In the early modern period, from about 1400 to 1775, about 100,000 people were prosecuted for witchcraft in Europe and British America.[1] Between 40,000 and 60,000[2][3] were executed. The witch-hunts were particularly severe in parts of the Holy Roman Empire. Prosecutions for witchcraft reached a high point from 1560 to 1630,[4][5] during the Counter-Reformation and the European wars of religion. Among the lower classes, accusations of witchcraft were usually made by neighbors,[6] and women made formal accusations as much as men did.[7] Magical healers or 'cunning folk' were sometimes prosecuted for witchcraft, but seem to have made up a minority of the accused.[8][9] Roughly 80% of those convicted were women,[10] most of them over the age of 40.[11][12][13] In some regions, convicted witches were burnt at the stake.

Medieval background

Christian doctrine

Main articles: Christianity and paganism and Christian views on magic

Throughout the medieval era, mainstream Christian doctrine had denied the belief in the existence of witches and witchcraft, condemning it as a pagan superstition.[14] Some have argued that the work of the Dominican Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century helped lay the groundwork for a shift in Christian doctrine, by which certain Christian theologians eventually began to accept the possibility of collaboration with devil(s), resulting in a person obtaining certain real supernatural powers.[15] Christians as a whole were not of the belief that magic in its entirety is demonic, for members of the clergy practiced crafts such as necromancy, the practice of communicating with the dead. However, witchcraft was still assumed as inherently demonic, so backlash to witches was inevitable due to the collective negative image.[16]

A branch of the inquisition in southern France

Dominican Inquisitors and the Growth of Witch-phobia

In 1233, a papal bull by Gregory IX established a new branch of the inquisition in Toulouse, France, to be led by the Dominicans. It was intended to prosecute Christian groups considered heretical, such as the Cathars and the Waldensians.[17] The Dominicans eventually evolved into the most zealous prosecutors of persons accused of witchcraft in the years leading up to the Reformation.

Records were usually kept by the French inquisitors, but the majority of these records did not survive, and one historian who was working in 1880, Charles Molinier, refers to the surviving records as only scanty debris.[18] Molinier notes that the inquisitors themselves describe their attempts to carefully safeguard their records, especially when they were moving from town to town. The inquisitors were widely hated and they would be ambushed on the road, but their records were more often the target than the inquisitors themselves [plus désireux encore de ravir les papiers que porte le juge que de le faire périr lui-même] (better to take the papers the judge carries than to make the judge himself perish). The records seem to have often been targeted by the accused or their friends and family, wishing to thereby sabotage the proceedings or failing that, to spare their reputations and the reputations of their descendants.[19] This would be all the more true for those who were accused of practicing witchcraft. Difficulty in understanding the larger witchcraft trials which were to come in later centuries is deciding how much can be extrapolated from what remains.

Witch persecutions in modern period

14th century

There was no concept of demonic witchcraft during the fourteenth century; only at a later time did a unified concept combine the ideas of noxious magic, a pact with the Devil and an assembly of witches for Satanic worship into one category of crime.[20] Witch trials were infrequent compared to later centuries and a significant proportion of them were held in France. Until 1330 the trials were linked to prominent figures in the church or politics, as victims or as accused suspects, and more than half took place in France, where it was the usual way of explaining royal deaths in the direct Capetian line. The papacy of John XXII was another engine for witchcraft accusations. There were also a significant number of trials in England and Germany. The charges were generally mild. Diabolism, believed to involve nocturnal orgies and traditionally linked to accusations of heresy, was a very rare charge in the witch trials. After 1334 the political dimension of witchcraft accusations disappeared, while the charges remained mild. The large majority of trials until 1375 were in France and Germany. The number of witch trials rose after 1375, when many municipal courts adopted inquisitorial procedure and penalties for false accusations were abolished. Prominent centres of witch prosecutions were France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. In Italy a new development occurred when accusations of diabolism gradually became more common and more important in prosecutions, although they were still less common than trials for sorcery.[21] Records of witch trials from this century also lacked extensive descriptions of meetings of witches.[22]

In 1329, with the papacy in nearby Avignon, the inquisitor of Carcassonne sentenced a Carmelite friar called Peter Recordi to the dungeon for life. The sentence refers to ... multas et diversas daemonum conjurationes et invocationes ... and it frequently uses the same Latin synonym as a word for witchcraft, sortilegia—found on the title page of Nicolas Rémy's work from 1595, where it is claimed that 900 persons were executed for sortilegii crimen.[23] He was accused of using love magic to seduce women and of invoking Satan and sacrificing a butterfly to him.[22]


Earlier works on witchcraft often placed a large number of stereotypical witch trials in southern France in the early fourteenth century. This is the result of Étienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon, who published Histoire de l'inquisition en France in 1829. He described a sudden outburst of mass witch trials ending in hundreds of executions, and the accused were portrayed as the stereotypical demonic witch. He purported to extensively quote in translation from inquisitorial records. His book proved influential. Joseph Hansen included large excerpts from the book, though Lamothe-Langon's sources could not be found at the end of the nineteenth century. Through reuse by other writers, Lamothe-Langon's work established the view that witch hunts suddenly began in the late Middle Ages and implied a link with Catharism. Academics continued to rely on Lamothe-Langon as a source until Norman Cohn and Richard Kieckhefer showed independently in the 1970s that the alleged records in Histoire de l'inquisition were highly dubious and possible forgeries. Kieckhefer notes that a 1855 publication of a summary inventory from inquisitorial records from Carcassonne did not match with Lamothe-Langon's work at all. Besides, the language and stereotypes in the supposed records were anachronistic. Lamothe-Langon also had a track record in forging several genealogies about his ancestry and his political motive was shown by his polemics against censorship. By the time that historians rejected his work, it was already firmly entrenched in the popular image of witchcraft.[24][25]

15th century trials and the growth of the new heterodox view

Witch trials were still uncommon in the 15th century when the concept of diabolical witchcraft began to emerge. The study of four chronicles concerning events in Valais, the Bernese Alps and the nearby region of Dauphiné has supported the scholarly proposal that some ideas concerning witchcraft were taking hold in the region around western Switzerland during the 1430s, recasting the practice of witchcraft as an alliance between a person and the devil that would undermine and threaten the Christian foundation of society.[26] The Perrissona Gappit case tried in Switzerland in 1465 is noted for the thoroughness of the surviving record.[27][28]

