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Witchcraft in the 16th and 17th Centuries

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Allison McDougall

on 10 October 2012

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Transcript of Witchcraft in the 16th and 17th Centuries

Witchcraft in the 16th and 17th Centuries Was Misogyny to Blame? Thou Shall Not Suffer a Witch to Live Three Key Points Trials Trial and torture methods used in hunts and trials:
- ordeal by water, in which the victim's hands and feet are bound and they're submerged into a deep pond or river (float=guilty, sink=innocent)
- prolonged interrogation
- pricking, used to identify visible or invisible marks of the Devil
- extreme sleep deprivation to the point of hysteria
- sexual humiliation
- dunking and various types of water torture
- burning at the stake*

*These methods were used after a confession or admittance of the accused had been made Examination of a potential witch Persecution - witch hunting and persecution coincided with changing ideals and mindsets as Europe moved out of the Dark Ages and into the Early Modern Period
- witches were tried and hunted as early as the 1300s, but the hysteria and superstition piqued in the 16th and 17th centuries
- religious writings such as "Malleus Maleficarum" made witches into a legitimate threat to society, while commonly held beliefs about so-called witches were farfetched and fantastical
- before the Reformation, the Catholic church used witch trials to instill a very real fear of the devil and allegiance to the Pope in the minds of the simple commoners
- post-Reformation, Protestants also abused the blind superstition of the people to persecute Catholics, and vice versa
- women were primary targets because they were widely considered second-class citizens and were the least educated overall
- during witch hunts, suspects would be rounded up and subjected to a number of tests to verify accusations against their name
- nearly all of the hunts and trials were overseen by church officials in the particular village
- approximately 40 000 executions took place overall, 75-80% of which were female Identifiers Who Were Witches? - typically, women who were single, widowed, and impoverished were accused of witchcraft
- men were also tried as witches (sometimes called "warlocks"), making up roughly 15-20% of those persecuted in the 16th and 17th centuries
- a witch was anyone who was considered to have performed intentional harm with help from supernatural forces and are in direct contact with the Devil
- these behaviours were acts of heresy and condemnable by death Origins and Classification - typically, witches were classified into two categories, White and Black
- White Witches were characterized as wise or knowledgeable community members, Black Witches were believed to be vengeful, using their "powers" to cause harm
- witchcraft was derived from pre-Christian pagan practices that were used to combat illness and serve various purposes to the performer (ie. luck, revenge)
- practices included casting spells, brewing potions, and carrying charms or amulets
- witchcraft as persecuted by the Church and state was considered to be any practice heretical in nature and practitioners of folk-magic were generally left alone Which Witch? If this applies to you, you might be a witch:
- a witch's teat (ie. a wart or unusual growth)
- several pets, called familiars, that aid you in magic spells (ie. cats, toads, rats)
- black spots signifying sexual intercourse with Satan or incubi/succubi and a pact with the Devil
- participation in a satanic orgy, sacrificial infanticide, or cannibalism
- flying at night on a broomstick or pole
- meeting in groups of other witches (Witches Sabbath) The origins of witchcraft were based in ancient folklore and pre-Christian, pagan healing methods. These practices weren't considered condemnable by the Church; it was any connection with the Devil that was considered heretical and a crime against God and the papacy. Witch hunts were used primarily by the Catholic and Protestant churches to combat each other and create loyalty through fear. Common beliefs about witchcraft were exaggerated and unrealistic, perpetuating a belief in a wrathful God and a very real Satan. Misogynistic views towards women made them easy targets for the respective churches and reinforce negative views towards women. The witch hunting craze of the 16th and 17th was one of the earliest examples of widespread gender violence in the Western world, symbolizing the start of a long and garrulous process that has shaped modern gender equality and women's rights. Works Cited http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-life/medieval-witchcraft.htm
http://www.localhistories.org/witchtrials.html
http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/witch/worigin.html
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