The Burning Times
Calahorra, Spain 1507
Sadly, there was something deadlier than the Black Death waiting for the witch. It would take another one hundred fifty-nine years, however, before she would discover it.
Until that enlightenment occurred, Elsbeth bided her time constantly on the run like a common criminal. Her only crime? Witchcraft, also known as maleficia.
There were humans who believed that the sickness that had plagued all of Europe was the device of witchcraft. The suspicion only fueled a hysteria that possibly claimed just as many lives—or maybe more—than the disease. It seemed as if no corner of the continent was safe from the mass craze.
All matter of man gladly took up the task of catching and persecuting those accused of maleficia. Inquisitors tortured suspects with prepared lists of questions lifted from the many tomes purporting to know how to find a witch. When did you sell your soul to Satan? Do you attend the sabbath of witches? Who else was there?
The flames of absurdity were stoked when the Malleus Maleficarum was released. The author claimed to know how to spot a witch and what should be done with her upon capture.
And the vast majority of the accused were women. It was the first great sexist assault ever recorded with men in charge of judging and condemning the fairer sex. Even when other females were hired to examine the accused, they did so under male supervision. The so-called witches were routinely stripped naked and left alone in rooms with men who performed despicable acts all under the guise of religion. Those accusers should have considered themselves lucky. For if those women had been true witches, the amount of torment would have overwhelmed the men.
Despite all of that, Elsbeth thought herself fortunate. She refrained from practicing any form of witchery unless it was absolutely necessary. Her life became filled with nameless faces as she relied upon the kind nature of men to protect her.
By 1507, the witch had lived in practically every region of the continent. At that time, Elsbeth was passing through Spain in search of another hiding place. Thanks to the queen and king, it was a dangerous period to be in the country. Elsbeth had heard the rumors of Spanish Inquisitors near the town of Calahorra. It had been her experience that sometimes it was easier to hide right under the noses of the hunters—always in the face of danger.
The witch had another reason for descending upon Calahorra. She sought a purported healer named Marina Bela. The woman had knowledge that Elsbeth, then one hundred seventy-seven years old, wanted to acquire. Despite not looking her age, the witch felt it in her bones. She sought relief from the ever-present ache.
Sitting beside the hearth, the woman placed a special blend of herbs and other obscure items into a small burlap bag. Marina pulled the strings, closing it, and passed it to the witch.
“Are you sure this will suffice?” Her hands shook as she grasped the item.
“Et dut ezer aginduko. Erabil ezazu zure arurapean,” said Marina. Her dark eyes flitted from the witch to the door. “Arazoak datoz.”
Fortunate for Elsbeth, she understood the Basque language. The healer promised nothing when it came to the potion. She advised that Elsbeth use it at her own discretion. But there was danger coming for her and for every woman in the village.
“Bai.” The woman leaned forward and spoke in English. “The inkisidorea has been to the neighboring villages. I have foreseen the events to come. Utzi behar zenuke.”
Elsbeth knew better than to argue with the clairvoyant. But the witch wanted more information. “Before I leave, can you tell me anything else?”
Marina stared into the distance a few minutes before making eye contact again. “You have heard of Cisneros?”
Ximenes de Cisneros had recently been appointed as the Grand Inquisitor. Elsbeth had indeed heard of the man responsible for ridding Spain of the Jewish. He was working on getting the Moors out too.
“Sadly, I have.”
“The newly appointed local inkisidorea will be here soon. Two girls will claim they know of witches. They will tell all that they think they know. Innocent women will be arrested and charged. All of this will lead up to a terrible, terrible time for your people.”
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