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Episode 140: Potential

2020-04-13 | 🔗

We often speak in lofty terms about all that humans are capable of achieving, and much of that is true. But looking backward in time, we can also see moments when that potential has led to horrible tragedy. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.


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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Humans, love to plan, whether it's a child's birthday party or a time capsule designed the last centuries. We have a knack for planning and preparing for things. Looking back on the pages of history, that much should be completely obvious. A great example is the famous stone circle at Stonehenge most degree, that the standing stones were first put in place around five thousand years ago, although there is ever that an earlier wooden structure existed before that, and while it's fun to speculate all the purposes, it might have served. There's one thing most scholars can agree on. Stonehenge is a calendar
not alone around the world. There are countless neolithic structures that serve a similar purpose and it makes sense really in an era when humans were transitioning from wandering tribes of Hunter gatherers to farmers who needed to stay in one place for a long time. Planning for the future became incredibly important. when will winter finally be over. When should they plant their crops and when should they harvests them planning helps us survive? It unites us and it speaks to one of the most enduring qualities we have as human beings We are people of hope. We look for patterns in the world around us and hope that our careful plans can thread the needle and succeed. Oftentimes are very survival, depends on it, but our expectations, our assumptions about the future and how it will all play out, aren't always right. Broken hearts
shattered dreams and misfortune are all a result of misplaced expectations. Yes, we planned, but those plans by crash and burned before they get off the ground. Just because we want something to happen, doesn't mean it will In fact, that law applies to more than just the good stuff in life. Sure it's frustrating when that much needed vacation suddenly falls apart, but disappointment comes in all shapes and sizes and of history is any indication there's a powerful lesson there for us to learn. Even if we don't like what it teaches when it comes to tragedy, the unexpected is right around the corner. I am air, and maybe- and this is lore
in the wide world of historic witch hunts. It's easy to get lost in the assumptions we assume all witches were burned at stake and that they were old. We assume those trials played out against the green backdrop of the english countryside, or that frantic neighbors were always waiting with stories of sick cows or ghostly visitations. But if we did that we would be wrong sure those things happened, but the history of witch hunts is alot deeper and a lot more nuanced and they ve been around for a very long time. We can find mentions of witches in which trials in the old testament of the Christian Bible and Much of the medieval period small trials were a constant occurrence, but back then those trials were a one in done sort of thing
them resembled the story of Mary Webster, the woman from Hadley in Colonial Massachusetts in the late, sixteen hundreds who was tried by the village elders and then shipped off the Boston, one victim, one community and quick justice, but things changed in fourteen eighty, five, when to catholic clergyman name Heinrich Cromer and James Springer published a book that they called Malea smell of decorum or the hammer of witches. That's because these two men put into print the vast collection of fears and assumptions that people held about witchcraft and those assumption, would go on to fuel the fire of panic all across Europe. One of the overwhelming messages of their book was just how weak and evil women were believed to be Cromer and Springer care rise women as overly emotional, highly impressionable, incredibly superstitious and morally wicked, they were temptress and gossip.
and were inferior to men in both body and mind. Basically, women have the potential to become dangerous to society and they needed to be watched. And because women were thought to be more impressionable and less intelligent. They were easy targets for the devil. He would come to them and promised to give them. how're so long as they served him and if they agreed these women would become witches dangerous addition to any community. These witches were said to gather for regular meetings called a Sabbath at these gaps, rings. They would bring in new recruits to meet their source of power. The devil himself before being inducted into the group
then each new member would receive a helper, usually an emperor, some small animal known as a familiar to help them do their work and with their newfound power they could kill livestock, make children, sick, alter the weather and prevent couples from becoming pregnant. All accusations that were impossible to prove worse and almost all of it was based on fear. If you're livestock died or a blight killed your crops, your way of life would be under threat, and that made people do desperate things. Course, once a community used, the emilius mellow harm to identify, which it also provided guidance for how to interrogate them. How to choose witnesses for their trial had a sentence them and what that sentence should be. It didn't help that Pope Innocent the eighth issued a Paypal bull that gave approval and authority to all of that informed
a pronouncement that Cromer and Springer actually included in the front of their book, and that's pretty much how things worked for the three centuries between one thousand four hundred and fifty and one thousand seven hundred and fifty the results were trash. To its believe that during that time, the holy roman empire executed over forty five thousand accused witches and roughly four out of every five victims was a woman and socially, it's easy to understand how it happened. The typical medieval, which was an older woman, usually one who lived alone, she was poor, uneducated. And unprotected, without someone to speak for her or defend her, a woman was incredibly vulnerable. Throw in Good amount of deep superstition in an unpredictable world, and that was a recipe for disaster. Usually
