(Many of the people who were persecuted as witches from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries were those of a seemingly inferior mindset, those who are blamed for problems in the community and those who were social outcasts. ) This time period occurred throughout the Protestant, Catholic and Scientific revolutions. The victims of the witch trials were usually persecuted in Europe as a whole however focused on areas like South Western Europe. Witches were usually people who were considered inferior due to physical appearances like women and the elderly.
In Document 2 of Group D, over 75% of the executions that were analyzed were female which fits into the perspective of society starting in the early days of the church. Many women were seen as sinners since it was technically Eve, the first woman who committed the first sin. In this sense, women were forever branded as a dwelling place for a devil that can easily affect those around them as described by Kramer and Sprenger who wrote The Hammer of Witches which was a handbook used during the Inquisition by Dominican monks in Document 1 of Group B.
It stated in the book that females are part of a fragile sex branded for their physical appearance and considered to be easily deceived by satanic influences. Out of the singled out group of women, those who were very elderly were often considered witches since their actual age was a phenomenon. In those day, the average age expectancy was much lower and those who were seen to have surpassed those year were often accused of being witches.
In Document group D, the 3rd Document, a majority of the suspected witches were over the age of 50. W. Fulbecke stated in Document 1 of Group C that “bodies of aged person are impure” that can easily taken over and spread diseases, he decided that this is a statement was a legit reason to believe the elderly were witches. Due to the stereotypical assumptions made about women and elderly people it was very hard for people to believe otherwise. In Group C, Document 2 it shows a more pragmatic view of women and the elderly through the eyes of a doctor name Johan Wler. Wler believed that rather being messengers from the devil, they are instead affected by metal illnesses that made them believe their delusions.
Some people like Thomas Ady who witnesses a man refusing to help an elderly, refers to the elderly in Document 3 of Group A as “poor innocent neighbour” showing that some people out of the majority still questioned the validation of the accusations. Although there are few who didn’t fall for the common stereotype of women and elderly people being witches, majority ruled and unfortunately many had to suffer for it. Another group of people that were treated unfairly were those who were blamed for problems in the community. In Document 5 of Group A a poem called “The Witch of Edmonton” explains a scenario of a reason to use as an accusation.
Even if you are not guilty, they “enforce” the name upon you and it was a long process until the named “redemption”. Due to the influence of huge Religious figures like Pope Innocent VIII mentioned in Group B, Document 6 that it’s the duty of the population to correct the wrongs by using the Inquisition. At this point in history, the Church worked hard to keep unified and anyone who tried to get in the way were punished. The easiest punishment was through the Inquisition. Everyone feared being tortured for a false confession and then burned like Walpuga Hausmannin did in Document 1 of Group A.
Hausmannin was a midwife who was involved with the deaths of many children as is normal in her line of work. Since so many unfortunate events had occurred, she was burned at the stake. Since there wasn’t much care for accusations made against the accused, all of Europe seemed to be in a frenzy. The diary of a young Protestant boy, as seen in Document 5 of Group B, showed a state of confusion and because of the instability of communities. No matter where a person turned, Hell would be right there as well despite the Church’s useless efforts.
The state of chaos Europe was in was only hurt by the constant blame of the innocent people in the community. Those who were considered social outcasts like peasants, old people and even disliked officials were targeted through the reformation. In Document Group D, number 1, a chart of the occupations of all the husbands of the women who were accused of witchcraft. This chart showed that nearly all of the wealth standings were either laborers or farmers yet hardly any upperclassmen had to deal with such accusations. Not only were those who were poor but those who were non-religious were also attack.
In those days, those who tried to spread a different faith or did not believe at all were heretics that were also attacked. In Document 6 of Group A, the brother of a Chief Justice points out a certain judge that believed in witches and immediately went into detail that he is the cause of much of the troubles by not handing the woman from the trial to the Inquisition attendants. Such decisions are looked down upon and immediate draw attraction to the person who does not become involved with the Inquisition. Not only were those who were considered peasants persecuted but those who lost favor with the population.
According to Document Group A, the 7th document is a letter of a mayor to his daughter. He retells the story of an executioner telling him to confess to what he was innocent for there would only be, “one torture will follow another until you say you are a witch ,”. Given no other option, the mayor is then executed as many thousands of others are as well. Being different in such a radical time period meant being an enemy, one that would be persecuted until the powerful were strong and satisfied. The witch hunt’s would eventually become part of the Church’s dark history.
However this history didn’t just end with the Church, it spread far and wide. One such place was Salem, Massachusetts and then later in history become an example for the Red Scare. The insecurity and chaos of untruthful and misleading leaders and influences can play a heavy toll. It can tear nations apart and rather than becoming more unified it became more disorderly. Towns and cities became depopulated and there was also an opening for true logical reasoning to come about. This reasoning will eventually turn into regulation of trials and torture in order to stop false executions, much like the judicial system does today.
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