the 16th and 17thcenturies in Western Europe
In the movie “Snow White” the evil witch was knocked over a cliff
with the help of the seven dwarfs who rid of all evil that plagued Snow
White. “I’m melting, melting,” were last lines of the wicked witch of the
West in Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard Of Oz. However in the 16th and 17th
century of Western Europe an accused witch was burned on the stake, and
literally meant, “I’m melting, melting.” Luckily with the advancement of
scientific knowledge and realization that curses were just meager words
with no power, the supernatural witch hunt ended. But what was it that
caused this era of dark superstition in the first place? And why were women
the main target for practicing witchcraft? What did witches really even do?
With my further reading of Ch. 17 the authors were able to answer these
questions, fulfilling my mind with knowledge. More importantly they caught
my attention of a subject I found most interesting, and enjoyable, and
To begin with, the media has always viewed witches as some kind of
wicked old woman with a wart of the tip of her nose who always cast spells
on beautiful princesses in order to achieve some ambitious goal. Actually,
witches were seen as cannibalists who ate Christian children, and
participated in sexual orgies with the devil at meetings called sabbats.
Pretty much on the contrary huh? However one thing remains the same, yes,
witches were thought to fly. The origins of witches began with cunning folk
who cured people with spells after calamity. They provided hope after
disaster, and continuation after death. About this time the Protestant
Reformation was well under way. The church had to keep their authority
above such reformists as Martin Luther and John Calvin, thus enforcing
heavy laws and regulations on villages in the countryside. When these
“witch doctors” (if you may) received much attention for the miracles they
performed; the clergy felt somewhat suspicious of this power these people
had. After all, it was only God who gave power to the clergy. If one wasn’t
the clergy it was thought they attained power from Satan. Already in the
13th century priests, and only priets had proclaimed their right to
practice magical power. These Satanists witches seemed to be somewhat of a
threat to society, and the clergy. So the church took tactics to rid of
these people practicing malificium. Nearly seventy thousand to one hundred
thousand people died for being accused of witchcraft. Not only did the
church rid of the fear in society, but enforced they’re authority morally
and politically over a village. Also if one ruler or reformists became an
ever so popular threat to the church, the clergy could simply proclaim them
as “devilish” and thus they’d be no more.
Apparently the reason women were mainly accused of witchcraft is for
the following reasons…..
* Women were seeking power over they’re male counterparts, as well as
attention from society.
* Older women in need of assistance, thus proclaimed themselves as
“supernaturally gifted” in order to receive the attention they needed.
* If an infant, child or an adored wife died the “popular” magical women
were to blame.
For these reasons nearly 80% of all executed as supposed witches were
Eventually the stake burning stopped and society developed such
advances as insurance instead of the supernatural. The clergy stopped the
proclaiming their power, but rather God’s to rid of the devil. “Only one
little word can slay him (devil),” Martin Luther said. It seems that one
word people realized, was God.
The reasons I found all this so interesting was because since I was a
kid witches have been depicted only in fairy tales and children’s plays. To
my surprise such things as witches actually existed. Only they weren’t
living in the fairy tale world I had thought of. I found it interesting to
see how society developed such a morbid theory on evil, in a time of
religious reformation. In a way my attention was grabbed at how witches
were treated, and how the clergy played the role as mediator and savior in
a time of wicked chaos. I was very attentive at how the whole witch hunting
ended. It was nice to know society realized the weakness or mere words, and
instead relied on faith in God as a “vaccine” against evil.
In conclusions the history of witch hunts in my opinion is
interesting because it is a subject that taught me more besides the Disney
movies, and average stereotype of a witch. It was also very interesting to
know how society acted in such a manner, when evil and Satan was a threat.
It’s nice to know society has developed over time, religiously.