During the late fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries, thousands of individuals were persecuted as witches. It was thought that these individuals practiced black magic and performed evil deeds, the deeds of the devil. This all happened during a time of great change in Europe, during the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, and the consolidation of national governments. They were persecuted for a variety of reasons, but three major ones were religious reasons, social prejudices, and the economic greed of the people. Religious leaders such as Martin Luther and John Calvin influenced the ideas of their followers. Religion dominated the time period and it’s easy to see how many opinions
In The Crucible if these girls didn’t like someone they blamed witchcraft and those people were either hung/jailed or keep the trend going by blaming
For nearly two centuries, witchcraft seemed to have disappeared. Although it was driven underground for a time, it is now the fastest growing religion in the United States. There are several reasons for its disappearance and now, for its return.
Witchcraft wasn't new to the world, it had been occurring in Europe for hundreds of years. From the 14th-16th century, 40,000- 50,000 individuals in Europe were executed for the suspicion of witchcraft. Religion was very pertinent to the people of this era. Anything that was written in the bible or created by the church was law, it says in Exodus 22:18, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." By the year of 1231, Pope Gregory IX declared that it was legal to expose and punish any belief different from Roman Catholic doctrine. Pope Innocent the VIII deemed witchcraft a heresy, with the punishment being death. Everyone followed this decree as witchcraft was wrongful in the eyes of the church. ("Search")
It is important to understand the meaning of witchcraft to be able to identify what caused the massive witch-hunt in Europe. During the medieval to the early modern period witchcraft was identified as the practice of harmful, black or maleficent magic caused by a witch (Levack, 1987, p. 4). They also describe them as evildoers that associate with the Devil, kidnap children, and murder others. These accusations were untrue rumors made by the Catholic Church to promote Christianity and punish those who did not follow the church beliefs. (Levack, 1987, p. 7)
From the 1400’s to the 1800’s, around forty thousand individuals were executed for witchcraft, most of which occurred throughout central Europe. Constant religious and political upheaval caused elites to attempt to harness control over populations, which led to multiple laws being passed in regards to witchcraft. Torture was allowed and women and children were called to testify in the court room. Individuals who were seen to be outcasts on the outer edge of society were immediately targeted and easily suspected of sorcery. The Trial of Tempel Anneke: Records of Witchcraft Trial in Brunswick, Germany, 1663 gives its readers an inside perspective of the many different attitudes that existed towards witchcraft at the time. Because 17th century Brunswick townspeople were driven by deep Christian beliefs, they greatly feared all forms of magic, thinking them to come from the devil. Yet despite these fears, they did not completely reject witchcraft as they often sought out purported “witches” for magical solutions.
The puritans had no toleration for the practice of witchcraft which is “the practice of magic, especially black magic; the use of spells and the invocation of spirits.” Puritans
For thousands of years, Christian societies throughout Europe deemed witchcraft as a critical threat and imagined it as summoning evil powers. Witches were seen by the Christian community as “a conspiracy organized under the leadership of the devil.” There are quite a few references to witchcraft and sorcery in the Bible, the two most famous being Exodus 22:18 and Deuteronomy 18:9-14. These two verses have been used over the past centuries to solidify Christian belief that witchcraft is
Witchcraft in early modern Europe was understood to be the combination of maleficium and diabolism. The term maleficium refers to the actual act of witchcraft, which was believed to be harmful magic or sorcery. Allegations of maleficium were simply the foundation for the crime of witchcraft. Diabolism is what made witchcraft a crime because it involved trading oneself for magical abilities from the Devil (xxv).
Promiscuity was also known to be a reason for being accused accused of witchery. Marital problems often led to a disgruntled husband screaming witch. A woman who could not conceive a child, or one who would not give into her husband’s wishes could easily be accused.
Society was intolerable of witchcraft in any way, although a multitude of people acknowledged it as logic and a way of life. If someone contradicted with what was ordinarily accepted, they were said to be associated with the devil. The devil’s assistance was always available to those who were willing to pay a price. The dissemination of witchcraft in England was affected by the production inflation of Bibles which incorporated knowledge about witchcraft, the need for someone to hold accountable for plagues and disasters, and having access to medicines and herbs with techniques that have been passed down through generations.
To better understand the Medieval churchmen’s plight with witchcraft the subject of heresy must first be examined. According to St. Isidore of Seville (ca. 570 – 636), heresy, derived from the Greek word haeresis meaning choice, was given the name in view of the fact that each heretic, by their own will, decided to teach and/or believe in heterodoxic manners (Peters, 1980, pp. 47, 49). St. Isidore continues, stating, “These heresies have risen against the Catholic faith and have been condemned by the apostles, the holy Fathers, or the councils” (Peters, 1980, p. 50) Thus, heresy can aptly be defined as anything deviating specifically from the Catholic faith, not Christianity overall.
Witchcraft was defined for the masses by the publication of the Malleus Maleficarium also known simply as the Handbook. Written by two Dominican friars in 1486 it’s purpose was to be used as a handbook to identify, capture, torture, and execute suspected witches. Opinions stated as facts and written in the Malleus Maleficarium, “handbook”, were based their faith, church doctrine, and the Bible. No doubt a religious masterpiece in it’s time this handbook is a neatly woven together a group of beliefs, experiences, wisdom of ancient writers, religious ideas, and God inspired writings that justify it’s purpose. Written by and used by Catholics this handbook proved useful for Protestants as well. Based on biblical interpretation and ideas the handbook provided Protestant Church leaders biblical authority to prosecute witchcraft as well. Translated into today’s vernacular phrases such as, “everybody knows that women are feeble minded” or “everybody knows that women are more superstitious than men” and “all women have slippery tongues” are included in the handbook and presented to the reader as foregone conclusions. Specific
Witch hunts blazed across Europe over the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries not just killing innumerable innocent people, but stripping women of much of the power they had once held, and changing society's perceptions of women all together. The economic hardships, religious rivalries, and troubled politics of the time made accusing your neighbors of witchcraft convenient. Where there was war and poverty, or merely bad luck, peasants would assume witchcraft and rush to blame an old, defenseless woman in trials which involved unbelievable cruelty and horrible sadism. As religion and the Catholic Church began to complement and perpetuate the increasing hysteria, European society as a whole could do nothing but