The skeptical Canon Episcopi retained many supporters, and still seems to have been supported by the theological faculty at the University of Paris in their decree from 1398. It was never officially repudiated by a majority of bishops within the papal lands, nor even by the Council of Trent, which immediately preceded the peak of the trials. But in 1428, the Valais witch trials, lasting six to eight years, started in the French-speaking lower Valais and eventually spread to German-speaking regions. This time period also coincided with the Council of Basel (1431–1437) and some scholars have suggested a new anti-witchcraft doctrinal view may have spread among certain theologians and inquisitors in attendance at this council as the Valais trials were discussed.[29] Not long after, a cluster of powerful opponents of the Canon Episcopi emerged: a Dominican inquisitor in Carcassonne named Jean Vinet, the Bishop of Avila Alfonso Tostado, and another Dominican Inquisitor named Nicholas Jacquier. It is unclear whether the three men were aware of each other's work. The coevolution of their shared view centres around "a common challenge: disbelief in the reality of demonic activity in the world."[30]

Nicholas Jacquier's lengthy and complex argument against the Canon Episcopi was written in Latin. It began as a tract in 1452 and was expanded into a fuller monograph in 1458. Many copies seem to have been made by hand (nine manuscript copies still exist), but it was not printed until 1561.[31][32][33] Jacquier describes a number of trials he personally witnessed, including one of a man named Guillaume Edelin, against whom the main charge seems to have been that he had preached a sermon in support of the Canon Episcopi claiming that witchcraft was merely an illusion. Edelin eventually recanted this view, most likely under torture.

1486: Malleus Maleficarum

Title page of the seventh Cologne edition of the Malleus Maleficarum, 1520 (from the University of Sydney Library). The Latin title is "MALLEUS MALEFICARUM, Maleficas, & earum hæresim, ut phramea potentissima conterens." (Generally translated into English as The Hammer of Witches which destroyeth Witches and their heresy as with a two-edged sword).[34]

The most important and influential book which promoted the new heterodox view was the Malleus Maleficarum, published in 1487 by clergyman and German inquisitor Heinrich Kramer, accompanied by Jacobus Sprenger. Malleus Maleficarum is split up into three different sections, each individual section addressing an aspect of witches and their culture. The following sections were magic, a witches origin, and appropriate punishment. The appropriate punishment section divides offenses into three different levels, ranging from slight, great, and very great. Slight could be something as simple as a small group meeting to practice witchcraft, while on the other hand, very great included respecting and admiring heretics. Kramer begins his work in opposition to the Canon Episcopi, but oddly, he does not cite Jacquier, and he may not have been aware of his work.[35] Like most witch-phobic writers, Kramer had met strong resistance by those who opposed his heterodox view; this inspired him to write his work as both propaganda and a manual for like-minded zealots. The Gutenberg printing press had only recently been invented along the Rhine River, and Kramer fully utilized it to shepherd his work into print and spread the ideas that had been developed by inquisitors and theologians in France into the Rhineland.[36] The theological views espoused by Kramer were influential but remained contested.[37] Nonetheless Malleus Maleficarum was printed 13 times between 1486 and 1520, and — following a 50-year pause that coincided with the height of the Protestant reformations — it was printed again another 16 times (1574–1669) in the decades following the important Council of Trent which had remained silent with regard to Kramer's theological views. It inspired many similar works, such as an influential work by Jean Bodin, and was cited as late as 1692 by Increase Mather, then president of Harvard College.[38][39][40]

The increased demonization of witches blossomed in relation with the expansion and increased popularity of the Malleus Maleficarum. Given the book was published nearly thirty times between the years 1487 and 1669 across Europe, it easily provided Europe's literate citizens with a more concrete, solidified depiction of a witch. Kramer creates an idea of a new medieval witch, that being an evil woman, which far outstretches to the modern day. Through the spread of Kramer's depiction of a witch through this book, the public outlook of witchcraft soon transformed from evil to demonic.[16]

It is unknown if a degree of alarm at the extreme superstition and witch-phobia expressed by Kramer in the Malleus Maleficarum may have been one of the numerous factors that helped prepare the ground for the Protestant Reformation.[citation needed]

Peak of the trials: 1560–1630

The period of the European witch trials with the most active phase and which saw the largest number of fatalities seems to have occurred between 1560 and 1630.[41][5] The period between 1560 and 1670 saw more than 40,000 deaths.[42]

Authors have debated whether witch trials were more intense in Catholic or Protestant regions; however, the intensity had not so much to do with Catholicism or Protestantism as both regions experienced a varied intensity of witchcraft persecutions. In Catholic Spain and Portugal for example, the numbers of witch trials were few because the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions preferred to focus on the crime of public heresy rather than the crime of witchcraft, whereas Protestant Scotland had a much larger number of witchcraft trials. In contrast, the witch trials in the Protestant Netherlands stopped earlier and they were among the least numerous in Europe, while the large-scale mass witch trials which took place in the autonomous territories of the Catholic prince-bishops in Southern Germany were infamous in all of the Western world, and the contemporary writer Herman Löher described how they affected the population within them:[43]

The Roman Catholic subjects, farmers, winegrowers, and artisans in the episcopal lands are the most terrified people on earth, since the false witch trials affect the German episcopal lands incomparably more than France, Spain, Italy or Protestants.[43]

The mass witch trials took place in Southern Catholic Germany in waves between the 1560s and the 1620s. Some trials went on to continue for years and would result in hundreds of executions of all sexes, ages and classes. These included the Trier witch trials (1581–1593), the Fulda witch trials (1603–1606), the Eichstätt witch trials (1613–1630), the Würzburg witch trials (1626–1631), and the Bamberg witch trials (1626–1631).

In 1590 the North Berwick witch trials occurred in Scotland and were of particular note as the king, James VI, became involved himself. James had developed a fear that witches planned to kill him after he suffered from storms while traveling to Denmark in order to claim his bride, Anne, earlier that year. Returning to Scotland, the king heard of trials that were occurring in North Berwick, and ordered the suspects to be brought to him—he subsequently believed that a nobleman, Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell, was a witch, and after the latter fled in fear of his life he was outlawed as a traitor. The king subsequently set up royal commissions to hunt down witches in his realm, recommending torture in dealing with suspects, and in 1597 wrote a book about the menace witches posed to society entitled Daemonologie.[44]

The Pendle witch trials of 1612 are some of the most prominent in English history, resulting in the hanging of ten of the eleven who were tried.

The witch-panic phenomenon reached the more remote parts of Europe as well as North America later in the 17th century, among them being the Salzburg witch trials, the Swedish Torsåker witch trials and, in 1692, the Salem witch trials in Colonial New England.

