History Of The Witch Trials

Submitted By lizziefagundes
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Exodus 22:18 states, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live". This bible verse was the backbone of the witch trials. The witch hunt in Europe lasted for about 270 years (from approximately 1480 to 1750) and around 50,000 people total were killed during that time, even though over 100,000 people were tried for the crime witchcraft. Originally the witch hunts were organized by religious officials to make sure that people feared of challenging the church. Three-fourths of all the people that were killed were women, although in some countries, the amount of men tried for witchcraft were almost 60% (for that country).They prosecuted these people because they believed that the Devil was inside of them, and that they could not be saved. Europe’s goal was to rid itself of witches entirely, stopping at nothing. People would accuse anyone of being a witch and practicing witchcraft if it meant they were safe. The amount of people killed in the trials depended on the county. Some places, like Germany, killed anyone that was even just accused. But in some countries if they person admitted to it and repented, their life was spared. The years that were the most intense and where the most people died were the years around 1550, and those years are/were referred to as “The Burning Times”.

Laws and acts were made concerning witchcraft. Some were made right when the witch hunts started and some were made after they ended, and some in-between. The first was the Witchcraft Act 1542, made by Henry VIII. It stated that witchcraft is a felony, and is punishable by death. The next one was the Witchcraft Act 1562, which was passed by Elizabeth I. It was more fair towards people found guilty of witchcraft; say that they can only use the death penalty if the person being accused had harmed someone while they had been alive using witchcraft. Also the Scottish Witchcraft Act 1563, where if you practiced witch craft you needed to die and if you had ever helped a witch you needed to die. Others included the Witchcraft Act 1604, and the Witchcraft Act of 1735. Even now there is still a witchcraft act in place in South Africa that is based off the act that was established in 1735. It is called The Witchcraft Suppression Act 3 of 1957 and “prohibits various activities related to witchcraft, witch smelling or witch-hunting.”

Looking and learning about witches became a huge craze, and many books were written about it. The most famous book was named "The Malleus Maleficarum". It was written by written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer, a German Catholic. This book was every person’s guide to witchcraft. It talked about how to find a witch and once found how to kill them. The title is translated as “The Hammer of Witches”, and is still universally known today. The book says that three things are necessary for witchcraft: the person wanted to be a witch, the help of the Devil, and the Permission of God. Widows and adult women with children were the most charged with witchcraft. The book has three parts: the first part explains why witches’ exist; the second part is how to determine if a person is a witch, and the third part is instructions to accuse, persecute, and kill a witch. Some examples that the book states that were proof that they were a witch are: a mole or birthmark (given by the devil), and people who didn’t cry during the trials. The reason that this book succeed so well is that Kramer gave the Pope a lot of money to sign off on it and give it the churches condolences.

The witch trials came from the Christian church. The first trials of witchcraft came from the Catholic Inquisition. At first everyone who was tried was only there because an anonymous person told the people that they were a witch. At first both the Catholics and Protestants did not persecute witches, but then in the late part of the trials they both did.

In Europe, most cases did not even compare with the witch trials that would follow it like the Salem Witch Trials . In York,