Today I'm talking about the Witch Trials that occurred within 15th and 18th Centuries in Europe and America.
Depending on which resource you read (and I've read a few) anywhere between 40,000 - and 200 000 individuals were executed for allegedly practicing witch craft.
Why did they do it?
It seems to be a case of mass hysteria. Life was difficult in those times, illness, death and accidents were often supersititously viewed to be the work of the devil or some other harbinger of evil. As I'm sure you know, people like to feel safe and religious faith makes people feel safer. It's no surprise then that at Christianity was on the rise during this era and changes in its doctrine surrounding the devil had a significant impact on belief and persecution of witches.
Witches were considered the property of Satan, and therefore responsible for the bad things that happened in a town or village. The first Church inspired witch hunts began in earnest in the 15th century. It is perhaps wise to note, that it wasn't only women accused of witchery. Men, girls and boys were also accused. That said, approximately 75-80% of all accused were women. Leading the witch hunts to be called a 'gendercide' by feminist writers.
How did they find witches?
Hopkins had seven keys ways to identify a witch:
1. Having the diabolical mark - that is moles or marks on the body.
2. Owning a black cat.
3. Talking to yourself.
4. Talking to animals.
5. Spinning a round.
6. Having red hair or freckles.
7. Having unusual eyes.
|Is this more subversive Disney devil worship? *kidding*|
Other indicators or 'proofs' of being a witch:
-having a diabolical pact with the devil in return for rewards.
-being denounced by another witch.
-having a relationship with another witch.
-participating in the the Witches Sabbath.
-possession of items used for black magic.
-to express fear of interrogation.
-not to cry under torture.
-having sex with a demon.
Witch Trials, Interrogation and Torture.
The torture of witches began to increase in frequency after 1468 when the Pope declared witchcraft to be "crimen exceptum".
Then following the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum (the most comprehensive book about witchcraft at the time) hysteria about witchcraft intensified.
Individuals were subjected to sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, dunking, swimming tests (in which most drowned) and a multitude of other unpleasantness.
Ultimately, if you were convicted of witchcraft, you were either excommunicated or executed. Many individuals were burned alive at the stake (particularly in France) whilst others were strangled and then burnt at the stake.
|Punishing Witches in Germany|
So there you have it, a very brief history on Witch Hunts. Enjoy your Thursday!