Decline of the trials: 1630–1750

Further information: Protests against early modern witch trials

There had never been a lack of skepticism regarding the trials. In 1635, the authorities of the Roman Inquisition acknowledged its own trials had "found scarcely one trial conducted legally".[45] In the middle of the 17th century, the difficulty in proving witchcraft according to the legal process contributed to Rothenburg (German) following advice to treat witchcraft cases with caution.[46]

Although the witch trials had begun to fade out across much of Europe by the mid-17th century, they continued on the fringes of Europe and in the American Colonies. In the Nordic countries, the late 17th century saw the peak of the trials in a number of areas: the Torsåker witch trials of Sweden (1674), where 71 people were executed for witchcraft in a single day, the peak of witch hunting in Swedish Finland,[41] and the Salzburg witch trials in Austria (where 139 people were executed from 1675 to 1690).

The 1692 Salem witch trials were a brief outburst of witch panic that occurred in the New World when the practice was waning in Europe. In the 1690s, Winifred King Benham and her daughter Winifred were thrice tried for witchcraft in Wallingford, Connecticut, the last of such trials in New England. Even though they were found innocent, they were compelled to leave Wallingford and settle in Staten Island, New York.[47] In 1706, Grace Sherwood of Virginia was tried by ducking and jailed for allegedly being a witch.[48]

Rationalist historians in the 18th century came to the opinion that the use of torture had resulted in erroneous testimony.[49]

In 1712, Rabbi Hirsch Fränkel was convicted of witchcraft after completion of an inquisition by the Theological & Legal Faculties at the University of Aldorf. Rabbi Fränkel was a self-avowed Kabbalist, a follower the ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible. The Fränkel witchtrial was one of the first convictions obtained without the use of spectral evidence or confession obtained through torture. Fränkel was sentence to life imprisonment and spent twenty-four years in solitary confinement in the tower of Schwabach.[50]

In France, scholars have found that with increased fiscal capacity and a stronger central government, the witchcraft accusations began to decline.[51] The witch trials that occurred there were symptomatic of a weak legal system and "witches were most likely to be tried and convicted in regions where magistrates departed from established legal statutes".[52]

During the early 18th century, the practice subsided. Jane Wenham was among the last subjects of a typical witch trial in England in 1712, but was pardoned after her conviction and set free. The last execution for witchcraft in England took place in 1716, when Mary Hicks and her daughter Elizabeth were hanged. Janet Horne was executed for witchcraft in Scotland in 1727. The Witchcraft Act 1735 (9 Geo. 2. c. 5) put an end to the traditional form of witchcraft as a legal offense in Britain.[53] Those accused under the new act were restricted to those that pretended to be able to conjure spirits (generally being the most dubious professional fortune tellers and mediums), and punishment was light.[54]

In Austria, Maria Theresa outlawed witch-burning and torture in 1768. The last capital trial, that of Maria Pauer occurred in 1750 in Salzburg, which was then outside the Austrian domain.[55]

Sporadic witch-hunts after 1750

Further information: Modern witch-hunts

In the late 18th century the practice of witchcraft had ceased to be considered a criminal offense throughout Europe, but there are a number of trials which, while technically not witch trials, are suspected to have involved a belief in witches. In 1782, Anna Göldi was executed in Glarus, Switzerland. Officially she was executed for "poisoning" (her employer, who believed that she had practiced witchcraft on his daughter[56])—a ruling at the time widely denounced throughout Switzerland and Germany as judicial murder. Like Anna Göldi, Barbara Zdunk was executed in 1811 in Prussia, not technically for witchcraft, but for arson.[citation needed] In Poland, the Doruchów witch trials occurred in 1783, and two additional women were executed for sorcery. They were tried by a legal court, but with dubious legitimacy.[citation needed]

Despite the official ending of the trials for witchcraft, there would still be occasional and unofficial witch-hunts and killings of those who were accused of practicing witchcraft in parts of Europe, such as the killings of Anna Klemens in Denmark (1800), Krystyna Ceynowa in Poland (1836), and Dummy, the Witch of Sible Hedingham in England (1863). In France, there was sporadic violence and there was even murder in the 1830s, with one woman reportedly burnt in a village square in Nord.[57]

In the 1830s, a prosecution for witchcraft was commenced against a man in Fentress County, Tennessee, either named Joseph or William Stout, based upon his alleged influence over the health of a young woman. The case against the supposed witch was dismissed upon the failure of the alleged victim, who had sworn out a warrant against him, to appear for the trial. However, some of his other accusers were convicted on criminal charges for their part in the matter, and various libel actions were brought.[58][59][60][61]

In 1895, Bridget Cleary was beaten and burned to death by her husband in Ireland because he suspected that fairies had taken the real Bridget and replaced her with a witch.

The killing of people who were suspected of performing malevolent sorcery against their neighbors continued into the 20th and 21st centuries. In 1997, two Russian farmers killed a woman and injured five members of her family because they believed that the woman and her relatives had used folk magic against them.[41] It has been reported that between 2005 and 2011, more than 3,000 people were killed for allegedly being witches by lynch mobs in Tanzania.[62] Witchcraft was officially a crime in Papua New Guinea from 1971 until 2013.[63]

Procedures and punishments


Peculiar standards applied to witchcraft allowing certain types of evidence "that are now ways relating Fact, and done many Years before". There was no possibility to offer alibi as a defense because witchcraft did not require the presence of the accused at the scene. Witnesses were called to testify to motives and effects because it was believed that witnessing the invisible force of witchcraft was impossible: "half proofes are to be allowed, and are good causes of suspicion".[64] The sole identifier of a witch was the Devil's mark. A scar, given to a witch by the devil, that could be anywhere on the body. However, in order to find this scar, it had to be through thorough examination. This lack of a recognizable feature led to flexibility. This flexibility enabled the phenomenon of witches to expand, solidifying the fear that witches are a danger that could be within anyone, anywhere.[65]


A variety of different punishments were employed for those found guilty of witchcraft, including imprisonment, flogging, fines, or exile.[66] Non-capital punishment, especially for a first offence, was most common in England. Prior to 1542, Church courts dealt with most cases in England and most sanctions were directed more to penance and atonement than harsh punishments. Often the guilty party was ordered to attend the parish church, wearing a white sheet and carrying a wand, and swear to lead a reformed life.[67] The Old Testament's book of Exodus (22:18) states, "Thou shalt not permit a sorceress to live".[68] Many faced capital punishment for witchcraft, either by burning at the stake, hanging, or beheading.[69] Similarly, in New England, people convicted of witchcraft were hanged.[70] Meanwhile, in the Middle Ages, heresy became a heinous crime, warranting severe punishment, so when one was accused of being a witch they were thus labeled as a heretic. If accused of witchcraft, the accused was forced to confess, even if they were innocent, through brutal torture, just to in the end be killed for their crimes. In certain instances, the clergy became truly concerned about the souls they were executing. Therefore, they decided to burn the accused witches alive in order to "save them".[16]

