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Witch Trial Phenomena Essay

1616 words - 6 pages


In important respects, the great witch hunts began with the invention of the stereotypical witch in texts by professional demonologists. Prior to the publication of these texts, there was already widespread belief in magic both harmless and malicious. But not until the practice of magic became a religious warfare between God and his enemy the devil did community concerns about the practice of magic evolve into the desperate, sadistic trials that occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the idea that witchcraft was a reality rather than a myth suddenly made a comeback. Trials of individual witches in early modern Europe always began with specific accusations brought against a supposed witch by one or more of her neighbours.

When the printing press was invented, writings could be distributed around Europe. The first and most significant written ideas of witchcraft available to a majority of people was the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches) written by Sprenger and Kramer in 1486. The document made an important contribution to the widespread witch hunt. Sprenger and Kraemer proclaimed that not believing in the reality of witches was heresy. Sprenger and Kramer informed secular authorities to fight witches by any means necessary.

It was followed by other texts that described, often in great detail, the alleged practices of witches, or that outlined the procedures for conducting a trial of a witch. These texts created some of main aspects of wild beliefs of witches that permeated Europe for two centuries: that witches had deviant sex with one another and with the devil, that they interfered in natural reproduction, that they caused death and disease and other natural occurrences such as storms and that they turned away from their Christian faith. In short that they threatened every form of religious and secular order.

Between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, the seven deadly sins had came into place which had taken the place of the ten commandments.3 This made it sins against God rather than sins against fellow neighbours and the community. "witchcraft had been previously been the crime of harming neighbours by occult means ; now clerical intellectuals tied it firmly to devil-worship." creating a new vision of witches of being extreme heretics therefore leading the way to large persecutions to eradicate this evil and cause of disorder from society.

Women were usually the most common target to be accused as witches. In most regions, about 80 percent of the alleged witches killed were female.4

It was believed that women were inferior and weak because Eve succumbed to Satan's evil. As a result, in the 16th and 17th century

Europe, with the Church pounding beliefs home, it was a common understanding that women were more likely to indulge in sinful activities such as witchcraft. It cant be fully proven but it is believed that most accusations formed from women accusing other women , this then would account for the...

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