Witch-hunts can be traced from the time of the Bible centuries before Christ up to the time of the New Testament, from middle ages to Modern times. However, between 1500 and 1700 through out Europe and America the fear of witches and witchcraft grew and became a reason for hysteria and mass trials. The number of victims to these accusations is not definite, as many case-files have gone missing. It has been estimated that just in Europe in this time period there were 100,000 victims killed under the pretence of allying with the devil.
The consequences caused by magic were called “maleficium”, a majesty crime. The punishment was the “capital punishment” (death penalty). Therefore the historical term for witch-hunt is malefice justice. Accused Executed Holy Roman Empire ~100,000 ~50,000 Poland ? ~15,000 France 10,000 5,000 England 2,000 ~1,000 Scotland 3,069 1,337 New England 334 35 Scandinavia ~5,000 1,500 – 1,800 Hungary ~1,600 472 Spain 3,687 100 Italy ~2,200 ? Germany ? 100,000 These trials or accusations did not follow a pattern. The courts and citizens accused men and women alike, or even children.
It is true that there were more women convicted for the crime of witchcraft than men, but the popular belief of witches being only women is due to propaganda. Another error in our society’s information is that witch trials have not stopped. When we think of witch hunts we relate this concept to the middle ages, in actual fact there are many places still today that the fear of tampering with the forces of nature exists to such an extent, that suspicious behaviour is still attributed to witch craft. The last known case of this nature was on the 14th of April 2003, in Mexico. The use of witch hunts.
There have been many different reasons for the witch-hunts, several times it has been for political interest or even pushed by the clergy. Witchcraft cases increased slowly but steadily from the 14th-15th century. The first mass trials appeared in the 15th century. Around 1550, the persecution skyrocketed. What we think of as “the Burning Times”, the crazes, panics, and mass hysteria, largely occurred in one century, from 1550-1650. In the 17th century, the Great Hunt passed nearly as suddenly as it had arisen. Trials decreased after 1650 and disappeared completely by the end of the 18th century.
The time of prosecution (1550-1650). During the religious quarrel and confrontation between Catholics and Protestants the parties accused each other of being involved in magic and led by the devil. This led to a hunt, anxiously eliminating any people with a suspicious behaviour to ensure that Catholic or Protestant believers were not tainted. After the hunts the attitude of the people changed (1700-1800). Both sides accused each other of killing many good innocent Christians. Protestants used the argument that the number of victims in Catholic communities was bigger by absolute number.
In this way they intended to prove that their concept on society is better. When the abuse of this topic decreased in the churches it was picked up by politics (1850-1945). Politicians accused the church of being involved in suspicious magic. This was a way of changing people’s beliefs, instead of depending on the church, people were supposed to depend on their government. Files were collected to denounce religion in general. From the 1970’s onward the history related to witches has been completely ignored and used to the benefit of whomever it may benefit. This topic has proved itself useful for practical aims.
A group of American feminist activists used the idea of their abused past to get sinecures within their society and state. The story of witches, (women) being hunted down and tortured also was useful for journalism and mass media, as they interpreted the history with pornographic aspects. The mass trials The uprising of mass tribunals against magic was supported by the idea that the world was going to come to an end, like the Apocalypse that the Bible refers to. The bible describes how the devil will send his disciples over the earth and destroy it. The person being prosecuted could be one of the devil’s servants and no one would know it.