Interrogations and torture

Various acts of torture were used against accused witches to coerce confessions and cause them to provide names of alleged co-conspirators. Most historians agree that the majority of those persecuted in these witch trials were innocent of any involvement in Devil worship.[71] The torture of witches began to increase in frequency after 1468, when the Pope declared witchcraft to be crimen exceptum and thereby removed all legal limits on the application of torture in cases where evidence was difficult to find.[72]

In Italy, an accused witch was deprived of sleep for periods up to forty hours. This technique was also used in England, but without a limitation on time.[73] Sexual humiliation was used, such as forced sitting on red-hot stools with the claim that the accused woman would not perform sexual acts with the devil.[74] In most cases, those who endured the torture without confessing were released.[75]

The use of torture has been identified as a key factor in converting the trial of one accused witch into a wider social panic, as those being tortured were more likely to accuse a wide array of other local individuals of also being witches.[75]

Burning of three witches in Baden, Switzerland (1585), by Johann Jakob Wick
The burning of a French midwife in a cage filled with black cats

Estimates of the total number of executions

The scholarly consensus on the total number of executions for witchcraft ranges from 40,000 to 60,000[2][3] (not including unofficial lynchings of accused witches, which went unrecorded but are nevertheless believed to have been somewhat rare in the Early Modern period).[76] It would also have been the case that various individuals would have died as a result of the unsanitary conditions of their imprisonment, but again this is not recorded within the number of executions.[77]

Attempts at estimating the total number of executions for witchcraft have a history going back to the end of the period of witch-hunts in the 18th century. A scholarly consensus only emerges in the second half of the 20th century, and historical estimates vary wildly depending on the method used. Early estimates tend to be highly exaggerated, as they were still part of rhetorical arguments against the persecution of witches rather than purely historical scholarship.

Notably, a figure of nine million victims was given by Gottfried Christian Voigt in 1784 in an argument criticizing Voltaire's estimate of "several hundred thousand" as too low. Voigt's number has shown remarkably resilient as an influential popular myth, surviving well into the 20th century, especially in feminist and neo-pagan literature.[78] In the 19th century, some scholars were agnostic, for instance, Jacob Grimm (1844) talked of "countless" victims[79] and Charles Mackay (1841) named "thousands upon thousands".[80] By contrast, a popular news report of 1832 cited a number of 3,192 victims "in Great Britain alone".[81] In the early 20th century, some scholarly estimates on the number of executions still ranged in the hundreds of thousands. The estimate was only reliably placed below 100,000 in scholarship of the 1970s.[82][12]

Causes and interpretations

The Witch, No. 1, c. 1892 lithograph by Joseph E. Baker
The Witch, No. 2, c. 1892 lithograph by Joseph E. Baker
The Witch, No. 3, c. 1892 lithograph by Joseph E. Baker

Regional differences

There were many regional differences in the manner in which the witch trials occurred. The trials themselves emerged sporadically, flaring up in some areas but neighbouring areas remaining largely unaffected.[83] In general, there seems to have been less witch-phobia in Spain and the papal lands of Italy in comparison to France and the Holy Roman Empire.[84]

There was much regional variation within the British Isles. In Ireland, for example, there were few trials.

There are particularly important differences between the English and continental witch-hunting traditions. In England the use of torture was rare and the methods far more restrained. The country formally permitted it only when authorized by the monarch, and no more than 81 torture warrants were issued (for all offenses) throughout English history.[85] The death toll in Scotland dwarfed that of England.[86][87] It is also apparent from an episode of English history, that during the civil war in the early 1640s, witch-hunters emerged, the most notorious of whom was Matthew Hopkins from East Anglia and proclaimed himself the "Witchfinder General".[88]

Italy has had fewer witchcraft accusations, and even fewer cases where witch trials ended in execution. In 1542, the establishment of the Roman Catholic Inquisition effectively restrained secular courts under its influence from liberal application of torture and execution.[89] The methodological Instructio, which served as an "appropriate" manual for witch hunting, cautioned against hasty convictions and careless executions of the accused. In contrast with other parts of Europe, trials by the Venetian Holy Office never saw conviction for the crime of malevolent witchcraft, or "maleficio".[90] Because the notion of diabolical cults was not credible to either popular culture or Catholic inquisitorial theology, mass accusations and belief in Witches' Sabbath never took root in areas under such inquisitorial influence.[91]

The number of people tried for witchcraft between the years of 1500–1700 (by region) include: Holy Roman Empire: 50,000 Poland: 15,000 Switzerland: 9,000 French Speaking Europe: 10,000 Spanish and Italian peninsulas: 10,000 Scandinavia: 4,000.[citation needed]

Socio-political turmoil

The malefizhaus of Bamberg, Germany, where suspected witches were held and interrogated: 1627 engraving

Various suggestions have been made that the witch trials emerged as a response to socio-political turmoil in the Early Modern world. One form of this is that the prosecution of witches was a reaction to a disaster that had befallen the community, such as crop failure, war, or disease.[92] For instance, Midelfort suggested that in southwestern Germany, war and famine destabilised local communities, resulting in the witch prosecutions of the 1620s.[93] Behringer also suggests an increase in witch prosecutions due to socio-political destabilization, stressing the Little Ice Age's effects on food shortages, and the subsequent use of witches as scapegoats for consequences of climatic changes.[94]

The Little Ice Age, lasting from about 1300 to 1850,[95] is characterized by temperatures and precipitation levels lower than the 1901–1960 average.[96] Historians such as Wolfgang Behringer, Emily Oster, and Hartmut Lehmann argue that these cooling temperatures brought about crop failure, war, and disease, and that witches were subsequently blamed for this turmoil.[97][94][98] Historical temperature indexes and witch trial data indicate that, generally, as temperature decreased during this period, witch trials increased.[98] Additionally, the peaks of witchcraft persecutions overlap with hunger crises that occurred in 1570 and 1580, the latter lasting a decade.[94] Problematically for these theories, it has been highlighted that, in that region, the witch hunts declined during the 1630s, at a time when the communities living there were facing increased disaster as a result of plague, famine, economic collapse, and the Thirty Years' War.[99] Furthermore, this scenario would clearly not offer a universal explanation, for trials also took place in areas which were free from war, famine, or pestilence.[100] Additionally, these theories—particularly Behringer's —have been labeled as oversimplified.[101] Although there is evidence that the Little Ice Age and subsequent famine and disease was likely a contributing factor to increase in witch persecution, Durrant argues that one cannot make a direct link between these problems and witch persecutions in all contexts.[101]

