Witchcraft Essay

Submitted By driiiizyy24
Words: 2571
Pages: 11


Momentous changes occurred in the world in the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. The religious beliefs of many centuries began to unravel as perceived immorality, wars and violence were endemic. Following the tremendous loss of life from the Black Death, at least one-third of the population in some areas, there was a strong sense of morbidity or preoccupation with death. "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die" became the swan song for the age. Constant warfare, including the Hundred Years War between France and England followed, adding significantly to the number of casualties. Also, heretics were actively being pursued and persecuted by the Catholic Church for not conforming to its dictates. Additionally at this time, during the Age of the Renaissance and then the Age of Discovery, new ideas were generated that left people uneasy and unsettled. Then came the revolt against the Catholic Church that culminated in the Protestant Reformation and then the Catholic Counter Reformation, where people switched their religious loyalties. A series of religious wars, revolts, and reforms then followed throughout Europe. Concurrently, with all this contentious and pugnacious incidents, intellectuals and literate people were starting to postulate ideas and theories about the natural world, in a movement later identified as the Scientific Revolution. Now, add the events relating to witches, which scholars will name the Witchcraft Craze, and it is self-evident that additional bizarre times occurred. What was the witchcraft craze and what were the antecedents that made it possible? Throughout history there have always been sorcerers, cunning folk, conjurers, and "witches". Usually these people were women, whom others sought out because it was thought they had supernatural powers over both nature and human beings, leading people to use them to find lost items, to put a spell or curse on someone, obtain a love potion, to heal an illness, and many other purposes. Satanic or devil connection was not part of these powers or aids. Then, beginning around the late thirteenth century, the Catholic Church began to espouse that only its priests possessed legitimate magical powers. As this magical power was not human, it either came from God or from the devil. Anybody, outside of the church, involved in such "magical" activities must have ipso facto received their power from Satan and thus were witches. A new definition of witches and witchcraft was created. Satan had an organized army of demons (evil angels) or minions, who had made a pact with the devil sealed through carnal intercourse. Travelling through the night flying on their broomsticks to attend sabbats, these witches attended their orgies with the devil. Once this pact was sealed, the witches had the power to commit evil acts against humans. As time passed an increasingly broader spectrum of crimes were assigned to witches: power to cause sudden death, to cause crippling and painful illnesses, to cause sexual impotence, frigidity, and barrenness, and causing crop failure and loss of livestock. Any inexplicable calamity was blamed on witches. By the late 15th century evidence was being found in certain areas of the German states that the devil was being worshipped by witches. To investigate whether the presence of malevolent witches empowered by the devil was true, the Pope assigned two Dominican friars to go to Germany and look for the presence of witches. Malleus Maleficarum or Hammer of the Witches, published in 1486 was the result. The monks stated why witches were women: "it is self-evident that witches are female...where there are many women there are many witches...men, like Jesus are protected from lures of the devil, but women because they are feebler both in mind and body are easy prey just like their predecessor Eve...furthermore women are more carnal then men...they are sexually insatiable." It then itemized all the crimes