Joan of Arc“Witch” was she- simple maiden or winsome witch? The young French girl, who began hearing voices at age 13 while living near Lorraine, France was given a daunting task: to save France and put Charles VII on the throne. It had more allure than milking the cows, but despite what she believed to be the words of God, Joan tarried until she was sixteen, before taking up men’s clothing as ordered, and asking Charles to put her in charge of his armies. For once, a man did what he was told, and in 1429, she routed Orleans at the head of the French soldiers.

Joan literally became a living Saint, venerated and credited with miracles. But was she part of a cult?

Yes …sort of. Although not in the way people think of boiling cauldrons, eye of newt and black cats. Joan is credited by such scholars as Sir James Frazer, as being part of the Cult of the Dying God, a pre-Christian dogma that dates back as far as Neolithic times. Put simply, a god was able to incarnate as a regular person, or even an animal, but would have to die, to ensure continued life and fertility. (The perks of the “life” didn’t quite make up for the outcome.) That belief existed well into the Christian era, and in some primitive areas, as far as the 20th century.

In the 1300s French mystic Marie Robine, tipped Charles VI that a maiden in armor, would someday save France. Even the mythological Merlin is said to have predicted that a virgin from the forests of Lorraine, would preserve Parisian (and other) petards, by her miraculous acts.

But her end was a given, if she was indeed “Joan on loan” from God. The maid herself told Charles VII, while she was helping him to the crown, “make the most of me, for I shall last only one year.” (The warranty period on Saints was very limited.)

Wounded in an unsuccessful attempt to free Paris from the English, Joan was captured by Burgundian forces and sold to the English, who put her on trial not for her political betrayals, but for the heresy of wearing men’s clothing, which was forbidden by the Church.

Contrary to popular belief, she did not offer herself up as a sacrifice to her Faith. At one point she attempted escape by jumping off a 70-foot tower…and surviving. At her trial she was commanded to renounce the wearing of men’s clothes, and she agreed, receiving in return, a life sentence. Unable to face life without longjohns, she reverted only a few days later, to wearing male garb again. Joan claimed God would not allow her to do otherwise. The court declared her a lapsed heretic, and ordered her burned at the stake.
She was retried 26 years later, but due to the previous verdict, was unable to attend the trial that cleared her name.
Five hundred years after her death, the very Church that executed The Maiden of Orleans, would elevate her to Sainthood. Now that’s what you call hedging your bets with the Big Guy upstairs.