Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I was reading through a book I started reading about a year ago. Yes, I am one of those people who read a few chapters then set the book aside. I usually have three or four books going at once.

This one was a book by a fellow named Nigel Cawthorne, "Witch Hunt A History of Persecution". A nice charming little book that looks at the phenomenom of the witch hunts/trials in the US and in Europe.

The Middle Ages were a nasty time to be a woman. Or a rich dude who had enemies. You could be strung up with your arms tied behind you, placed on the rack, have a board laid over you upon which hot stones were piled higher and higher until you confessed and named names.

They didn't mess around with such foolishness as evidence. Once accused, you could be tortured until you confessed. In fact, not confessing under torture was considered by some a true sign of your guilt.

In Spain, around 1481, a man named Torquemada was made the Inquistor General. In this role, he sent more than two thousand people to be burned at the stake. Of Torquemada, Cawthorne writes, "Torture was largely Torquemada's contribution to the Inquisition. He instructed that torture could be used in any case where heresy was 'half proven' - in other words, an accusation had been made but no confession had been extracted. Simply being brought before the Inquisition was enough."

Then, if the rack and the strappado (the hanging with your arms tied behind you for a couple of hours) wasn't enough, they would bring out the water torture. Or you could be strapped in to a metal chair with your greased feet (so they would burn more slowly) tied over a grate under which a fire burned. Flogging and cutting off fingers and toes were also popular ways to get confessions.

Gosh. I am so glad that we live in enlightened times and an enlightened country where torture is no longer implemented. Because who would be so stupid as to think that it would result in getting the truth?????

No comments: