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17th Century European Witch Craze Background Essay

The 17th hundred years was the elevation of witch craze in Europe, where many were executed and persecuted for witchcraft. Approximately eighty five percent of those carried out for witchcraft were women which frenzy continuing in Europe completely to the first twentieth century. The loss of life was so severe that it's been referred to some researchers as a holocaust. Did this hysteria against witchcraft reduce their statistics? No. The more violently these were executed, the more in number they truly became. The majority of those executed were women and this form of large strike on women implies a kind of genocide; one which focuses on gender rather than over a religious or ethnic group. In Reformation Europe, women were overwhelmingly tried as witches. In France and Germany, more than eighty percent of those carried out as witches and in Great britain, ninety two percent of those performed for witchcraft were women and in Russia, around 92 percent were also put to death (Trevor 214). The practice of witch hunts subsided by overdue seventeenth hundred years and by early eighteenth hundred years, witchcraft trials were rare. The causes for the decline of witch hunts are numerous and complex. This paper will attempt to examine the witch trend phenomenon concentrating on several questions: why have women suffer a lot of the executions? Why does the witch trend result in the seventeenth hundred years? Why was there an abrupt increased focus on dark-colored magic, and witchcraft? The newspaper will also review the social, political, institutional, and philosophical factors which may have driven the period of witch hunts to its end.


What was the witchcraft trend and why achieved it occur?

All through background, there have always been situations of conjures, cunning folk, sorcerers and witches. Normally they were women, whom other folks searched for since it was presumed that they had supernatural power over both human beings and character, leading individuals to utilize them in a bid to find lost items, obtain a love potion, to place a curse or spell on someone, to recover a disease and numerous other purposes. Devil or satanic relationship was not part of the magical forces. Around later thirteenth century, the Catholic Church started to advocate that only its priests experienced legal magical powers. Because these marvelous powers were not real human, they either came from the devil or from God. Anyone, outside of the Church involved in these activities was believed to have developed their magical capabilities from the devil, and so was considered witches. Because of this, a new so this means of witchcraft and witches was created. Pagel (130) affirms that as time passes, a steadily broader variety of offences were assigned to witches: power to cause painful disease and crippling, to cause unexpected loss of life, to cause frigidity, erotic impotence, barrenness, loss of livestock and crop failing. Any kind of inexplicable catastrophe was entirely blamed on witches.

According to Levack (180), by overdue fifteenth century, in certain regions of German states, facts was discovered that mentioned that witches worshipped Satan. In order to look at whether these utterances were true, the Pope assigned some Dominican friars to investigate the presence of witches. These monks found that a significant number of those involved with witchcraft were women. A substantial volume of scholars have attempted to learn why women were mainly recognized as witches. In Reformation Europe, women were frustrating tried out as witches. In Russia, about ninety five percent of these convicted and sentenced to death were women and in Britain, the body was ninety two percent (Trevor 214). By overdue sixteenth hundred years, accusations and killings of witches were uncontrollable. As the judge systems anchored more confessions, individuals were satisfied that the witch killings were effectively reducing witches. Williams & Pamela (246) says that almost all of those accused and persecuted were only women, from the low social monetary classes.

How a lot of women were sentenced to loss of life? Whilst it has been termed lethal misogyny, many scholars believe that two to nine million women lost their lives (Trevor 215). Then in overdue seventeenth hundred years, the persecution of witches abruptly halted. Some of the most suitable reasons postulated about the persecutions of witches are: changing techniques in medications from male midwives to feminine ones, misogyny, town anxieties and tensions about the poor, witches brew, the Protestant Reformation, psychedelic rye, ergot poisoning and syphilis (Yehuda 27).

In the annals of women, misogyny has been a common leitmotif. This hatred and fear of women led men at that time to post or record their negative notations on women. Williams & Pamela (257) says that even significant philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato witnessed women as intellectually and in physical form inferior beings. During the fourteenth century, most men thought that women were simply vessels for giving birth or malformed men. Starting in the sixteenth hundred years in Britain and fifteenth hundred years in France, women such as midwives came up under suspicion as being witches because they used natural plants for remedies as the physicians who were men and the only ones allowed to be trained and licensed, experienced a hard time contending with the midwives because they didn't have access to the holistic treatments (Sidky 78). Thus, to avoid your competition, the medical doctors resulted to accusing the midwives and other female healers of doing maleficent medication. Furthermore, the profession of middle wives was becoming increasingly an extremely profitable endeavor and the male medical doctors wanted to profit from this. Since there is a high prevalence of morbidity for new mothers and newborns, women were natural focuses on for witchcraft accusations.