Moreover, the average age at first marriage had gradually risen by the late sixteenth century; the population had stabilized after a period of growth, and availability of jobs and land had lessened. In the last decades of the century, the age at marriage had climbed to averages of 25 for women and 27 for men in England and the Low Countries, as more people married later or remained unmarried due to lack of money or resources and a decline in living standards, and these averages remained high for nearly two centuries and averages across Northwestern Europe had done likewise.[102] The convents were closed during the Protestant Reformation, which displaced many nuns. Many communities saw the proportion of unmarried women climb from less than 10% to 20% and in some cases as high as 30%, whom few communities knew how to accommodate economically.[103] Miguel (2003) argues that witch killings may be a process of eliminating the financial burdens of a family or society, via elimination of the older women that need to be fed,[104] and an increase in unmarried women would enhance this process.

Catholic versus Protestant conflict

Further information: Counter-Reformation

The English historian Hugh Trevor-Roper advocated the idea that the witch trials emerged as part of the conflicts between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Early Modern Europe.[105] A 2017 study in the Economic Journal, examining "more than 43,000 people tried for witchcraft across 21 European countries over a period of five-and-a-half centuries", found that "more intense religious-market contestation led to more intense witch-trial activity. And, compared to religious-market contestation, the factors that existing hypotheses claim were important for witch-trial activity—weather, income, and state capacity—were not."[106]

Until recently, this theory received limited support from other experts in the subject.[107] This is because there is little evidence that either Roman Catholics were accusing Protestants of witchcraft, or that Protestants were accusing Roman Catholics.[107] Furthermore, the witch trials regularly occurred in regions with little or no inter-denominational strife, and which were largely religiously homogenous, such as Essex, Lowland Scotland, Geneva, Venice, and the Spanish Basque Country.[108] There is also some evidence, particularly from the Holy Roman Empire, in which adjacent Roman Catholic and Protestant territories were exchanging information on alleged local witches, viewing them as a common threat to both.[108] Additionally, many prosecutions were instigated not by the religious or secular authorities, but by popular demands from within the population, thus making it less likely that there were specific inter-denominational reasons behind the accusations.[109]

The more recent research from the 2017 study in the Economic Journal argues that both Catholics and Protestants used the hunt for witches, regardless of the witch's denomination, in competitive efforts to expand power and influence.

In south-western Germany, between 1561 and 1670, there were 480 witch trials. Of the 480 trials that took place in southwestern Germany, 317 occurred in Catholic areas and 163 in Protestant territories.[110] During the period from 1561 to 1670, at least 3,229 persons were executed for witchcraft in the German Southwest. Of this number, 702 were tried and executed in Protestant territories and 2,527 in Catholic territories.[111]

Although there was significant conflict between catholics and protestants, there was one thing they could agree on during the witch craze, that being the expelling of witches. Something both religions share is the same devil, and fear of the devil essentially goes hand in hand with witches, so both religious groups can unite over joint superstition.[16]

Translation from the Hebrew: Witch or poisoner?

It has been argued that a translation choice in the King James Bible justified "horrific human rights violations and fuel[ed] the epidemic of witchcraft accusations and persecution across the globe".[112] The translation issue concerned Exodus 22:18, "do not suffer a ...[either 1) poisoner or 2) witch] live," Both the King James and the Geneva Bible, which precedes the King James version by 51 years, chose the word "witch" for this verse. The proper translation and definition of the Hebrew word מְכַשֵּׁפָ֖ה (məḵaššêp̄āh) in Exodus 22:18 was much debated during the time of the trials and witch-phobia.[113]

1970s folklore emphasis

From the 1970s onward, there was a "massive explosion of scholarly enthusiasm" for the study of the Early Modern witch trials.[114] This was partly because scholars from a variety of different disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, philosophy, philosophy of science, criminology, literary theory, and feminist theory, all began to investigate the phenomenon and brought different insights to the subject.[115] This was accompanied by analysis of the trial records and the socio-cultural contexts on which they emerged, allowing for varied understanding of the trials.[114]


Inspired by ethnographically recorded witch trials that anthropologists observed happening in non-European parts of the world, various historians have sought a functional explanation for the Early Modern witch trials, thereby suggesting the social functions that the trials played within their communities.[116] These studies have illustrated how accusations of witchcraft have played a role in releasing social tensions or in facilitating the termination of personal relationships that have become undesirable to one party.[116]

Feminist interpretations

Main article: Feminist interpretations of the Early Modern witch trials

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, various feminist interpretations of the witch trials have been offered and published. One of the earliest individuals to do so was the American Matilda Joslyn Gage, a writer who was deeply involved in the first-wave feminist movement for women's suffrage. In 1893, she published the book Woman, Church and State, which was criticized as "written in a tearing hurry and in time snatched from a political activism which left no space for original research".[117] Likely influenced by the works of Jules Michelet about the witch-cult, she claimed that the witches persecuted in the Early Modern period were pagan priestesses adhering to an ancient religion venerating a Great Goddess. She also repeated the erroneous statement, taken from the works of several German authors, that nine million people had been killed in the witch hunt.[117] The United States has become the centre of development for these feminist interpretations.[118]

In 1973, two American second-wave feminists, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, published an extended pamphlet in which they put forward the idea that the women persecuted had been the traditional healers and midwives of the community, who were being deliberately eliminated by the male medical establishment.[119] This theory disregarded the fact that the majority of those persecuted were neither healers nor midwives, and that in various parts of Europe these individuals were commonly among those encouraging the persecutions.[120] In 1994, Anne Llewellyn Barstow published her book Witchcraze,[121] which was later described by Scarre and Callow as "perhaps the most successful" attempt to portray the trials as a systematic male attack on women.[122]

Other feminist historians have rejected this interpretation of events; historian Diane Purkiss described it as "not politically helpful" because it constantly portrays women as "helpless victims of patriarchy" and thus does not aid them in contemporary feminist struggles.[123] She also condemned it for factual inaccuracy by highlighting that radical feminists adhering to it ignore the historicity of their claims, instead promoting it because it is perceived as authorising the continued struggle against patriarchal society.[124] She asserted that many radical feminists nonetheless clung to it because of its "mythic significance" and firmly delineated structure between the oppressor and the oppressed.[120]

Male and Female conflict and reaction to earlier feminist studies

An estimated 75% to 85% of those accused in the early modern witch trials were women,[10][125][126][127] and there is certainly evidence of misogyny on the part of those persecuting witches, evident from quotes such as "[It is] not unreasonable that this scum of humanity, [witches], should be drawn chiefly from the feminine sex" (Nicholas Rémy, c. 1595) or "The Devil uses them so, because he knows that women love carnal pleasures, and he means to bind them to his allegiance by such agreeable provocations."[128] Scholar Kurt Baschwitz, in his first monography on the subject (in Dutch, 1948), mentions this aspect of the witch trials even as "a war against old women".

