The Burning Times

This documentary takes an in-depth look at the witch hunts that swept Europe just a few hundred years ago. False accusations and trials led to massive torture and burnings at the stake and ultimately to the destruction of an organic way of life. The film questions whether the widespread violence against women and the neglect of our environment today can be traced back to those times. Part two of a series of three films on women and spirituality, which includes Goddess Remembered and Full Circle.

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Film Credits

director
Donna Read
producer
Mary Armstrong
Margaret Pettigrew
Signe Johansson
executive producer
Rina Fraticelli
Kathleen Shannon
script
Erna Buffie
cinematography
Susan Trow
sound
Diane Carrière
editing
Judith Merritt
Donna Read
sound editing
Jackie Newell
re-recording
Jean-Pierre Joutel
Shelley Craig
narrator
Martha Henry
music
Loreena McKennitt

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Comments

  • Krakon2006

    “My response is for Taran: I respect your right to your opinion, but I do not appreciate your tone. Each time you were talking about Witchcraft there was a level of disdain in your voice. It implied that you weren't offering your view as a scholar, but as a lawyer for Christendom. Also, the reality is that people died at the hands of religious zealots and whether its 9million people or 2000, that doesn't matter to the families of those who were executed for witchcraft. It was a crime and punishable by death. What helped to fuel the witch craze was the papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus issued by Pope Innocent VIII. It said: "any persons of both sexes, unmindful of their own salvation and straying from the Catholic Faith, have abandoned themselves to devils, incubi and succubi, and by their incantations, spells, conjurations, and other accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offences, have slain infants yet in the mother's womb, as also the offspring of cattle, have blasted the produce of the earth, the grapes of the vine, the fruits of the trees, nay, men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, vineyards, orchards, meadows, pasture-land, corn, wheat, and all other cereals; these wretches furthermore afflict and torment men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, with terrible and piteous pains and sore diseases, both internal and external; they hinder men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving, whence husbands cannot know their wives nor wives receive their husbands; over and above this, they blasphemously renounce that Faith which is theirs by the Sacrament of Baptism, and at the instigation of the Enemy of Mankind they do not shrink from committing and perpetrating the foulest abominations and filthiest excesses to the deadly peril of their own souls, whereby they outrage the Divine Majesty and are a cause of scandal and danger to very many (...) the abominations and enormities in question remain unpunished not without open danger to the souls of many and peril of eternal damnation." And that inspired Malleus Maleficarum to be written by Heinrich Kramer and the persecution of many innocent people. The Church condemned Kramer's book, but where were they to stop it? Even Pope John Paul II apologized for the involvement of the church during the Inquisition, which lead to the deaths of countless people. As for religions that have survived from antiquity, there are artifacts and oral traditions passed down from generation to generation, much like this idea that Witches worship demons and consort with the Christian Devil all because generation after generation has continued spreading these lies, when in fact, Witchcraft has been discovered in cultured around the world and from sources that predate Christianity and therefore could not worship any deity called Satan because he wasn't invented yet. Also, many Christian holidays still cling to pagan roots illustrating the cultures that were being forced to convert still held on to their beliefs. I think in this part of your argument you are confusing Witchcraft with Wicca. Wicca is a modern day mystery religion influenced by a variety of spiritual philosophies, but primarily a modern Celtic path in regards to its seasonal rites. Yes, it's man made, as ALL religions are, so they also incorporate witchcraft, which is why the documentary relates pagan practices with condemnation by the Church and the accusation of witchcraft. Meanwhile, it was most likely Christians harming other Christians and not actual practitioners of Witchcraft? Still, my point is that people died. Religion, power, greed and prejudice caused these things to happen. If exaggeration is the crime here, then fine, but if denial of any "Witch Hunt" is implied by your commentary then I have to strongly disagree with you. We are still living in the aftermath of those days both as Witches who are still feared and hated by a few people, and by the "holy wars" still being waged in the Middle East. Religion is at the root of the problem and although our world is changed from those days of imprisonment for witchcraft, there are still cultures who do still treat witchcraft as a crime and either jail or execute for the offense. So, if you wish to present your findings as a scholar who simply wishes to put accurate numbers and events on a horrific mark on human history, then fine. I appreciate accuracy and I'm not threatened by it. However, show respect for those who lost their lives at the hands of prejudice and an unjust system. As a Witch myself (albeit) a modern and evolved version than those of antiquity, I have to ask that you please show respect when talking about Witches because there is nothing funny about death nor bigotry, all forms of equality are important within a free nation and history has proven that when exposed to only one side of the story, we lack the complete picture and no matter who you are or what faith you follow, it's all subjective. Thank you. Other than the fact that I thought the documentary was thoughtful, moving and beautifully told, not boring at all, I do appreciate a fact checker, just not a denial that nothing happened because we all know it did. ” — Krakon2006, 22 Mar 2015