Additionally, there have always been town anxieties and tensions about the poor. Poorer widowed or aged single women generally speaking did not have male supporters nearby to protect them against unconfirmed witchcraft accusations. And on numerous times, these women acquired many felines and other pets to keep them company and these were additional resources of witchcraft suspicions. Anderson (172) expresses that in experiment with witches in the us, older women were very defenseless and tensions between old and new settlers were also present. Also recent research reveals that while old unmarried women were killed at the start of the witch craze, these were replaced by more youthful and wedded women. The Western witch trend of the fourteenth to seventeenth hundreds of years was an exceptional historical combination of accusations against individuals, specifically women, of whom almost all were possibly innocent.

Lastly, another theory that points out the witchcraft craze was the increased pervasiveness of syphilis and its attendant qualities which were related to the consequences of ergot poisoning. From the later sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries, almost every level of contemporary society from nobles to peasants had syphilis. In the last stages of syphilis, unconventional tendencies is manifested, severe mental condition occurs, compounding the occasions that resulted in accusations of witchcraft.

Decline and end of witch hunts in seventeenth century Europe

The decrease and end of witch hunts in overdue seventeenth century Europe was a progressive process which occurred consequently of multiple triggers. The elements that led to a decline and end of witch hunts included new political or cultural phenomena, a fresh thought process, new legislations, and so forth. Nevertheless, the elements also included, "the absence of whatever started out them in the first place" (Yehuda 14). Because of this, the factors, which developed the popular certainty in the supernatural into witch hunts, are directly related to the factors that led to the drop and end of the witch hunts. So, the decline and end of the hunts in modern-day European countries was a multifaceted and gradual process. The complexities for the drop can be categorised into four kinds of factors: social, politics, intellectual/philosophical and institutional.

Social factors

It is quite clear that the witch hunts weren't only about religious beliefs; social factors performed a significant role. Over the years, scholars have assembled numerous records and have found connections among the accused witches (Trevor 278). As stated above, most of the witches were prone women; those who experienced poor financial basis and those that lacked ranking in the modern culture. Simply put, these women had no or very little source of safety, whether it is money, a partner, or social position against accusations. But, as conditions improved upon and time passed, there have been less of the vulnerable women, therefore, fewer women were persecuted because of their alleged affiliation with witchcraft. The execution of the Poor Regulation is a historic event that discloses this pattern. THE INDEGENT Law exclusively defined the 'poor' and classified them into 'incapable poor' who could provide for themselves or work, the 'able -bodied poor', those who have been competent of labor but who could not find any work, and the beggars (Trevor 278). Additionally, the Poor Laws made provisions to provide materials and comfort to these folks. A substantial variety of the vulnerable women mentioned above fit the groups of the 'poor' and were thus recognized. In Great britain, the decrease of witch hunts in sixteenth and seventeenth hundred years can be partially attributed to this public improvement.

Another social factor which contributed to the end and decline of witch hunts in Europe engaged tolerance in the society. In Europe, the sixteenth and seventeenth decades saw regular and large level conflicts over religious personal information within and between says. But, in other parts of the Western society, ideas like tolerance were being multiply and gained many followers. The idea behind tolerance had not been that sorcery or devil worshipping was socially acceptable, but that if individuals engaged in virtually any sorcery or devilish serves, which didn't interfere with the welfare of the society or anyone, people would not hunt them down. This change in the world sizeable aided the drop of witch hunts. Also, through the middle age ranges and on, disruptions, changes, revolutions and sociable upheavals plagued European countries. And as Europe stepped into the seventeenth and eighteenth ages, it experienced public developments and a general stableness in societies; this time frame complements up to the time frame where the witch hunts dropped and concluded.

Philosophical / intellectual factors

In Europe, various notions and institutions of thoughts developed over witch hunts. A few of them were successful in persuading many people to get away from such hysterical and irrational practice. The time between the seventeenth and eighteenth generations, Europe experienced the Enlightenment and the Reformation when the zeal for witch hunts began to cool off. The climb of secular rationalism started out around this time. And, an set up of secularism, which is "the affirmation that one institutions or procedures should separately can be found from religious belief or religious beliefs" (Trevor 280), and rationalism, which attracts reason, persuaded Europeans to dismiss sorcery and devilry. Those who upheld secular rationalism and those who believed got intellectual superiority started out treating the opinion in witch hunts as nonsense. This development started with early Enlightenment's intelligentsia (Pagel 145). With such a group of individuals speaking against witch art, the physique of witch hunts significantly dropped.