Nevertheless, it has been argued that the supposedly misogynistic agenda of works on witchcraft has been greatly exaggerated, based on the selective repetition of a few relevant passages of the Malleus maleficarum.[129][130] There are various reasons as to why this was the case. In Early Modern Europe, it was widely believed that women were less intelligent than men and more susceptible to sin.[131] Many modern scholars argue that the witch hunts cannot be explained simplistically as an expression of male misogyny, as indeed women were frequently accused by other women,[132][133] to the point that witch-hunts, at least at the local level of villages, have been described as having been driven primarily by "women's quarrels".[134] Especially at the margins of Europe, in Iceland, Finland, Estonia, and Russia, the majority of those accused were male.[135]

Barstow (1994) claimed that a combination of factors, including the greater value placed on men as workers in the increasingly wage-oriented economy, and a greater fear of women as inherently evil, loaded the scales against women, even when the charges against them were identical to those against men.[136] Thurston (2001) saw this as a part of the general misogyny of the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods, which had increased during what he described as "the persecuting culture" from which it had been in the Early Medieval.[137] Gunnar Heinsohn and Otto Steiger, in a 1982 publication, speculated that witch-hunts targeted women skilled in midwifery specifically in an attempt to extinguish knowledge about birth control and "repopulate Europe" after the population catastrophe of the Black Death; this view has been rejected by mainstream historians.[138] The historian of medicine David Harley criticised the notion of the midwife-witch as a prevalent type of victim of witch hunts and commented on Heinsohn and Steiger as belonging to a set of polemicists who misportrayed the history of midwifery.[139]

Were there any sorts of witches?

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the common belief among the educated sectors of the European populace was that there had never been any genuine cult of witches and all of those people who were persecuted and executed as such were innocent of the crime of witchcraft.[140] However, at this time, various scholars suggested that there had been a real cult that had been persecuted by the Christian authorities, and it had pre-Christian origins. The first person to advance this theory was the German Professor of Criminal Law Karl Ernst Jarcke of the University of Berlin, who put forward the idea in 1828; he suggested that witchcraft had been a pre-Christian German religion that had degenerated into Satanism.[141] Jarcke's ideas were picked up by the German historian Franz Josef Mone in 1839, although he argued that the cult's origins were Greek rather than Germanic.[142]

In 1862, the Frenchman Jules Michelet published La Sorciere, in which he put forth the idea that the witches had been following a pagan religion. The theory achieved greater attention when it was taken up by the Egyptologist Margaret Murray, who published both The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921) and The God of the Witches (1931) in which she claimed that the witches had been following a pre-Christian religion which she termed "the witch-cult" and "ritual witchcraft".

Main article: Witch-cult hypothesis

Murray claimed that this faith was devoted to a pagan Horned God and involved the celebration of four Witches' Sabbaths each year: Halloween, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh.[143] However, the majority of scholarly reviews of Murray's work produced at the time were largely critical,[144] and her books never received support from experts in the Early Modern witch trials.[145] Instead, from her early publications onward many of her ideas were challenged by those who highlighted her "factual errors and methodological failings".[146]

We Neopagans now face a crisis. As new data appeared, historians altered their theories to account for it. We have not. Therefore an enormous gap has opened between the academic and the 'average' Pagan view of witchcraft. We continue to use of out-dated and poor writers, like Margaret Murray, Montague Summers, Gerald Gardner, and Jules Michelet. We avoid the somewhat dull academic texts that present solid research, preferring sensational writers who play to our emotions.

—Jenny Gibbons (1998)[133]

However, the publication of the Murray thesis in the Encyclopaedia Britannica made it accessible to "journalists, film-makers popular novelists and thriller writers", who adopted it "enthusiastically".[147] Influencing works of literature, it inspired writings by Aldous Huxley and Robert Graves.[147] Subsequently, in 1939, an English occultist named Gerald Gardner claimed to have been initiated into a surviving group of the pagan witch-cult known as the New Forest Coven, although modern historical investigation has led scholars to believe that this coven was not ancient as Gardner believed, but was instead founded in the 1920s or 1930s by occultists wishing to fashion a revived witch-cult based upon Murray's theories.[148] Taking this New Forest Coven's beliefs and practices as a basis, Gardner went on to found Gardnerian Wicca, one of the most prominent traditions in the contemporary pagan religion now known as Wicca, which revolves around the worship of a Horned God and Goddess, the celebration of festivals known as Sabbats, and the practice of ritual magic. He also went on to write several books about the historical witch-cult, Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959), and in these books, Gardner used the phrase "the burning times" in reference to the European and North American witch trials.[149]

In the early 20th century, a number of individuals and groups emerged in Europe, primarily Britain, and subsequently the United States as well, claiming to be the surviving remnants of the pagan witch-cult described in the works of Margaret Murray. The first of these actually appeared in the last few years of the 19th century, being a manuscript that American folklorist Charles Leland claimed he had been given by a woman who was a member of a group of witches worshipping the god Lucifer and goddess Diana in Tuscany, Italy. He published the work in 1899 as Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches. Whilst historians and folklorists have accepted that there are folkloric elements to the gospel, none have accepted it as being the text of a genuine Tuscan religious group, and believe it to be of late-nineteenth-century composition.[150]

Wiccans extended claims regarding the witch-cult in various ways, for instance by utilising the British folklore associating witches with prehistoric sites to assert that the witch-cult used to use such locations for religious rites, in doing so legitimising contemporary Wiccan use of them.[151] By the 1990s, many Wiccans had come to recognise the inaccuracy of the witch-cult theory and had accepted it as a mythological origin story.[152]

