The Flight of the Sorceress

The Flight of the Sorceress
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Thursday, August 23, 2012


Todd Akin didn’t just pull his rape comment out of thin air. It's Christian theology from the Dark Ages. Rape victims who kill themselves (or who get pregnant) must have enjoyed it.  When St. Augustine heard that multitudes of Roman women, raped by the invading Visigoths in 410 A.D. were committing suicide rather that living with the consequences, he wrote:

“‘No one can dispute that if a woman remains firmly opposed to the act upon her, no violation of a woman is her fault as long as she cannot avoid it without sinning. But because a woman’s lust may be gratified during such an act, the woman will experience shame, even though she is pure of spirit and truly modest, because such an act cannot be experienced without some sensual pleasure, and people will believe that she gave her consent.’”  St. Augustine, City of God.

In The Flight of the Sorceress, Hypatia lectures on this dogma, as expounded by St. Augustine. When I wrote it, I had a premonition that the political debate on this issue would come to pass. A significant portion of our country is advocating a return to Dark Ages thinking. They may not like it characterized this way, but St. Augustine, Pope Innocent I and attendees at the Council of Nicaea (322 A.D.) would be comfortable with Todd Akin's thinking and vice versa.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

PUSSY RIOT: Sorceress Redux

The Flight of the Sorceress tells the story of a declining empire scrambling for an ideology that will motivate a skeptical population to restore the empire to its former greatness. Caesar choses Catholicism. Intellectualism is stifled. Women are increasingly oppressed. Dissent becomes heresy as the lines between church and state are increasingly obliterated. All for the sake of a renewed empire that will bring little benefit to anyone except the privileged few. 

Although The Flight of the Sorceress is fictionalized, the big picture is not made up. We have a thousand-year Dark Ages to show for it. During which, according to estimates, six million women were accused of witchcraft or sorcery and either burned or stoned to death. It was a millennium of ignorance, superstition and cruel human oppression.  Europe's knowledge of agriculture, engineering, manufacture and trade remained stagnant. Literally nothing of significance created in the arts or discovered in the sciences was permitted to flourish. And presiding over it all was an omnipotent religious organization.

Today, we have another toppled empire in Russia and a neo-czar, Putin, an heir to the Caesars. During his reign he has crushed all organized political opposition and jailed every serious challenger to his power, accusing each of the corruption that he has enabled and from which he profits. But in this latest gambit involving three women, Pussy Riot, his regime had revealed the next page in his game plan to restore Russia to its former imperialist stature. It is now state heresy to lampoon the Russian Orthodox Church. No sarcasm permitted. No ridicule. No hyperbole. Alles ist verboten. Heil Putin. Heil the Russian Othodox Church. Heil theocracy. Down with high-steppin on the pulpit. It’s got to be hatred. An attempt to stir up the masses against this pillar of state power.

And so now Russia has announced to the world that it has joined the ranks of the theocracies, where blasphemy remains a crime and you could lose your head if you dissent from orthodoxy. Certainly a substantial portion of the peasantry will rally around this comfortably familiar custom and practice, but most of them were serfs until 1861, and as a practical matter, up until the present. Having a base of power among those you have deliberately cultivated to remain backward can bring limited success when it comes to retaining power, but it certainly is no prescription for restoration of an empire’s greatness. And so Pussy Riot has become a reincarnation of the Sorceress.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Three New Four Star Reviews on Goodreads

Merissa Sheppard rated it 4 of 5 stars false "A fast-paced book with lots of detail. If you like historical books, then give this one a try.

Stephanie rated it 4 of 5 stars false "Great historical fiction, obviously well researched. I wish there had been more elaboration. Overall great quick read."

 Edith Parzefall rated it 4 of 5 stars false "Barry S. Willdorf weaves an intriguing tale about the lives of two exceptional women. While one boldly stands up for what she believes in, the other seeks to escape persecution and continue her fight for women's rights. Really a fascinating read, only the ending felt a bit rushed..." 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I was devastated to learn that the temple in Tiberias that I have Pelagius describe in Flight of the Sorceress was seriously damaged by what appear to be Ultra-Orthodox religious fanatics.
"The most beautiful part of the mosaic from the fourth century was severely damaged," said Dror Ben Yosef of the antiquities authority. "The perpetrators drilled a hole in the drawing of the holy ark and damaged the menorah drawing as well. It seems they worked very hard trying to take apart the floor."
A zodiac wheel (described in the novel in detail) drawn on the mosaic appears to have been hit by a pickax. For more:  Temple vandalized