The Irony Of The Fires

by Curt Kovener        

In the Middle Ages in Great Britain, the church held significant sway over government leaders and the general populace. Church leaders liked dictating to others how they should live as it kept the church in a position of power. The religious intolerance resulted in one of the greatest human tragedies in history.

The church fathers used fear and intimidation to force the populace to behave the way they deemed appropriate and punish those who behaved inappropriate (and thus the leaders were enabled to remain in a position of authority).

One of the church’s methods of intimidation was carried out on females. Women with mental or emotional issues by today’s medical standards were often labeled as witches by the church. The church fathers of the day came up with a variety of ways of ‘proving’, the poor soul was a practitioner of the black arts.

The simple accusation of being a witch resulted in a Catch-22 situation.

A woman charged with being a witch might have a large heavy stone placed on her. If she was crushed to death by the stone it was determined that she was not a witch and therefore, was allowed to enter into heaven. If she survived the pressing, church leaders said it proved the devil intervened to save her and she must be a witch.

Those who survived the pressing were burned at the stake to rid the community of non-Christian pestilence. Church and community leaders encouraged the witnesses of these executions to throw cats onto the fire as the felines-we today consider as pets-were then thought to be forms of demons that consorted with witches.

As a result of the destruction of thousands of cats, rats and mice proliferated. And the rodents had fleas, many of which carried the bacteria Yersinia pestis. When the rodents unchecked by the lack of cat population invaded the kitchens and homes of citizens, the resulting bubonic plague ravaged England.

It was fear mongoring by church leaders on its ignorant citizens that resulted in one of the greatest plaques which killed tens of thousands.

In 1666 a great fire in London destroyed 80 percent of the city but also ended the outbreak of bubonic plague.

Ironic that that which was started by fire, ended with fire.