Witch trials by country or region

See also



  1. ^ Levack, Brian (2013). The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America. Oxford University Press. pp. 5–6.
  2. ^ a b Hutton 2010, p. 247. Scarre and Callow (2001) put forward 40,000 as an estimate for the number killed.(Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 1, 21) Levack (2006) came to an estimate of 45,000. Levack, Brian (2006). The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe Third Edition. Longman. Page 23. Hutton (2010) estimated that the numbers were between 40,000–50,000,(Hutton 2010, p. 247) Wolfgang Behringer and Lyndal Roper had independently calculated the number as being between 50,000–60,000.(Behringer 2004, p. 149; Roper 2004, pp. 6–7) In an earlier unpublished essay, Hutton counted local estimates, and in areas where estimates were unavailable attempted to extrapolate from nearby regions with similar demographics and attitudes towards witch hunting. "Estimates of Executions (based on Hutton's essay 'Counting the Witch Hunt')"..
  3. ^ a b "Why did Germany burn so many witches? The brutal force of economic competition". Quartz. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  4. ^ Thurston 2001. p. 01.
  5. ^ a b Levack, Brian P. (2006). "Chapter 7". The Witch-hunt in Early Modern Europe. Pearson Longman. ISBN 978-0-582-41901-8.
  6. ^ Levack, Brian (2013). The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America. Oxford University Press. pp. 7–8.
  7. ^ Willis, Deborah (2018). Malevolent Nurture: Witch-Hunting and Maternal Power in Early Modern England. Cornell University Press. pp. 35–36.
  8. ^ Hutton, Ronald (2017). The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present. Yale University Press. pp. 24–25.
  9. ^ Davies, Owen (2007). Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History. A&C Black. p. 164.
  10. ^ a b Per Scarre & Callow (2001), "Records suggest that in Europe, as a whole, about 80 per cent of trial defendants were women, though the ratio of women to men charged with the offence varied from place to place, and often, too, in one place over time."
  11. ^ "Menopausal and post-menopausal women were disproportionally represented amongst the victims of the witch craze--and their over-representation is the more striking when we recall how rare women over fifty must have been in the population as a whole." Lyndal Roper Witch Craze (2004)p. 160
  12. ^ a b Jones, Adam. "Case Study: The European Witch-Hunts, c. 1450–1750 and Witch-Hunts Today". Gendercide Watch. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  13. ^ mostly in the Holy Roman Empire, the British Isles and France, and to some extent, in the European colonies in North America; largely excluding the Iberian Peninsula and Italy; "Inquisition Spain and Portugal, obsessed with heresy, ignored the witch craze. In Italy, witch trials were comparatively rare and did not involve torture and executions." Anne L. Barstow, Witchcraze: a New History of the European Witch Hunts, HarperCollins, 1995.
  14. ^ "Clearly, there was an increase in skeptical voices during the Carolingian period, even if we take into account an increase in surviving sources." Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 31 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
  15. ^ "Christian theology underwent a major shift of attitude only during the 13th century. In his Summa contra Gentiles, Thomas Aquinas (1255–74) not only confirmed Augustine's semiotic theory, according to which spells, amulets or magical rituals indicated a secret pact with demons but gave the impression that sorcerers, through the support of the devil, could physically commit their crimes." Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", pp. 35–36 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
  16. ^ a b c d,as%20a%20result%20of%20theirc
  17. ^ Charles Molinier, L'Inquisition dans le Midi de la France au XIIIe et au XIVe siècle, étude sur les sources de son Histoire (1880), p. ii.
  18. ^ Molinier (1880), p. 6
  19. ^ Molinier (1880), p. xvi–xviii.
  20. ^ Darren Oldridge (ed), The Witchcraft Reader, 22
  21. ^ Richard Kieckhefer, Witch trials in mediaeval Europe, in Darren Oldridge (ed), The Witchcraft Reader, 25-35
  22. ^ a b Jeffrey Burton Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, 186
  23. ^ HC Lea, A History of the Inquisition, Vol. III (1922), p. 455, 657. Lea includes the entire 1329 sentence reprinted in the original Latin. A Francophone writer and contemporary of N Remy, Lambert Daneau, considers "sortilegus" to have been shortened to become the French "sorcier" De Veneficis Quos Olim Sortilegos (1575), p. 14 and sorciers was the term used in the title of another contemporary Jean Bodin in an anti-witchcraft work written in French in 1580. Bodin, De la Demonomanie des Sorciers (1598 edition)
  24. ^ Christa Tuczay, The Nineteenth Century: Medievalism and Witchcraft, in Jonathan Barry, Owen Davies, Palgrave Advances in Witchcraft Historiography, 55-56
  25. ^ Richard Kieckhefer, Witch trials in mediaeval Europe, in Darren Oldridge (ed), The Witchcraft Reader, 29
  26. ^ Kieckhefer, Richard (2013). "The First Wave of Trials for Diabolical Witchcraft". The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America.
  27. ^ Golden, Richard M. Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Western Tradition. ABC-CLIO. p. 1310.
  28. ^ Modestin, Georg (14 January 2015). "Ein klarer Fall? Wie Perrissona Gappit aus Chatel St Denis im Jahr 1465 zu einer Hexe warde".
  29. ^ Thurston 2001. p. 67,77.
  30. ^ Matthew Champion, Scourging the Temple of God Parergon (2011) 28.1 p 9-10.
  31. ^ Flagellum Haereticorum Fascinariorum p. 36. See translations and interpretation in Matthew Champion, Scourging the Temple of God Parergon (2011) 28.1 p 1-24.
  32. ^ George L. Burr "The Literature of Witchcraft" (1890) p. 252.
  33. ^ "... the doctrine of witchcraft crystallized during the middle third of the 15th century...(Ostorero et al. 1999).", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", pp. 18–19 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
  34. ^ The English translation is from this note to Summers' 1928 introduction Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  35. ^ Attached to front of Kramer's book is the 1484 Summis desiderantes affectibus, a papal bull of Pope Innocent VIII in which he approved the inquisition to move against witches who were explicitly accused of having "slain infants yet in the mother's womb" (abortion) and of "hindering men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving." The Bull of Innocent VIII see Malleus Maleficarum translation by Montague Summers.
  36. ^ See 2004 essay by Wolfgang Behringer on Malleus Maleficarum "first printed in... Speyer, by then a medium sized town on the Rhine."
  37. ^ Jolly; Raudvere; Peters, eds. (2002). Witchcraft and magic in Europe: the Middle Ages. p. 241.
  38. ^ Increase Mather, Cases Concerning Evil Spirits p. 272 Appended to his son's book, Wonders of the Invisible World, (1693)
  39. ^ Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 19 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
  40. ^ "In Switzerland, the rustic 'forest cantons' of the original Confederation apparently remained unaffected by witch trials until after 1560.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 19 (2004). Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 21 (2004).
