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Witchcraft In The Middle Ages Of Europe And Central America: Women, Men And Beasts

2915 words - 12 pages

The study of witchcraft and its presence in the high middle ages of Europe and Central America is the fundamental significance in the understanding of mankind. It not only explores notions of theology, spirituality, social psychology, history of social protest but also highlights the issue that is the female position. This essay attempts to deal with the epidemic of Witch persecutions, how the phenomenon came about and to what degree and whom was it accepted. It will attempt to understand the context by which these measures were taken, and the societal pressure of the Catholic Church, the hand by which many woman and very few men were subject to emotional and physical torture and ultimately condemned to death.

With the start of the high Middle Ages came a notable increase in witch-prosecution and an undeniable fascination with all things occult, the devil, demons and the obliteration of such heretics. While the great strife between Catholicism and Lutheranism began the number of those accused of consulting with the devil, and condemned of the heinous crime of witchcraft began to rise. This was due in part of the teachings of the reformers and the church itself, refuting any argument against witchcraft and its infection of traditional catholic, obedient society. In Luther's catechism, the control held by the devil over man's body and soul, life and property, wife and children amounts almost to omnipotence. According to Sister Antoinette Maria Pratt the interest in the occult increased in the 1200s as “Satan became, their whole lives through, the dominant idea. This was particularly true of the fifteen and sixteenth centuries, when the doctrines of Luther had permeated all classes of society and were producing their terrible results. The demoralization resulting everywhere from the religious, social, the political movements and struggles, was especially favourable to the development of the witch-superstition and procured for it an extension undreamed of before.” (Pratt, 1915) As this increased belief in the occult manifested throughout many parts of Europe it was becoming evident that Lutherans and Catholics alike began to believe more in the power of the devil than of Christ, and that young and old believed more in the devil than in God and his holy gospel. “Because any challenge to the authority of the church was, in medieval times, a challenge to the order of society, and to the majesty of god himself, society naturally responded to Heresy and Witchcraft with repressive measures.” (Russell, 1972) It is through this belief that the brutal condemning of supposed witches manifested itself throughout society, as bishops, priests, cardinals and general servers of the church believed themselves to be defenders of god, and thus were righteous in their elite positions.

Not solely was the phenomenon of witchcraft to be kept among the believers and condemners of theological heresy, but those who dare refute the increase in witchcraft and the accused...

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