„Forgotten Femicide“

Commemoration for Women Victims of Inquisition

Zagreb, Dubravkin put, 23. November, 2006 at 14.00 hours

In public space of our globalised Globe it is thundering that CRIME IS A CRIME, regardless of the fact who has committed it, and that VICTIMS ARE VICTIMS, EVEN WHEN THEY ARE WOMEN. All these facts, which are so undoubtedly clear to us, often are far from our consciousness and memories.

Forgetting the innocent victims we are victimizing them again on the scaffold of historic injustice.

We meant this gathering to be the tribute, the honor and our expression of condolence  and compassion for the innocent women burned by the  Holly Inquisition during its more then four centuries cruel fight “for defense of the fate from heresies”.

For this commemoration  we have chosen Dubravkin put , the place where the last woman accused to be a witch in Zagreb, Magda Herucina,  was burned at stake [1] .

The times of witch hunts have been one of the darkest periods of the human history. The fear of “evil” and “powerfully dangerous” witches originates from folk beliefs that were encouraged and enhanced by Church and then institutionalized as the Holly Inquisition. The Inquisition was an investigating institution of Roman Catholic Church charged with the eradication of heresies. Formally it was established by Pope Gregory IX  in the year of 1231, and Pope Innocent IV on May 15, 1252 issued a papal bull entitled ad extirpanda , which authorized the use of torture by inquisitors [2] .

Historically there are four inquisitions: the Medieval Inquisition, the Spanish inquisition, the Portuguese Inquisition and the Roman Inquisition. Medieval Inquisition and Roman Inquisition are interesting when we are remembering the “genderized mass murder, gendercide, femicide  in Europe [3] .

Roughly we can distinct two phases in witch hunt: before and after appearance of “Malleus Maleficarum”. First was the phase when persecutions were being done through individual cases. Second phase took place after recognition of Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches' Hammer) as a thorough witch-hunter's manual. Malleus  was written in the witch mania during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Contained in it were complete instructions on the prosecution of witches.

It was the opinion of the Church that the secular arm, the civil courts was not punishing witches enough on the basis of their Maleficia. The effects of the Bull 'Summis desiderantes affectibus' (Desiring with Supreme Ardor) and the Malleus Maleficarum soon spread beyond Germany, going throughout Europe and into England. Both Protestant and Catholic civil and ecclesiastical judges quickly adopted it. First published in Germany in 1486, Malleus quickly proliferated into many editions spreading throughout Europe and England. The impact of the work was felt in witch trials on the Continent for almost 200 years.

The work's authors were two inquisitors of the Dominican order, Heinrich Krammer and James Sprenger. These two men were empowered by Pope Innocent VIII in his Bull of December 9, 1484 to prosecute witches throughout northern Germany. Though there were mail witches and heretics, when the witch craze accelerated and became mass phenomenon after 1500 its main targets, its main victims, were female witches. Indeed one strongly suspects that the development of witch hunting into mass hysteria only become possible when directed primarily at women [4] .

A basic tenet is that not to believe in the existence of witchcraft is a heresy since God acknowledged witches. The sexism of the Malleus Maleficarum is unmistakable; although the work states both men and women can become witches, women are more susceptible. Several reasons for this are given: "Because the female sex is more concerned with things of the flesh than men"; being formed from a man's rib they are "only imperfect animals" and "crooked" whereas man belongs to a privileged sex from whose midst Christ emerged. The authors' main reason for the increase in witchcraft among women laid in the "vile contention between married and unmarried women." And, "They warned against the 'spitefulness of womankind“.

The authors of Malleus are, in the sharp historical competition, one of the worst and the most harmful misogynists ever. Their entire work contained a pathological hatred of women.

The evidence of witches and their maleficia presented within the work is derived from confessions obtained during inquisitions conducted by Sprenger and Krammer themselves and from other material on witchcraft written by other ecclesiastical writers. Much of this evidence consisted of stories of spell casting, pacts, sacrificing of children and copulating with the Devil.

Part III of Malleus deals with the legal procedures for prosecuting a witch. This includes rules for taking testimony, admitting evidence, procedures for interrogation and torture and guidelines for sentencing. Hostile witnesses were permitted to testify because everyone hated witches.

Torture is dealt with matter-of-factly, if the accused did not confess after a year or so in prison, then torture could be applied as an incentive. So, confessions attained by torture were valid.

Judges were permitted to lie to the accused, promising leniency if they confessed, reasoning that is was done in the best interest of the society and state.

For some crimes light sentencing was prescribed, but, according to the authors' acknowledged purpose of executing as many witches as possible, most of the instructions on sentencing pertained to death.

It was instructed that a witch be shaven of all her hair, hair was thought to be magical; and the witch should walk naked, backward toward the judges to prevent her or him from giving them the evil eye.

Even the dead were not safe. If a suspicion aroused that a dead person may have been a heretic the body could be dug up and burned. Her/his property was then confiscated. Records show many women and children were left penniless from such confiscation. Added to this the Church and state kept strict accounts of the prisoner's incarceration, trial and execution costs. If the value of his confiscated property was not enough to cover these costs, then her/his heirs had to pay the difference. The families of the victims suffered, too.

The confiscation of property became a lucrative businessThe state did not even know if it received its fair share because the Inquisition, being an arm of the government, paid no taxes nor gave any accounting of the property confiscated during the peak of its power. When the confiscation of property was stopped, the witch mania soon ended.

