"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Richard P. Feynman

Friday, August 13, 2010

Witches,Warlocks and Weather

 A paper by Emily Oster reports that in medieval times superstition blamed witches for weather disasters and crop failures -
“Therefore it is reasonable to conclude

that, just as easily as they raise hailstorms, so can they cause lightning and
storms at sea; and so no doubt at all remains on these points.” 
Sound familiar? The Pope of the day with the medieval version of the IPCC report!

The principal text outlining the proper treatment of witches in this latter

period was the Malleus Malleficarum, published in 1484 (Summers, 1971). This book
was instrumental in codifying the existing beliefs about witches, their powers and
their actions. It gave specific guidelines about how suspected witches should be
“questioned” until they confessed to their crimes. In addition, it calls our attention
to the extant beliefs about witchcraft, weather making and crop destruction at this
time. In the Papal Bull that opens the Malleus, Pope Innocent VIII recognizes the
power of witches in the destruction of crops, writing: “It has indeed lately come to
Our ears . . . many persons of both sexes . . . have blasted the produce of the earth,
the grapes of the vine, the fruits of the trees, . . . vineyards, orchards, meadows,
pasture-land, corn, wheat, and all other cereals. . . .” In addition, the Malleus
contains a chapter detailing the powers of witches with regard to the weather, titled
“How they Raise and Stir up Hailstorms and Tempests, and Cause Lightning to
Blast both Men and Beasts.” This chapter ends with a line that leaves no room for
doubt about the perceived power of witches: “Therefore it is reasonable to conclude
that, just as easily as they raise hailstorms, so can they cause lightning and
storms at sea; and so no doubt at all remains on these points.”
 It is interesting to note that Ms Ester concluded that lower temperatures caused a statistical increase in witch trials so maybe the converse will be that global warming will reduce them. Maybe we need a peer-reviewed paper on this topic.


  1. It is noteworthy that it was Pope who defined witchcraft in this manner, not the Bible.

  2. I recall a documentary which suggested strongly that, these low temperature periods coincided with increased incidence of the ergot fungus, which when ingested caused. er, "witchy" behaviour.

  3. Found something....


  4. Interesting that this commenter cannot properly spell the title of the document. In any case, who knows what people will be laughing about in 600 years when they look at our times. Thanks for giving The Radical Watchman the opportunity to vent his anti-Catholicism. I hope he is feeling better soon.

  5. The witchcraft thing is a hoax. There is no evidence that the alleged witches beleived in strange gods. A few thousand were burned at most, and most were men.

    This has nothing to do with climate change science. This is borderline feminist stuff and revisionist history.

  6. Anonymous - get a life. If you don't realise I was taking the mickey then you are not the sharpest tool in the shed.
    That is probably indicated by your brilliant pseudonym!