Witches in Europe from the late 15 through the 17th centuries Essay
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During this period religious reformation was at large in Europe. Protestant and Catholics reforms were on the rise. Moreover, the Scientific Revolution spawned in the midst of it all. With all this occurring, a demonic figure was created named witch for all those against or just not with God. Specific factors determined who would be persecuted for witchcraft.
Those who forsake their religion or God, were females of certain age, and belonged to a poor social class, were sought out to be persecuted for witchcraft.
The religions practiced at the time were based on the belief in God. Gods opposite or enemy is of course the Satan. The scripture told people of demons and their ability to posses someone or a woman (Mary Magdalene) by penetrating their thoughts with pure evil. Document 4 of Group D informs us that a religious leader (John Calvin) knows that he must wage war on his enemies. People who get easily depressed and have little trust in God were said to be more prone to be deceived by the Devil. John Wier discusses this focusing on woman of old age. He as well states that Christians are the ones that choose to persecute them or not. Thus, showing us that those against Christianity were most likely seen as witches and inevitably persecuted. Furthermore, Martin Luther puts fear in his church followers; by telling them of all the witches acts of evil among the townspeople. He explains that it is the Devils work, so people following adhering to Martins words will definitely support prosecution of those against them. Likewise, even a Pope speaks of both men and women who give themselves to the Devil the moment they forsake the catholic faith. He declares them as inquisitors who must be imprisoned and punished for their offences.(Group B Doc 2)
A young Protestant boy speaks of his fear of Hell and the Devil. It is clear the preachers at the time were influencing people of all age to fear and at the same time hate individuals declared witches. Therefore, such individuals would definitely be persecuted and the townspeople would fully be for persecution.(Group B Doc 5)You will find that many have heard of witches, but there are also many who havent heard of warlocks or sorcerers. Simply because during this period, the majority of those were persecuted were women and they were of old age. In movies witches are depicted as ugly, old, and are of course females. Document 2 of Group D, clearly show the dominance of women over males executed for witchcraft in several parts of Europe. Moreover, Document 3 of the same group, shows that the median among witches was 60 and very few individuals as witches were under the age of 50. In terms of age, Document 1 of Group C explains why it was an issue. Fulbucke critiques the elderly by saying their bodies are impure, diseased, whetted by Devil for the purpose of vexation and destruction of others. Likewise, Johan Waler refers to witches as old hags and described them as old women of melancholic nature and small brains. He also states that illnesses originate in them.
In terms of female gender, women were seeked out because they were believed to be more credulous and more impressionable. Therefore, they were more ready to receive the influence of a disembodied spirit. She is intensively attacked for as it was believe that since the formation of the first woman had a defect, she is an imperfect, so in turn will deceive. Thomas Adys description is a good example of how people immediately reacted negatively towards old people. He explains his denial of help towards a woman of old age and how afterwards, strange things occurred. So he declares her a witch. The report of Churchwardens states that Alice was a witch who would claim to help others and animals strangely diseased through her charm and would tell anyone of her sayings. This was seen as witchcraft and her charm was of evil influence. Moreover, Roger North speaks of poor old wretches who usually get put to death and if they go to trial they will be punished.
Those trapped in poverty never have it good in any age. The list of occupations shows that Laborers were accused most of witchcraft and gentlemen were never accused. Thus, showing that those of poorer jobs were more subject to prosecution. Also people who were suffering from poverty were seen as more vulnerable to Satans taint. In the testimony of a licensed wife, a woman was said to have made promises to the Devil in return for improving her financial state. Many persecutions helped those in charge of persecuting, make money. Judges and executioners were getting wealthy as they showed no mercy to the poor people they convicted. (Group A Doc 2)Religion, gender and age, and social class all come into play in this period when those individuals as witches were put to trial. Anyone who would forsake their faith, usually being Protestant or Christian, would be marked for trial. Females were seen as imperfect and deceitful and easily subject to the Devils influence.
Age came into play because of the appearance of impurities and disease seen in the elderly at the time. Those who were poor were easily vulnerable for persecution as they could not defend themselves. Also they were expected to be more easily influenced by the Devil in order to improve their economic status. A poem directed at a woman who is claimed a witch and describes what she is capable of brought fear to the people.(Group A Doc 5) Also, it may be true many people were innocent, but torture would not cease until the individual would confess something and many times it was made up. This tells us that many people were forced to call themselves witches in order to not have to bear the unbearable punishments. As you can see, all these factors must be accounted for as to why certain individuals seen as witches were persecuted.
(DBQ Euro History) (The Western Civilization)