However, such ideas and philosophy did not remain within the intelligentsia. Folks from the middle class also started acknowledging the theory of secular rationalism plus they turned down witch hunts. They performed so in order to make sure themselves with their association with the intelligentsia. What's more, by attacking the indegent as superstitious for believing in witchcraft, and by borrowing the ideas from the elites and support them, the middle school could discern themselves from the indegent peasant class. Simply put, class consciousness significantly helped stop the witch hunts in European countries.

And as Europeans started becoming more acquainted with medical research, it became unattainable to allow them to perform executions and pursuits as that they had recently done. Individuals made accusations on several grounds; one of the most common ones was the physical information the accused persons displayed with their systems (Anderson 179). Boils, growths, moles, etc, were significantly regarded as evidence of affiliation with the devil or the devil's mark. Nonetheless, as people seen such characteristics on the body of individuals with unimpeachable figure, such attributes or markings lost dependability as evidence. For instance, in Geneva Switzerland, the devil's mark had turn into a acknowledged form of proof, and surgeons were given the task of analyzing the accused individuals. But, the cosmetic surgeons started hesitating on their methods as they stumbled upon people of impeccable nature and moral reputation with the devil's tag. These surgeons figured differentiating the devil's make from marks of natural origins was challenging, if not unachievable. As a result, capital prosecution of witches became extremely difficult and after 1625, only one witch was executed in Geneva. Throughout European countries, similar situations took place although not concurrently.

Additionally, there was an ongoing redefinition of the concept of the devil in Europe. As time exceeded, Europeans began changing their views of the energy of the devil. Matching to Levack (198), having less solid proof the devil's existence reduced the specialist of the devil. As individuals started out to identify the poor position of the devil, the problem of witch hunts became a totally religious subject, where previously it was a judiciary matter. Punishments and response for witchcrafts became reconciliation and penance, instead of capital punishment as had been the case.

Political factors

Religious conflicts of varied magnitudes infested sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe. Occasions on wars, assault, instability and dilemma had their origin in religious beliefs and these issues extended when other issues like overall economy and politics were added on. For instance, the 30 Years' Warfare and the Dutch Revolt were frustrated by and following the Protestant Reformation (Trevor 302). This kind of setting up and environment was where the witch trend was the most severe and widespread. Numerous circumstances of witch hunts point their basis to the political factors. According to Anderson (193) the fantastic Scottish Witch Hunt that occurred in 1661-1662, saw 2 hundred and six people accused of witchcraft. In Massachusetts in1692-1693, over one hundred and fifty individuals were imprisoned and sentenced, with more individuals unofficially pursued. It's important to note that the politics factor theory claims that once balance restored and authority was centralized, the witch hunts significantly decreased in number.

Institutional factors

On top of the interpersonal, philosophical/intellectual and political factors, the decline of witch hunts was competed with institutional changes in European countries. The social, political and philosophical/intellectual changes mentioned above prepared European societies to implement such changes into regulation. In Britain, the Witchcraft Work of 1734 redefined witchcraft so the normal form of witchcraft would no more be deemed as a legal offence. Therefore, blameless individuals were never to get hunted. The British Take action of Parliament in 1736 also eradicated witch hunts and Poland also performed so in 1776. The amendments manufactured in judiciary institutions added to bringing the hunts to an in depth (Sidky 148). In eras when the witch hunt craze was at its maximum, there was no central or little control over the tests. Along with centralization and political stability, Europe possessed to see amendments in the judiciary. In order to accomplish this, several societies allowed attracts higher courts; in addition they verified that local magistrates were properly trained for the profession. Such measures avoided the witch craze from escalating into an uproarious dilemma and slowly and gradually let them subside. Also institutional details including improvements and legislations in the judicial system concluded the next chapter of the decline of witch hunts, thus, getting the period of witch hunts to a close. Despite the fact that when institutional factors materialized in every state varied, they were the ultimate factor of the drop and end of the witch hunts and trend.


This newspaper has attemptedto verify the witch art trend in continental European countries consequently of the convergence of various conditions: timing of the witch craze, content and explanations why women were the principal subjects of the witch hunts. The witch hunts and trials in Europe haunted many people and took many lives. The witch hunts were the prevailing societal phenomena in the sixteenth and seventeenth generations and remain a subject that pulls a lot of interest and attention. Particularly, in the realm of witch hunts in continental European countries, the way the hunts developed from an already established idea in the lifestyle of the devil and exactly how they can with their end are subject areas still open for further studies. This paper also studied the causes for the decline and end of witch trend and hunts, classifying them into several factors: sociable, politics, institutional and philosophical / intellectual. A blend of the factors reduced the number of occurrences of witch hunts and studies, and finally concluded them. The witch craze in Europe emerged to an end when the conditions for its beginning were no more in existence.

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