Like any other area of study, there are always exceptions, situations that buck the trend and go against the grain. Even in something is widespread and hot, headed as European, which trials there are moments when the tragic events took a very different path. It does it make those instances any better, but it certainly makes them worth a deeper look. In fact, there is one in particular that I want to share with you to examine. It, though, will need to travel off the beaten path and into a place that most people wouldn't expect to find the remnants of a medieval which trial the hills of Northern ITALY the just because its different doesn't mean it isn't dark
the province of Imperia sits at the top left of ITALY. If the country is a leg than Imperia. Is the hip a little stretch of coastline that connects ITALY proper to the rest of Europe, but dont think of Imperia as a vast expanse of flat land? No, this is his country and that geological texture has helped shape the regions. history over the centuries, communities have settled on the many hills and the area capping many of them with a forest, a pale buildings and rust colored roof tiles and because the mediaeval world was a dangerous time to live. A good number of these towns wrap them. jobs in a city wall, but walls work in two directions: yes, it protected them from war or external violence, but it also isolated them and left them to fight among themselves. A good example of that took place in the fifteen eighties. That was a hard decade for the region,
and that trouble helped highlight their isolation. Granted life in the early modern period was never easy to begin with, medicine was in what you would call state of the art and just about everyone work themselves to the bone from sunrise to sunset, but during that decade things got worse changes in weather patterns had brought drought to the region, killing many of the crops. These little farming communities needed to survive. In fact, all over the Argentine Valley to the North famine was spreading like a plague and desperate times force people to do desperate things as the crops began to yield less and less. The landowners took larger and larger, share of the harvest. This left their tenant farmers without enough to live on adding to their already difficult life. It an enormous amount of pressure, and while pressure produces diamonds in the world of geology, these challenges resulted in something else. Panic
It didn't help the many of these communities were centres of trade with cities to the north in France and Germany. That meant that yes, Their walls might have protected them against invading armies, but the roads allowed a slow trickle of paranoia and superstition to eat away at their social founded. Since they were in essence, been invaded by fear and that's when the rumours began because when you live in a time when the Molly, a smell of a car, had been around for a full century, roughly four or five generations, it was hard not to view everything through the lens. It provided blighted crime, Second livestock and increased numbers of death among the very young and very old olive it added up to an obvious conclusion. There were witches unloose. In October, one fifteen, eighty seven, the rumours had reached a crescendo and in small hilltop village of tree aura locals, were deathly afraid that witches were everywhere cursing the crops in livestock and killing there
family and neighbours. So a letter was sent to the authorities in Genoa asking for help when they receive. Was a visit from Girolamo? Don't put so don't put so was the opposite, the Bishop of Albania, a city nearby on the coast when he I've, though he didn't behave as you might expect. Rather than see, you can role of the situation and placed himself above the authority of tree or as mayor as many men, evil, which finders had done. He partnered with them, hoping to be as much help as he could, Until his arrival Albert Community had was a collection of rumours, those rumors were frightening enough to push them further along in the process. What Del puts so needed was proof, some kind of solid evidence to lead, to the witches defined its. He visited a number of the local churches during their normal celebration of Mass, during which he stood at the front of the church, and invited anyone with evidence to come and see him later base down the information he collected, though
So and the mayor were able to arrest roughly forty people. Most of them, of course, were women but there was one man and five children all under the age of thirteen, and once they ve been taken into custody, they were interrogated entry aura. The focus of the accusations went beyond the famine and illness that seem to be spreading. It seems that Dell put so was specifically interested in all the infants that had died, thinking that only which could be to blame for those and after intense interrogations. Regarding that topic, he narrowed the larger group of forty down to a total of thirteen and that's when the deaths began. the first to die was a sixty year. Old woman named is Soda Stella, but she wasn't executed. Instead, it was the horrible conditions inside the prison that caused her to become ill and die. Sadly, that wasn't an uncommon thing in the world which trials prison conditions were consistent
abhorrence, and even a century later in sailor Massachusetts. Five of the twenty five deaths happened in jail rather than at the gallows, A short while later another of the accused women died after falling from a high window in the prison. Some believe she, Is trying to escape the trials while others think she intentionally took her own life either way she was clearly looking for a way out of a horrible situation and the results were tragic. These two debts, even before the sentencing, began, cause the mayor of tree or to have second thoughts. Sure they blame the deaths on the powers of the devil, but deep down the towns Council of elders knew what was happening so they sent a request to Genoa forward.