  • merlinsdreams

    “A very powerful, moving and thought provoking film. What i find disturbing is the level of fear generated and instilled into the population by the authorities. The film brings to light that period of European history which was responsible for the torture and execution of so many women - the exact number we can only guess at - it was all the more powerful for this. Reducing this terrible time to mere superstition is a travesty of history; the film does much to dispell such myths and in a clear, coherent manner, explains the reasoning behind what at first appears to be insanity - I thought the points made about women and property and their exclusion from education to be especially potent - and it makes me shudder to see in our own times such attitudes directed against women. I was glad to hear therefore female voices reclaiming their history, spirituality and presence in the world throughout this wonderful educational film.” — merlinsdreams, 30 Aug 2014

  • key2rebecca

    “I just broke down and cried after watching this......” — key2rebecca, 11 Mar 2013

  • vk

    “As a scholar on this subject and practitioner, I found it to be wonderful. The inaccuracies others have mentioned seem to be subjective in their views. ” — vk, 19 Feb 2013

  • SierraBloom

    “Brilliant... finally after 50, 000 years of patriarchy we hear the truth.” — SierraBloom, 21 Dec 2012

  • Taran

    “After many years *hearing* about the inaccuracies of "The Burning Times", I finally saw it here, and made a video exploring some of the issues with the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsPOUhlmhe4” — Taran, 19 Oct 2012

  • the_scarlet_manuka

    “Remarkable documentary for it's thoughtful examination into the barbaric and disgraceful state of fear and selfishness that led to the destruction and persecution of a beautiful tradition (the sacred feminine). We're only today just coming out of the end of the aftermath of this conduct, still apparent after over four hundred years; men and women today, thank God (or the Goddess as you please) should seek every opportunity to examine and question what happened that it NEVER happens again.. ” — the_scarlet_manuka, 4 May 2012

  • MOSAherne

    “Interesting. A pleasant looking woman -Barbara Harris-who spoke meaningfully on this subject-which hopefully doesn't make me sound 'leery'. I just fell under her spell. This is a good informative documentary. If Hollywood 'gets wind of it'-they quite possibly would entitle it " Hot Girls!-the truth hurts" OK-please forgive my two indiscretions. I know more about the subject than I did before;and have even more respect-for women. qv-my piece on Canadian Car women during WW2. Maurice (not a morris) Aherne” — MOSAherne, 4 Dec 2011

  • uh8myzen

    “So much of our "civilization" is built on a foundation of cruelty and wrongful persecution especially, it seems, by those institutions who have set themselves up as moral or ethical authorities. Documentaries such as this serve to remind us all how we got where we are today, to awknowledge those who have suffered under the yoke of prejudice, and hopefully act as a catalyst to right our ancestor's wrongs. Great film!” — uh8myzen, 13 Sep 2011

  • Esobella

    “Great Video as was the first Goddess Remembered! Would really like to view Full Circle. I agree that it should be shown in churches everywhere.” — Esobella, 30 May 2011

  • “This is a documentary which should be shown in churches everywhere. This Holocaust perpetuated by the church(es) deserves to be acknowledged. In 2010, the Lutheran World Federation apologized for the involvement and complicity in the persecution of Anabaptists (i.e. Mennonites in the middle and late medieval periods. I wonder if all the churches might one day apologize for all women who were tortured and condemned as witches. I suppose there is as much chance of that as there is for the Church of Rome to apologize for the Inquisition.” — newfire@mts.net, 20 Feb 2011

  • ams599

    “A lot of the information given in this movie is very inaccurate. ” — ams599, 2 Nov 2010

  • CullenTOONS

    “I was not aware of this informative Movie nor book. Thank you so much for sharing! It is another sad example of man's inhumanity to man and especially women. Our species make poor choices that are horribly blackened with our religious beliefs and our quest for the truth and our ideas about who "GOD" is.” — CullenTOONS, 10 Oct 2010

  • Beepath

    “I had a copy of "The Burning Times," loaned it out and it wasn't returned. That's fine, I hope it goes everywhere and seen by many. That was 20 long years ago and this film was information I desperately needed. Now, I can share it on Facebook with so many friends ready for this information. Thank you so much Donna Read and young Jason who posted it. ” — Beepath, 29 Jul 2010

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