The Papal Bull Summis Desiderantis Affectibus was issued by Pope Innocent VIII on the 4th of December 1484. This instruction was the first step of the Catholic Church’s war against witches. The Bull described the ‘growing problem of witchcraft’ which it said had been affecting the whole of Europe, but especially the Rhine-lands and the mountainous regions of Italy. The Bull called for the ‘correcting, imprisoning, punishing, and chastising” of devil-worshippers who have “slain infants”
Europe at that time was a dangerous and highly unstable place. There had been epidemics of the Black Death and the pandemic of 1348 was said to have killed up to one quarter of the population of Europe. The countryside was decimated, there was widespread famine as there were not the farmers to sow the crops nor the workers to harvest them. The Crusades were also around this time, millions of people took the dangerous road to Palestine. Those left behind watched crops rot in the fields as peasants fled the pestilence and marauding gangs forcibly conscripted able bodied men. High taxes were levied to pay for the Crusades resulting in bankruptcies and feuds between landlords. Common lands were seized leaving peasants nowhere to graze their animals, it was chaos and anarchy.
The Church itself was divided. One faction followed vows of poverty and chastity while the other which was materialistic, greedy, and corrupt. Factions such as the Fratelli sprung up in opposition to the power of the Church. They were hunted down and massacred. People were resentful of the wealthy clergy who ate well and took tithes from everyone, while people went hungry. St Bernard remarked,
‘Whom can you show me among the prelates who does not seek rather to empty the pockets of his flock than to subdue their vices?’
This was a power struggle for control of the Church. What does a ruler do who wishes to control? Look for someone to blame. Heretics, Jews and witches were the most visible opponents of the Church and an easy target.
In 1487, two monks, two monks, Kramer and Spregner published the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of the Witches). Because of the newly invented printing presses, the book was widely read, 14 editions were published by 1520. The Malleus showed by argument that witches existed, gave examples of where they had been seen and showed how to identify witches and what legal machinery could be used to examine and condemn them. Ecclesiastical law combined with Civil law to hunt witches. Normal legal processes were suspended, witchcraft became a crimen exceptum, a crime so dangerous normal rules did not apply.
A police state was instigated that terrorised the rebellious populace into subservience. Of course, as usual it is important to follow the money. When a witch was accused, her home and all her assets were seized by the court. Not all witches were poor women by any means, there was money to be made as well as rebellion to crush. In England what was once common land was taken by landowners, casting people into destitution. Being homeless, a vagrant, was a crime at that time. Many of the people evicted were women scraping a living together. These women had nothing to lose and were vocal in their condemnation of Church and State.
But what of the astrology? I drew up the chart and I must say, the symbolism is impressive. Of course, I do not have a time the Bull was published, but generally State business was held at midday, when the Sun was in the 10th house of the rulers (and in those times as Kings, Emperors and Popes used court astrologers) so I think it is safe to use this time. In any case, the astrology, whether the time is correct or not is radical enough.
If we take the Pope as ruler of the Ascendant, he is shown as Jupiter conjunct Saturn in Scorpio in the 8th house of death, both planets separating from a sextile of Uranus in Capricorn ruler of the 12th house of witchcraft. The Pontiff is Jupiter, but his Church is shown by Saturn. The people in Mundane astrology are shown as the Moon, here in Cancer, separating from a trine of Venus and applying to a tight square to Pluto (ruler of the 8th).
There is a mutual reception between Venus and the Pluto (each in each other’s signs). If we make the reception, remembering planets keep their degrees, this puts Pluto in Scorpio in the 8th and the Moon applying to a trine, showing the death, destruction and devastation will follow the Bull. And it did. In Langedorf, between 1492 and 1496 all but two of the adult female population were charged with witchcraft. Not all those accused died at the hands of the State, many committed suicide, rather than burn alive or be drowned, others died from starvation as their family breadwinner was in prison, and no one dared to help such a family for fear of guilt by association, and of course, there were many unofficial lynchings.
The State is shown by the 10th house and is also ruled by that toxic, deadly Jupiter. The co-ruler of the Ascendant is Neptune which is in the 9th house of the Law showing how both Church and State came together to murder countless women. Estimates of the numbers killed vary between millions and tens of thousands, we shall never know for sure.
It is doubtful is many of these women were witches as we understand the term. Some may have been lay healers or midwives, or widows, or wealthy women, or paupers or any of the above. What they may have all had in common was the quality of smeddum, a Scottish term for uppity women, free spirits who refused to be cowed.
And of course, the accusations against them were as old as time itself: eating children, weird sexual practices, conjuring up demonic forces etc. etc. and, as the Bible says, ‘witchcraft is the crime of rebellion’.
Notice also, the co-ruler of the 8th house is that cruel Mars in Aries. Torture, terror, hunting victims down are all part of the way a population is silenced. Think of Daesh just recently, a few public beheadings, and some extraordinary public brutality is enough to subdue a population, temporarily at least.
And what of Venus? If we do the reception, then she moves to 11’ Libra her sign of rulership. The seventh house of course, is the house of open enemies, which women were perceived to be and maybe many were, (so demonised were they by the clergy). The 7th also shows, public enemies, or enemies to the Church and outlaws and fugitives or heretics who are not yet imprisoned, when they would be found in the 12th house. In lawsuits the 7th shows the opponent, the defendant and condemned persons or the criminal on trial. In dangerous situations the 7th and planets in it attack the safety of the chart by its opposition to the ascendant. Which is what witches were claimed to do. It is a moot point whether in fact the Church actually believed in witches or were cynically terrifying the population. In any case, ‘witches’ were perceived to be a powerful (Venus ruling Libra) enemy (7th house) to the Church. Remember that the Moon, representing the public, is separating from a square of Venus in Libra if we do the reception. The people, that is men, begin to identify ‘witches’ as the enemy and the cause of their misfortunes. It was well known that women did not die from the plague in the same numbers as the men, which led some to believe they had diabolical help. And of course there was good, old fashioned misogyny…
As mentioned above, this type of hysterical persecution is ‘one size fits all’. Currently there is hatred for Muslims, who are accused of many of the same things, the Alt Right believe there is child trafficking run by the Democrats in the USA based in a Pizza parlour in Washington DC no less. Others believe Bill Gates (with help from the Pope) is putting chips in us with the vax. Conspiracy theories, the blaming of the ‘other’ be it women, Jews, Muslims, Immigrants, asylum seekers, liberals, conservatives, incels, Brexiters, seems to be part of being human, or at least those humans who cannot take personal responsibility and have minimal emotional intelligence.
This Samhain, we remember all persecuted peoples,
 see Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch for a brilliant discussion of this.