Ports are to be recalled and for the trials to be suspended. Rather than help the situation, though their letter seem to invite nothing more than a changing of regard. The wheels of superstition fuelled panic were already in motion and there was little they could do to stop it and a sad as that seems beings were about to get worse. They'll put so had been a wolf in Sheep's club He had arrived with an air of humility and deference, but in the end he had driven the events toward a deadly crossroads. So I imagine the p full of tree aura- were hopeful that someone better would arrive to clean up the mess, but they were wrong. there was a moment of respect, though immediately after Del puts a left, the inquisitor Jim.
Earl for Olive genoa arrived and assess the damage. After seeing all of the people that remain the prison. He ordered the release of the thirteen year old girl. Why more, I'm not sure, but it wasn't a simple thing that much is clear teenage girl was forced to undergo what was known as AB duration, a sort of public renouncing the past deeds Essentially, she had to stand before the local church and confess to witchcraft and heresy, but then disavow all of it, so that she might be welcomed back into the church and this she did and it worked, and I think it's worth stepping up I here to point out that this is a unique to the catholic Church in the aftermath of the sale in which too There was a lot of putting wrong to write. One of the key investigators of the events in that community was an Putnam the twelve year old daughter of two of the chief accusers without her actions and claims two dozen lives, my
then saved the thirteen years later. She too stood before her church and read her confession out loud, hoping to be welcomed back into the church that she once tour apart. I've held that confession in my own hands, with its tight script and worn ages. I desire to be laid low. She wrote in the dust of humility for accusing people that I now believe were innocent, but entry aura. Only one prisoner was given that up Unity after her future was settled. The inquisitor general returned to Genoa, but in his wake a new official arrived, a man named Julio scribbling and he wasn't looking to work in partnership with the Council of elders or the mayor. He was there to bring a hammer down upon what he believed was an outbreak witchcraft rather than free, more of the prisoners scribble.
actually arrested more suspects and as he did, he made it clear that he had one goal and only one goal in mind for all of them. The death penalty applies hearing this news. The mayor sent another urgent letter to Genoa who sent a trio of new officials to keep screw Bonnie in line now. I'd one inundate you with new names, as they won't help move the story forward more smoothly, but it is important to think of them. Ass, a team the leader of the pack arrived with every intention of putting an end to screw bodies plans, but one of his health I convinced him. Otherwise. I can only imagine that this helper was equally in favour of the death penalty and used his influence over the leader to stay the course that screw Bonnie had set It's important for us to remember is that before long, all four of the official government representatives in town were in full support of executing the accused witches at the end of the spring of one thousand. Five hundred and eighty eight to more women died list.
By execution they were burned publicly and then the remains were buried on unconsecrated ground and that spilling of blood had a dramatic effect for the visiting officials. It filled them with the thirst for more or the local leaders, though it was one more cold shower of reality. So one more fearful letter was sent out. This one, though, was sent to the church itself and by the summer of fifteen eighty eight catholic representatives had arrived and took over the trials, sending screw Bonnie and his cohorts packing, and I know what you're thinking, or any other which trial the arrival of church authorities would almost guarantee a bloodbath but not entry, aura. It said these representatives move the prisoners to Genoa, their torture was brought to an end and all documentation was confiscated and reviewed and when they were done around September of one thousand five hundred and eighty eight a proper level headed
I ll begin without torture hanging over them. Every single one of the accused witches retracted their forced confessions. Many were set free and returned to their homes Those that remain behind were still considered guilty, but when their sentencing took place, the worst they were offered to face was aberration, just like that thirteen year old girl months before it's not a bloody finale. I know There was no courtyard or town square filled with a forest of tall poles and burning bodies. There were no gallows to dismantle or mass graves to dig. It was just a lot of regret, a bit of relief and much morning to do for the few who lost their lives and, of course, finding a way to move on. humans have the potential for so much. Looking back on history, its remarkable to see the things that we have accomplished, and yet it's also frightening. It seems our potential for greatness is only eclipsed by our propensity.
