Witchcraft In Modern Europe

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In early modern Europe, over 50,000 people were executed after being accused of practicing witchcraft. The European witchcraze began in the 15th century and came to an end in the late 18th century, as the last known execution occurred on June 23, 1782. This paper will question how the fear of witches became a visible phenomenon in early modern Europe. As the rise of witchcraft occurred, various folk tales, superstitions, and legends arose with it. Due to women being most popularly accused of being witches, sexism and misogyny increased during the 15th to 18th centuries. Both Catholicism and Protestantism began focusing on demonology, and the relation between witches, the devil, and evil. As an attempt to address witchcraft, Pope Innocent…show more content…
Although the concept of witchcraft dates back to 5th century B.C.E, it became more relevant to European society after the Black Death plague in the 1340s was blamed on the use of witchcraft. It was not until the early 16th century that witch trials gained popularity, not long after Malleus Maleficarum was published. There is much controversy surrounding the exact number of people who were charged for practicing witch craft, but "most historians accept a figure in the range from 40,000 to 100,000 based on public records; there were perhaps two to three times that many individuals accused formally of or tried for witchcraft" (Lewis, 2017.) A majority of the witch trials and executions that occurred happened within the Holy Roman Empire, including Germany, France, and Switzerland. As witchcraft became a more visible concern, many superstitions, legends, and folk tales around the subject…show more content…
There are many different perspectives given on what characterize witches, and how they developed their "powers". Most popularly, witches were believed to be women who had come in contact with demons, or the devil. It was argued by Saint Augustine that witches gained their magical ability through making a pact with the Devil. Other common beliefs include that they were able to set curses, ruin crops, were likely to have pets, and rode on broomsticks. The spread of these beliefs caused civilians to become extremely superstitious, and always concerned with whether or not the people around them were practicing witchcraft themselves. As more people began to be suspected of practicing witchcraft, several tests were developed to determine if someone was bewitched. One of the most commonly used tests was the "swimming test". In the swimming test, "accused witches were dragged to the nearest body of water, stripped to their undergarments, bound and then tossed in to to see if they would sink or float" (Andrews, 2014). Other tests included prayer, touch, pricking and scratching tests, as well as the use of witch cakes, examination of witch marks, and incantations. Although these tests were placed purely on illogical beliefs, the rare occasion that they were successful was able to convert non-believers into believers. With an increase of people who believed

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