The first thing to be clear about is that it was Christianity that condemned the word witch; otherwise, it was one of the most respected words, as respected as mystic — a wise man. It simply meant a wise woman, the parallel to a wise man.
But in the Middle Ages, Christianity came to face a danger. There were thousands of women who were far wiser than the bishops and the cardinals and the pope. They knew the art of transforming people’s lives.
Their whole philosophy was based on love and transformation of sexual energy and a woman can do that more easily than a man. After all, she is a mother and she is always a mother. Even a small baby girl has the quality of motherliness.
The quality of motherliness is not something connected with age, it is part of womanhood. And the transformation needs a very loving atmosphere, a very motherly transfer of energies. To Christianity, it was a competitor. Christianity has nothing to offer in comparison to it-but Christianity was in power.
It was a man’s world up to then, and they decided to destroy all witches. But how to destroy them? It was not a question of killing one woman but thousands of women. So a special court was created for inquiry, to find out who was a witch.
Any woman said by Christians to have had an influence on people and who people respected was caught and tortured so much so, that she had to confess. They wouldn’t stop torturing her until she confessed that she was a witch. And according to the Christian mind, to Christian theology, the meaning of witch was changed: A witch is one who is having a sexual relationship with the devil.
You don’t hear any more of any devil having a relationship with any woman. Either the devil has become a Christian monk, a celibate, or… what has happened to the devil? Who was it that was having sexual relationships with thousands of women? And these women were mostly old women. It doesn’t seem to be rational. When young and beautiful women were available, why should the devil go to the old, the very old women?
But to become a witch, it was a long training, a long discipline, a long experience. So by the time a woman was a witch-a wise woman-she was old; she had sacrificed everything to attain that wisdom, that alchemy.
They forced these poor old women into saying that they were having sexual intercourse with the devil. Many of them tried hard… but the torture was too much. They tortured these women in many ugly ways, just for one thing: They should confess. The women continued to try to say that they had nothing to do with the devil, that there was nothing to confess. But nobody listened to them; they went on torturing them. You can make anybody confess anything if you go on torturing him. A point comes when he feels it is better to confess rather than to unnecessarily suffer the same torture every day.