Darkness. So, while the tree order, which trials were tragic and painful, its encouraging defined one rare example of a community that manage to write the ship and save lives, as in the medieval battle against the power of the devil, there was rarely anything good discovered, but entry, or at least have a story of a community that actually walked away with something valuable hope. three are today: is a beautiful hilltop community, its frequently placed on lists of the most beautiful medieval towns in the country, tourists who visit for the rustic atmosphere and gorgeous views of the countryside, but they also come for the
stables every September. The town hosts a mushroom festival. Now I'm not a fan of fungus myself? So? I can only imagine what sort of activities a thing like that might include, but of course, in October they celebrate Halloween drawing visitors from all around, but it's their summer festival. That's the most popular. It is eight witchcraft festival, much like sailor Massachusetts who has spent decades reinventing itself as the which city complete with a state, you have a lizard with Montgomery from the Classic tv show. Bewitched tree aura has found their own way to capitalize on their brush with tragedy in fifteen. Eighty eight. they even have their own museum dedicated to the trials and while some The rooms are archival in nature, holding the actual documents connected to the events of fifteen. Eighty eight. There are also rooms filled with wax figures and wooden contraptions that show off the torture techniques used on the victims.
Everywhere, you look around town, you'll, find advertisements for mediums and witches for higher palm reading, taro cards and charms. If you can dream it up, it's probably in a shop somewhere entry ora. Yes, there is a memorial, but it's easy to feel like it's lost in the noise of everything else. It certainly forces us to ponder the line that separates honouring the dead and capitalizing on their tragedy. The witch trials that took place in three, where the last we know of in ITALY and that's obviously, a good thing, but they weren't without their impact. In fact, those trials happened at a time when the public perception of which trials was darkening. Many believe that communities had been too lenient and while some writers continue to urge restraint and grace the catholic church steered the public in a different direction.
In sixteen twenty six hundred Gregory the fifteenth published a Paypal bull that recommended the death penalty for any one connected to witchcraft, even if it was their first offence, it was Zero grace attitude that would throw gasoline on the flames of superstition and the resulting fires would burn across Europe and claim even more lives looking back its sadly more than a little ironic because a tree or is it
success in stopping their own trials. Future outbreaks of panic became even more violent and drawn out, rather than see the people of that small town. As a rare example of caution over fear, they were viewed as failures and, as a result, tens of thousands of innocent people were murdered. Like I said before, we humans are capable of so very much, but I often wish that weren't the case.
the story of the witch trials a tree or ITALY are tragic to learn about, but they still show us the potential. For goodness madness could be stopped and lives were saved as a result, but not all european trials were so level headed. In fact, there was a wave of trials that took place in one location over the course of fifty years and claimed the lives of thousands stick around. After this brief sponsor break and I'll tell you all about it. This episode was made possible by staff stock, come if you're, a small businesses you're busy enough as it is either have time to deal with the hassle of going to the post office with stamps dot com you can skip. The trip never waste another dollar or minute steps that come with you print official postage right from your computer, so you can spend less time at
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special offer that includes a four week: trial, free postage and a digital scale, no long term commitments or contracts just go to stamps dot, com click on the microphone at the top of the homepage and then type in the word lure that stamps dot com offer code lure stamps dot com, never go to the post office. Again, it's easy to think of England. When you hear about witch trials, yes, sailor. Massachusetts is a lot closer to home for most of us, but that was an isolated thirteen month event and I think it's fair to say that most of us are aware that things were much worse in England and they were, but England wasn't the true hotbed of witchcraft accusations trials,
and executions know that honour false to Germany in the decades that cover the end of the fifteen hundreds and the beginning of the sixteen hundreds, and while I don't have time to walk through each and every trial from that era, in one small epilogue, I do think it's worth doing. A thirty thousand foot fly over because there is a lot that can learn from it all, keep in mind that there were small scattering of which trials all over Europe and even within Germany for decades before these specific trials. So it's impossible when one person or moment in time and say yes, that's the first one, the one that kicked it all off, but will make historian sit up and take notice is when the normal stuff, however tragic it might be, suddenly becomes abnormal, and that's what happened in one thousand five hundred and eighty one.
