash any "idols" and to sprinkle the temples with holy water and rededicate them. To a large extent Gregory was successful. Yet the people were not quite as gullible as he thought. When the first Christian churches were being constructed, the only artisans available to build them were from among the pagans themselves. In decorating the churches these stonemasons and woodcarvers very cleverly incorporated figures of their own deities. In this way, even if they were forced to attend the churches the people could still worship their own gods there.

  There are many of these figures still in existence today. The Goddess is usually depicted as very much a fertility deity, with legs spread wide and with greatly enlarged genitalia. Such figures are usually referred to as Shiela-na-gigs. The god is shown as a horned head surrounded by foliage; known as a "foliate mask", and also sometimes referred to as "Jack of the Green" or "Robin o' the Woods". Incidentally these carvings of the old God should not be confused with gargoyles. The latter are the hideous faces and figures carved on the four corners of church towers to frighten away demons.

  In those early days, when Christianity was slowly growing in strength, the Old Religion - the Wiccans and other pagans - was one of its rivals. It is only natural to want to get rid of a rival and the Church, pulled no punches to do just that. It has frequently been said that the gods of an old religion become the devils of a new. This was certainly the case here. The God of the Old Religion was a horned god. So, apparently, was the Christians Devil. Obviously then, reasoned the Church the pagans were Devil worshipers! This type of reasoning is used by the Church even today. Missionaries were particularly prone to label all primitive tribes upon who they stumbled upon as devil-worshipers, just because the tribe worshiped a god or gods other than the Christian one. It would not matter that the people were good,happy, often morally and ethically better living than the vast majority of Christians... they had to be converted!

  The charge of Devil-worship, so often leveled at Witches, is ridiculous. The Devil is purely Christian invention; there being no mention of him, as such, before the New Testament. In fact it is interesting to note that the whole concept of evil associated with the Devil is due to an error in translation.

The original Old Testament Hebrew Ha-Satan and the New Testament Greek diabolos simply mean "opponent" or :"adversary". It should be remembered that the idea of dividing the Supreme Power into two - good and evil - is the idea of an advanced and complex civilization. The Old Gods, through their gradual development, were very much "human" in that they would have their good side and their bad side. It was the idea of an all-good, all-loving deity which necessitated an antagonist. In simple language, you can only have the color white if there is an opposite color, black, to which you can compare it. This view of an all-good god was developed by Zoroaster (Zarathustra), in Persia in the seventh century BCE. The idea later spread westward and was picked up in Mithraism and, later, in Christianity.

  As Christianity gradually grew in strength, so the Old Religion was slowly pushed back. Back until, about the time of the Reformation, it only existed in the outlying country districts. Non- Christians at that time became known as Pagans and Heathens. "Pagan" comes from the Latin Pagani and simply means "people who live in the country". The word "Heathen" means "one who dwells on the heath". So the terms were appropriate for non- Christians at that time, but they bore no connotations of evil and their use today in a derogatory sense is quite incorrect.

  As the centuries passed, the smear campaign against non-Christians continued.What the Wiccans did was reversed and used against them. They did Magic to promote fertility and increase the crops; the Church claimed that they made women and cattle barren and blighted the crops! No one apparently stopped to think that if the Witched really did what they were accused of, they would suffer equally themselves, After all, they too had to eat to live. An old ritual act for fertility was for the villagers to go to the fields in the light of the full moon and to dance around the field astride pitchforks, poles and broomsticks; riding them like hobby-horses. They would leap high in the air as they danced, to so the crops how high to grow. A harmless enough form of sympathetic Magic. But the Church claimed not only that they were working against the crops, but that they actually flew through the air on their poles...surely the work of the Devil!

  In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII produced his Bull against Witches. Two years later two infamous German monks, Heinrich Institoris Kramer and Jakob Sprenger, produced their incredible concoction of anti-Witchery, the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch Hammer). In this book definite instructions were given for the prosecution of Witches. However,when the book was submitted to the Theological Faculty of the University of Cologne - the appointed censor at that time - the majority of the professors refused to have anything to do with it. Kramer and Sprenger, nothing daunted forgot the approbation of the whole faculty; a forgery that was not discovered until 1898.

 Gradually the hysteria kindled by Kramer and Sprenger began to spread. It spread like a fire flashing up suddenly in unexpected places; spreading quickly across the whole of Europe. For nearly three hundred years the fires of the persecution raged, Humankind had gone mad. The inhabitants of entire villages where one or two Witches were suspected of living, were put to death with the cry: "Destroy them all...the Lord will know his own!".   In 1586 the Archbishop of Treves decided that the local Witches had caused the recent severe winter. By dint of frequent torture a "confession" was obtained and one hundred twenty men and women were burned to death on his charge that they had interfered with the elements.

 Since fertility was of great importance - fertility of crops and beasts - there were certain sexual rites enacted by the Wicca, as followers of the nature religion. These sexual rites seen to have been given unnecessary prominence by the Christian judges, who seemed to delight in prying into the most minute of details concerning them. The rites of the Craft were joyous in essence. It was an extremely happy religion and so was, in many ways, totally incomprehensible to the gloomy Inquisitors and Reformers who sought to suppress it.

  A rough estimate of the total number or people burned, hung or tortured to death on the charge of Witchcraft, is nine million. Obviously not all of these were followers of the Old Religion. This had been a wonderful opportunity for some to get rid of anyone against whom they bore a grudge! An excellent example of the way in which the hysteria developed and spread is found in the case of the so-called Witches of Salem, Massachusetts. It is doubtful if any of the victims hung* there were really followers of the Old Religion. Just probably Bridget Bishop and Sara Good were, but the others were nearly all pillars of the local church up until the time the hysterical children "cried out" on them.

* In New England the law was in in England: Witches were hung. It was in Scotland and Continental Europe that they were burned at the stake.