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Brynn Hutson

on 7 October 2013

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Was misogyny the primary reason for the Witchcraft craze of the 16th & 17th centuries or were there other more relevant factors
which contributed to the witch craze?
#1 Misogyny
"Refers to the hatred of women by men"
Embedded in the mind of the primitive man, thoughts of misogyny progressed over millenniums.
The belief originated from men thinking women had bizarre, unexplained powers because of menstruation and having the ability to create life.
Misogyny also led to women being prohibited from activities and having restricted rights if any.
This led to men throughout history holding total power over the child bearer to ensure the offspring was the father's. Women were treated like a piece of property.
Black Death
also known as bubonic plague, occurred around the 14th century.
This plague killed more men then women resulting in a larger
To make things even worse, major epidemics of syphilis overcame Europe, aiding the idea that witches could cause disease and death.
Stanislav Andreski proposed that syphilis in it's advanced form can cause witch-like symptoms of being old and ugly, and was a major factor in the witch heresy.
And other major epidemics
Malaria was also present at the time causing death.
number of single women. This fed the fire of the Witchcraze heresy.
When facing imprisonment, women were treated inhumanely, facing degrading sexual harassment.
Misogyny and Imprisonment
After being accused, women were stripped bare and searched for "The Devil's Mark".
"Were Witch-Hunts in Premodern Europe Misogynist?" states there are many records that disregard the deaths of multitudes of women, who were murdered during imprisonment due to apparent demonic possessions and starvation.
The Reformation created doctrine insecurity that caused major social, political, and theological change to European society. There was a great emphasis on the Bible and that the Bible was the absolute word of God.

There was a rejection of the Catholic clerical hierarchy. It was believed people should be free to study and interpret the Bible in it's unmodified form.

Religious fervour created a century of violence with events like the "30 Year War" that destroyed most of modern Germany (1618-1648), and the "French Wars of Religion" (1562-1598) that was caused by the rise of Calvinism.
#3 Protestant Reformation
Feuds were regional, and inconsistent but greatly damaged societies stability leaving them more susceptible to the witchcraft heresy.

Throughout Europe and spreading into North America, a mania was born. Superstition was becoming a reality, evil was amongst the people.
Robin Briggs, a historian, estimated almost 40 000- 50 000 people were executed in Europe due to the heresy that overcame all nations.
Approximately a 100 000- 200 000 prosecuted, 80% of which were women.

Throughout Europe, there is evidence of a mini ice age. If this event actually occurred, there would have been reduced temperatures and high snow falls that created a mass failure of crops.

As a result there was a widespread of famine and starvation offering a perfect opportunity for the superstitious and "scientifically ignorant peasants", to pose accusations of the supernatural.
Most accusations typically targeted women aged between 40-50 years old who had a snappy attitude toward those of higher ranks. Majority of which were single widows or the wise woman of the town or village.
The Witch Craze
#5 Print Making
Print making was invented in the Renaissance period which helped remake the image of anti-feminism and aided in the creation of the "witch image".
This invention widespread anti-feminist ideas throughout all Europe, using religious doctrine and words of Church Fathers.
Flyers were accessible to all literate, frequently accompanied by the popular saying "Thou Shalt Not Suffer A Witch To Live"
The Witch Craze
#6 The Witch Hunter
Witch hunting became a new occupation when the witch craze heresy began. There was great money to be made from finding, catching and prosecuting witches.
Witch hunters would stage a way to accuse a person of witchery. They would make this public so the town or village would believe they were indeed a witch.
The witch hunter would be praised and paid well, greeted with great hospitality, while the witch would be persecuted.
If found guilty of witchery, a witch would be put under torture for a confession, and to give up names of other witches.
Many women confessed of false accusations due to the cruelty they faced. This more or less proved to witch hunters and society that witches were real.
Mary Sutton of Bedford had her thumbs tied to the opposite big toes and tossed into the water. If she floated she was a witch, if she sank, she was human. Mary Sutton floated, and was burnt alive.
Mathew Hopkins was a witch hunter that put 68 people to death in Bury, St.Edmunds and 19 in Chelmsford in a single day.
He was paid a lot of money to tour England and rid the nation of evil. Many people, mostly women lost there lives because of this.
Hopkins Method: to poke a mole, wart or insect bite with a needle and if she felt no pain, she was indeed a witch.
His tool was a 3inch spike that retracted into the handle so the women never felt any pain.
Witchcraft persecution began around 1563 when Elizabeth I was in power. This was much later than other parts of Europe like France and Switzerland that began in the 14th century.
Witchcraft was deemed heresy by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484.
1645 through 1646 was "witch fever", a time when the witch craze grew to substantial proportions.
Characteristics of a Witch
- Stereotypically women
- Have made a pact with evil spirits
- Reject Jesus and other religious characters
- Take part in Sabbaths; Sabbaths are annual midnight meetings of witches with the devil
- Pay honor to the "Prince of Darkness" and gain special powers
- Described many times as old, ugly women with hairy lips, sunken in cheeks and snaggle teeth
- Often owned a cat, or multiple cats. As they were a sign of witchcraft.
- Have dealt with infertility, fear well being of children, or want revenge of a lover.
Mother Samuel of Huntingdonshire was tortured into confession of the death of Lady Cromwell in 1590. Mother Samuel, along with her husband and daughter were hanged, their naked bodies left for the people to observe.
In 1616, 9 were hung at Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, England. They were said to have caused epilepsy in a young boy.
Margaret Aikens, a Sottish women known as "The Great Witch of Balver", could detect witches. She was taken around the world under supervision to hunt for more witches.
#4 Geographical Influences
So, what factors influenced the Witchcraze's
One of the most famous cases, is the Salem witch trials. They occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692- 1693. More than 200 people were accused of witchery during this time. 20 however, were actually executed. Eventually the colony apologized for the witch trials stating it was a mistake. The families of the convicted were compensated.
Bridget Bishop
Sara Good
Elizabeth How
Susannah Martin
Rebecca Nurse
Sarah Wildes
Rev. George Burrough
Martha Carrier
John Proctor
Martha Cory
Mary Esty
Ann Pudeator
Samuel Wardell
Alice Parker
Mary Parker
John Willard
Wilmot Redd
Margaret Scott
Giles Corey
Witch Trials
Three Key Points
#1 Mostly women were accused and convicted of witchery. Making misogyny a primary factor in the witchcraze.
#2 Disease and illness killed off many men, leaving a large amount of single women who were easy targets for such accusations.
#3 The invention of print making spread anti feminist ideas, as well as ideas of witchery broadening the limits of the witchcraze to all literate.
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