Bogomiles and Albigensians

Within a short time the Paulicians had spread their gospel peacefully among the Bulgars, and Europe was confronted with a new heresy, the Bogomiles. The Albigensians, of the south of France, who were drowned in their own blood by the "greatest" of the Popes, Innocent III, were inspired by the Bogomiles and had the same tincture of Manichaean ideas, as were the Waldensians, the Cathari and the Patarenes. The orthodox Catholics of France called them "bougres," for Bulgars, and so the name of innocent people became one of the worst swear words used. They were reproached with having a pope in Bulgaria. From the tenth century onward, this revulsion against orthodox Christianity and its corrupt priests and monks spread over Europe like a salvation army.

The Dianists of the sixth and seventh centuries had gone, and until the twelfth century we find only a few isolated executions of witches for practising black magic. In the twelfth century, more occurred. In the thirteenth century, the Church called on swords and fire in the Inquisition to suppress heresy. From then on witchcraft was recognized by the Church as a secret heresy and a widespread organization.

The Paulicians, Bogomiles, Albigensians and so on were slandered by the orthodox. Psellus, one of the leading Greek orthodox writers of the tenth century, says the heretics used to meet at night by candle light and invoke the devils. When these appeared as animals, the lights were extinguished and the worshipers indulged in an orgy of sexuality with the devils and with each other. This story was applied to the heretics all over Europe. A letter of Pope Gregory IX written in 1233 AD to the bishops of Germany, urging them to seek out and persecute the heretics, shows the connexion with witchcraft.

The Pope says that amongst these heretics "when a neophyte is received there appears to him a kind of frog," though some say it is a toad. Some kiss it shamelessly on the buttocks, others on the mouth, drawing the tongue and spittle of the animal into their mouths. Sometimes this toad is "as big as a goose or a duck." The neophyte next encounters a "man of extraordinary paleness, with deep black eyes, and so thin that his skin seems to be stretched over his bones." The neophyte kisses him and finds that he is "as cold as ice."

The worshippers then sit to table, and a large black cat comes out of a statue, and all of them in the order of their dignity, kiss its buttocks. The lights are extinguished and there is the usual orgy of sexual intercourse. If, the Pope gravely explains, there are more men than women, or women than men, they resort to sodomy. The candles are relit, and they sit again at table, when from a dark corner of the room comes a man "shining like the sun from the loins upward, but rough as a cat below." To this devil the neophyte is presented, and the faithful also give consecrated hosts which they have stolen from the churches where they have communicated.

These heretics, the Pope says, declare that God is a tyrant, and that he unjustly condemned Lucifer to hell. Lucifer is the real creator of the world and prince of men, and in the end he will regain his place.

The details of the beliefs of the Paulicians and Bogomiles are obscure, the sources only being their enemies. They seemed to have derived their ideas from the Persian religion via the Gnostics. The Zoroastrians had believed that the evil principle had created matter which was evil. To Christians the evil principle was Lucifer, and the new heretics argued that Lucifer was one of the two sons of God, unjustly cast off by an overbearing father. He became their "prince" and "lord," and unlike the Persians they believed that he would ultimately triumph.

The Manichaeans had been ascetic, deeming the flesh, as part of the creation of the evil principle, an evil thing, and it is clear that the Albigensians and other European heretics also led strict lives. But the glorification of Lucifer meant that matter and the flesh could scarcely be regarded as evil, and a reaction into orgies was inevitable. The witches, at least, had such orgies.

John of Salisbury, bishop of Chartres in the twelfth century, and others refused to believe in the striga. Pope Silvester II, Gerbert, was himself accused of magic. Moorish influence was beginning to teach Europe the elements of wisdom. And it was the crown of this new development, the Scholastic movement, which completed the evolution of the witch and let loose the murderous forces of the Church.