Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December 5th; strange day indeed.

Heinrich Kramer was having a devil of a time.  Central Europe was teeming with witches who were wreaking havoc in a number of regions.  Worse, local ecclesiastical authorities actively resisted his efforts to confront such evil.  So, as a dutiful inquisitor, Kramer appealed to the pope for help.  On December 5, 1484, His Holiness Inncocent VIII obliged his loyal witch hunter by issuing the papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus.

The pope's message not only acknowledged the existence of these malevolent creatures, who at the "instigation of the Enemy of Mankind...do not shrink from committing and perpetrating the foulest abominations and filthiest excesses," but also warned local bishops not to interfere with Kramer's holy mission under pain of "excommunication, suspension, interdict and still other more terrible sentences, censures, and penalties."

THE FANATICAL INQUISITOR -- described as "a furious misogynist" by historian Edward Peters--was thrilled with the pope's sanction and immediately set about compiling a handy guide to identifying, torturing, and killing the (mostly female) servants of Satan.

Malleus maleficarum, or Hammer of the Witches (published in 1487 and nominally co-written with Jacob Sprenger), was filled with such insightful declarations as "all witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable," and, of particular interest to men, the witches "are able to vitiate the natural use of any member."

With the advent of the printing press, Malleus maleficarum became a massive best seller and the authoritative source upon which many a judge relied over several centuries of successive witch crazes to kill thousands of innocent people.  And faithfully reproduced in each copy of this blood-soaked book was Pope Innocent's so-called Witch Bull and its endorsement of "our beloved son" Kramer.
Bad Days in History, Farquhar, Michael, pg 436

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In 1349 on this day, five hundred Jews in Nuremberg, Germany, believed to be a cause of the Black Death (the Plague), are tortured, burned at the stake, or simply murdered by good Christians.  
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On this day in 1791 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dies a the age of 35 in Vienna.  He was buried in a pauper's grave.

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On this day in 1492 Italian explorer Christopher Columbus reaches Hispaniola (Haiti), the last discovery on his first voyage to the New World before returning to Spain and a hero's welcome.  



In 1945, five U.S. Navy torpedo planes take off from Florida on a routine mission over an area of the Atlantic known as the Bermuda Triangle.  After reporting instrument failures and radio difficulties, the planes vanished.  The story cemented the legend of the Bermuda Triangle as an area where ships and aircraft disappear without a trace.

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On this day in 1933, prohibition Ends!   

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Each year, on December 5th in the Netherlands, Sinterklaasavond (Saint Nicholas Evening) is more important than Christmas.  Sinterklaas brings presents to every child who has been good during the year.  The children leave hay and carrots for Saint Nicholas' horses, and Saint Nicholas and his helpers put fruit, nuts, and coins in the children's wooden shoes. 

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