To celebrate the swift onset of Christmas (as well as the minor matter of the 150th post on Ghost Cities!) I thought I’d re-blog a selection of past festive posts that have appeared on this site for you all to enjoy. The blog is going on hiatus now until the New Year but I hope that this little collection will keep you amused until then.
Wishing a Merry (Scary) Christmas and New Year to everyone!
Ghost Stories for Christmas
A Very Dickensian Christmas
The Ghost Stories of Charles Dickens
Yuletide Chills: The Wild Hunt
The idea of the Inquisitor, the Catholic witch hunter of the Middle Ages, is potent: the grim-faced man with brands and scourges, thumbscrews and chains, who burns, strangles and drowns innocent and guilty alike to find the truth. It is comforting to know that such practices have not existed now for a couple of hundred years but one cannot help but shudder to think that they ever happened. There were Inquisition courts in many countries but the most famous were the Medieval Inquisition, which started in France and Italy, and the later Spanish Inquisition. Initially these Inquisitions were set up to combat the spread of heresy and apostasy, but eventually they came to be associated with an altogether darker enemy. It all began in the 15th century, when a pair of zealots published a book, a guide to witch-hunting bearing the name Malleus Maleficarum. It proved influential enough to bring about the painful deaths of thousands until well into the 18th century. Within a few years the Pope had condemned it as heretical, however, this did not stop people from using it. ‘The Hammer of the Witches’, as it was literally translated from Latin, was a detailed legal and theological document that came to be regarded as the standard handbook on witchcraft, including its detection and extirpation. Its appearance did much to spur on and sustain some two centuries of witch-hunting hysteria in Europe.
Just as a special treat I thought I’d include with today’s post a selection of past Halloween-themed posts that have appeared on this site. Enjoy!
As The Days Grow Shorter…
A Halloween Tale
A Treat for All Hallows’ Eve
The Day of the Dead
Tradition has it that the first Christian heretic was Simon of Gitta in Samaria, known to most as Simon Magus or Simon the Sorcerer. He appears only once in the canon of Scripture, in Acts 8:9:24, where he is said to be a sorcerer who hears the Gospel and repents, only to beg Deacon Philip the Evangelist to sell him the power to heal and to perform miracles. The Blessed Saint rebukes him and Simon asks that he pray for his soul. However, Simon, we are told elsewhere, did not repent of his error. His not inconsiderable knowledge of the occult warped his understanding and he created a Gnostic heresy. Surviving traditions about Simon appear in anti-heretical texts, such as those of Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius, where he is often regarded as the source of all heresies. The sin of simony, or paying for position and influence in the church, is named for Simon. The Apostolic Constitutions also accuse him of lawlessness. According to the early church heresiologists Simon is also supposed to have written several lost treatises, two of which bear the titles The Four Quarters of the World and The Sermons of the Refuter. In apocryphal works including the Acts of Peter, Pseudo-Clementines, and the Epistle of the Apostles, Simon also appears as a formidable sorcerer with the ability to levitate and fly at will. All of this inevitably leads to the question: who was the real Simon of Gitta? The truth is perhaps stranger than any legend.