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  46. ^ "Doubts about their ability to prove witches unequivocally guilty according to due legal procedure, fears that they would invoke God's wrath against themselves and their subjects if they overstepped its bounds, and a certain humility in thinking that witchcraft was a matter best left up to God, all played a part in encouraging the Rothenburg councillors and their advisers to handle witchcraft cases with caution.", Rowlands, 'Witchcraft narratives in Germany: Rothenburg 1561–1652', p. 59 (2003). "Compelling legal reasons almost always also existed in specific cases to discourage the councillors and their advisers from taking action against sabbat-attenders.", Rowlands, 'Witchcraft narratives in Germany: Rothenburg 1561–1652', p. 57 (2003).
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  127. ^ "Witch-hunts in early modern Europe (circa 1450-1750)".
  128. ^ Klaits, Joseph. Servants of Satan: The Age of the Witch Hunts (1985), p. 68.
  129. ^ Stark, Rodney (2003). "God's Enemies: Explaining the European Witch-Hunts". For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 201–288.
  130. ^ 'On the whole, however, the literature of witchcraft conspicuously lacks any sustained concern for the gender issue; and the only reason for the view that it was extreme and outspoken in its anti-feminism is the tendency for those interested in this subject to read the relevant sections of the Malleus maleficarum and little or nothing else.' Clark, Thinking with Demons: the idea of witchcraft in early modern Europe, p. 116 (1999)
  131. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 59; Thurston 2001, pp. 42–45.
  132. ^ 'the theory that witch-hunting equals misogyny is embarrassed by the predominance of women witness against the accused', Purkis, The Witch in History, p. 92 (1996); Purkis provides detailed examples, and also demonstrates how some documents have been misread in a manner which attributes accusations or legal prosecution to men, when in fact the action was brought by a woman. "More numerous than midwives among the accused were women who were engaged in caring for other women's children. Lyndal Roper has shown that many witchcraft accusations in Ausburg in the late sixteenth and early 17th century arose out of conflicts between mothers and the lying-in maids who provided care for them and their infants for a number of weeks after birth. It was not unnatural for the mothers to project their anxieties about their own health, as well as the precarious health of their infants, on to these women. When some misfortune did occur, therefore, the lying-in maids were highly vulnerable to charges of having deprived the baby of nourishment or of having killed it. What is interesting about these accusations is that they originated in tensions among women rather than between men and women. The same can be said regarding many other accusations made against women for harming young children.", Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, p. 140 (2nd edition 1995)
  133. ^ a b Gibbons 1998.
  134. ^ "In Lorraine the majority were men, particularly when other men were on trial, yet women did testify in large numbers against other women, making up 43 per cent of witnesses in these cases on average, and predominating in 30 per cent of them.", Briggs, 'Witches & Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft', p. 264 (1998). "It appears that women were active in building up reputations by gossip, deploying counter-magic and accusing suspects; crystallization into formal prosecution, however, needed the intervention of men, preferably of fairly high status in the community.", ibid., p. 265. "The number of witchcraft quarrels that began between women may actually have been higher; in some cases, it appears that the husband as 'head of household' came forward to make statements on behalf of his wife, although the central quarrel had taken place between her and another woman.", Willis, Malevolent Nature, p. 36 (1995). "In Peter Rushton's examination of slander cases in the Durham church courts, women took action against other women who had labeled them witches in 61 percent of the cases.", ibid., p. 36. "J.A. Sharpe also notes the prevalence of women as accusers in seventeenth-century Yorkshire cases, concluding that 'on a village level witchcraft seems to have been something peculiarly enmeshed in women's quarrels.'14 To a considerable extent, then, village-level witch-hunting was women's work.', ibid., p. 36
  135. ^ 'The widespread division of labour, which conceives of witches as female, and witch-doctors male, can hardly be explained by Christian influence. In some European countries, like Iceland, Finland, and Estonia, the idea of male witchcraft was dominant, and therefore most of the executed witches were male. As Kirsten Hastrup has demonstrated, only one of the twenty-two witches executed in Iceland was female. In Normandy three-quarters of the 380 known witchcraft defendants were male.', Behringer, 'Witches and Witch-Hunts: a global history', p. 39 (2004)
  136. ^ Barstow, Anne Llewellyn (1994) Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts San Francisco: Pandora.
  137. ^ Thurston 2001. pp. 42–45.
  138. ^ Gunnar Heinsohn/Otto Steiger: The Elimination of Medieval Birth Control and the Witch Trials of Modern Times, International Journal of Women's Studies, 3, May 1982, pp. 193–214. Gunnar Heinsohn/Otto Steiger: "Witchcraft, Population Catastrophe and Economic Crisis in Renaissance Europe: An Alternative Macroeconomic Explanation.", University of Bremen 2004 (download) Gunnar Heinsohn/Otto Steiger: Birth Control: The Political-Economic Rationale Behind Jean Bodin's "Démonomanie", in: History of Political Economy, 31, No. 3, pp. 423–448; Heinsohn, G. (2005): "Population, Conquest and Terror in the 21st Century." Mainstream scholarship has remained critical of this "macroeconomic approach", e.g. Walter Rummel: 'Weise' Frauen und 'weise' Männer im Kampf gegen Hexerei. Die Widerlegung einer modernen Fabel. In: Christof Dipper, Lutz Klinkhammer und Alexander Nützenadel: Europäische Sozialgeschichte. Festschrift für Wolfgang Schieder (= Historische Forschungen 68), Berlin 2000, pp. 353–375, Archived 29 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine; "there is no evidence that the majority of those accused were healers and midwives; in England and also some parts of the Continent, midwives were more than likely to be found helping witch-hunters." (Purkiss 1996, p. 8)
  139. ^ David Harley, "Historians as Demonologists: The Myth of the Midwife-witch", Social History of Medicine, 1990, 1-26.
  140. ^ Cohn 1975, p. 103.
  141. ^ Cohn 1975, pp. 103–104; Purkiss 1996, p. 34; Hutton 1999, p. 136.
  142. ^ Cohn 1975, p. 104; Hutton 1999, pp. 136–137.
  143. ^ Murray 1952; Murray 1962.
  144. ^ Sheppard 2013, p. 169.
  145. ^ Hutton 1999, p. 198.
  146. ^ Eliade 1975, p. 152.
  147. ^ a b Simpson 1994, p. 89.
  148. ^ Heselton 2004.
  149. ^ Gardner 1954. p. 139.
  150. ^ See for instance Hutton 1999. pp. 142–148 and Magliocco 2002.
  151. ^ Doyle White 2014, p. 68.
  152. ^ Simpson 1994, p. 95.

General and cited references

Further reading