that was the year that Johan Van shown in bird was appointed to the position of archbishop over the german city of trigger now keep the historical context in mind. The people of Europe were just a few decades into the protestant reformation. A time and churches were breaking off from the catholic church in waves and that massive change had deep impact everywhere. The biggest effect the reformation had was that it created an atmosphere of hatred, Catholics hated the churches who left their fold and those that left in protest. The Protestants hated the authority, the Catholics trying to hold over them and that hatred became vial open places. All around Europe Kingdoms rose and fell over the issue of protestant Vs Catholic. It was like the tension of the red scare in early 20th century America, but orders of magnitude, larger and much more violent and when Schonenberg became bishop of tree are in one thousand. Five hundred and ninety one
brought a lot of that hatred with him. The first people he persecuted were the Protestants, but then he moved on to the jewish people of the area. And after that you went after a group of people that were justice feared and hated as the rest witches, and he is ruthless to its estimated that in the six years, between one thousand five hundred and eighty seven and one thousand five hundred and ninety three Schonenberg head over three hundred and sixty people convicted of witchcraft and it had all of them burned alive, not twenty, five, not even one hundred three hundred and sixty innocent people. Please let that sink in because it should be utterly horrifying. Not only it were those people, but once they were dead, the archbishop took all of their possessions and if the victims had any surviving family members, those people were exiled from their communities. I to say that it all came to a close, because people finally saw the error of their ways, but that wasn't the case. Instead, the witch trials stopped when it was no long
profitable when there were no longer funds available to pay which examiners and executioners, Ok later, they started up again time in the city of full that to the east during the four years that those trials occurred. Another two hundred fifty people were executed for witchcraft. Those trial came to an end when it was discovered that the man in charge of them unofficial, name Balthazar NEWS, was getting rich off the process. He was sent to prison and was executed for his crimes in one thousand six hundred and eighty But people had yet to learn their lesson. It seems a generation later in sixteen twenty six more trials broke out in the region. around the city of Wurzburg to the south, a folder. Just in the city alone, roughly one hundred sixty people were burned at the stake, although the gruesome, silver lining is that most of them had been beheaded prior to that outside the city, things or even worse, with a rough estimate placing the death toll at around nine hundred.
That same year, the german city of Bamberger had their own encounter with which trials after deck, It's a similar mass executions all across Germany. The people of Bamberger applied lessons and ideas that made the process easier. I know we love to pray that good, old, german engineering and efficiency and as someone of mostly german ancestry, I've done that most of my life. But these people took a noble gift and turned it into a weapon rather than fill the town square, with hundreds of poles for burning witches, they simply built a walk in crematorium. There was so much people arrested on suspicion of witchcraft that they had to build a brand new prison just to hold them all and over the course of the next five years under the of people would be tortured inside those walls before offering up a desperate confession confession that almost certainly brought on a violent death. Those trials ended when it became clear that no one was safe from the inquisition like Hunt for witches when the pregnant wife,
Wealthy merchant was taken into custody in December of sixteen twenty nine, that was the final straw you can come for the outside and strangers in underprivileged. They seem to say, but don't you dare come for those of us with a bit of power. that merchants wife was a woman named Dorothea flock. When the people of Bamberger learned about her arrest, they were enraged. They manage to get the authorities to write a letter demanding her immediate release and a messenger was despatched to the present that happened when the prison learned that in order for her release was headed their way. They panicked, knowing that
time is running out. They drag Dorothea out of her cell on May, fourteenth and tortured her until she confessed to witchcraft, and then she was immediately burned at the stake by the time the messenger arrived Dorothea Flock was nothing more than a pile of ash when the bamberger trials were over. The list of victims with staggering most historians believe that those specific trials resulted in the execution of roughly one thousand innocent people. To add insult to injury, the people responsible for an all simply fled the country escaping the this they so very much deserved and look I'll be honest with you. I don't have a neat and tidy way to wrap up a story like this. It's appalling just how brutal we can be toward people who are different from us or who don't follow our rules or we just alike.
I want to be able to tell you that in this century, since this all happen, we ve learned our lessons and become better human beings, but I'm not sure that I can do that. Instead, I can only tell you that there's hope the people of Tree or ITALY taught us that, after all, but even in the face of horrible injustice, there's always a chance that good will triumph over evil. But of course that's the trouble. Isn't it because history has shown that the power to be either is inside each and every one of us and that's a battle. It's difficult to win. This episode of Lore was written in
Just by me, Aaron, Maggie with research by Alexander steed and music by Chad, Lawson Lore is much more than just the podcast. There is a book series available in books There's an online and two seasons of the television show on Amazon. Prime video check them both out. If you want more lore in your life, I also make two other podcast errand, making his cabinet the curiosities and unobserved, and I think, enjoy both each one explores other areas of our dark history, ranging from bite sized episodes to season long dies into a single topic. You can learn more about both of those shows, and everything else going on over in one central place the world of lore dotcom slash. Now
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Transcript generated on 2022-03-12.