It is amazing what forms males’ abuse and violence upon women had in history.

The most dramatic [recent] changes in our vision of the Great Hunt [have]
is the centered on the death toll. Gibbons points out that
estimates made prior to the mid-1970s, when detailed research into trial
records began, "were almost 100% pure speculation." [5] .

 Robin Briggs writes that a potent myth has become established, to
the effect that 9 million women were burned as witches in Europe;
gendercide rather than genocide. Reasonable modern estimates suggest perhaps 100,000
trials between 1450 and 1750, with something between 40,000 and 50,000
executions, of which 20 to 25 per cent were men." Briggs adds that "these
figures are chilling enough, but they have to be set in the context of what
was probably the harshest period of capital punishments in European
history. [6]

This academic discussion resembles to politician’s juggling with numbers of victims of Holocaust, or totalitarian regimes, of various genocides performed by now by different parties. The fact is that during which hunt craze great number of innocent women were tortured savagely and burned at stake after that. The dimension of this crime is chilling enough, as academic authority claimed (Briggs), but its content is as horrible.

Nonetheless, in the view of Gendercide Watch, even such a reduced and
diffused death-toll should be considered "gendercidal," in that it
inflicted mass gender-selective killing on European women. Such killing
does not need to be totalizing, either in its ambitions or its impact, to
meet the definitions of gendercide and genocide that we use. Indeed, it is
arguable that at no other time in European history have adult women been
targeted selectively, on such a scale, for torture and annihilation. [7]

The medieval witch-hunts have long been depicted as part of a "war against
women" conducted exclusively or overwhelmingly by men, especially those in
positions of central authority. The historical record suggests that both men and women,
on a local level, found it easiest to fix these fantasies [of witchcraft], and turn them into
horrible reality, when they were attached to women. It is really crucial to
understand that misogyny in this sense was not reserved to men alone, but
could be just as intense among women. Crystallization into formal prosecution, however, needed the intervention of men, preferably of fairly high status in the community. [8] "

These comments and data serve as a reminder that gendercide against women
may be initiated and perpetrated, substantially or predominantly, by "other
women," just as gendercide against men is carried out overwhelmingly
by "other men."  Patriarchal power, however, was ubiquitous at all later stages of
witchcraft proceedings.
Men were exclusively the prosecutors, judges,
jailers, and executioners -- of women and men alike -- in
Europe's emerging
modern legal system.

It is also important to mention that on Sunday, on March 12, 2000 Pope John Paul II in his Angelus, in the year dedicated to historic remorse of all Christians for the sins committed in the name of the Church, prayed forgiveness for the inquisition and humiliation and marginalization of women particularly, among other sins. In the same speech Pope John Paul II asked: “ How to overcome by silence various crimes committed in the name of faith ? [9]

There is no way to overcome crimes by silence. We think that silence about crimes compromises any future and that is why we are organizing this commemoration. Moreover, by 7000 burned witches Croatia was one of champions in Europe [10] at the time. Sad curiosity is the fact that one of the first documents written in Croatian dialect-Kajkavski (then and now spoken in Zagreb region) is the “Bill for the city executioner Martin Eberle who burned witches“ [11]

We women had less then nothing until now from the apology that John Paul II  made in  the name of Catholic Church. Contemporary attitude of Congregatio Fidae is that “historic facts about Holy Inquisition are uncertain yet” referring to the impeccability of the Pope. (?!)

Catholic Church and other religious traditions are violating women’s rights daily all over the world. By this Commemoration we want to call religious leaders, particularly those of Roman Catholic Church to think about their attitude towards women. It is inadmissible and grotesque to apologize for genderised mass murder after several centuries and even worse is to be ambivalent about one’s own hardly squeezed apology.

Speakers on commemoration:

Suzana Kulović: The political discourse of forgotten femicide

Neva Tölle: The indictment and record from one hearing in process against Kata Cankovica. The Court of Town of Zagreb, 1629.

Bojana Genov: Radio Vatican, February 27, 2006, Third International Seminar “Dominicans and Inquisition.

Ankica Lepej: “Testimony of faith”, poem by Ankica Lepej

Your coming to the Commemoration is your social statement that you do accuse this unspeakable crime. Everybody is invited!

For organizers: Suzana Kulović

[1] Blasin, Barbara, Marković, Igor: Ženski vodič kroz Zagreb, Meandar Media, 2006.

[2] Michelet, Jules: Vještica. Slovo, Zagreb, 2003

[3] Katz, Steven: The Holocaust in Historical Context, vol I, p 503

[4] Katz, Steven: The Holocaust in Historical Context, vol I, p. 433, 436

[5] Gibbons, Jenny:  Recent Developments

[6] Briggs, Witches & Neighbours, p. 8

[7] http://www.gendercide.org/case_witchhunts.html

[8] Briggs, Robin Witches & Neighbours, pp. 264-65, 270, 273, 282.

[9] Šanjek, Franjo: Inkvizicija. Croatica Christiana Periodica (0350-7823)XXIV(2000.), 46; 221-242

[10] Deduš, Vladimir: Istina o vješticama. Hrvatska seljačka tiskara, Zageb, 1952.,  str. 86

[11] Pet stoljeća hrvatske književnosti: Hrvatski kajkavki pisci I, Druga polovina 16.stoljeća, Matica hrvatska, Zagreb 1977, str. 278