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 The European Witch Trials

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PostSubject: The European Witch Trials   Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:40 pm

The European witch trials lasted from the early 15th century through the 17th century. The witch hunt hysteria resulted from a changing social and religious climate, and peaked after the Age of Reason. The worst era in the witch trials, referred to as The Burning Times, occurred from the mid-16th to mid-17th centuries. The article discusses the geography of the witch trials, the time frame, facts, effect and common misconceptions.


Geography
The European witch trials spanned the continent, and affected almost every country in Europe. The country hit hardest by the witch hunt hysteria was Germany, which condemned around 25,000 witches to death. Other countries heavily involved in witch hunts include France and Switzerland, who also had high numbers of deaths. In general, the area of Europe that were the most deeply involved in witch trials were the countries in central Europe.

Although the other European countries were also involved in the witch trials, the number of resulting executions were much lower. Russia and Ireland, for example, had less than 20 executions during the witch trials.


Time Frame
The earliest of the European witch trials began in Switzerland in the 15th century. For decades it was believed that the witch hunt started in France in the early 15th century, but papers documenting these hunts have since been proven to be forgeries.
The Burning Times, also known as the Great Hunt occurred within one century, from 1550 to1650 AD. This century marked the worst of the European witch trials, and almost all accusations of witch hunts disappeared by the 18th century.


The Facts
Of the estimated 100,000 or so Europeans accused of witchcraft during the Burning Times, about 80% were women. In most countries the vast majority of the accused were female, however, some Scandinavian countries mainly prosecuted men as witches.

The Malleus Maleficarum, a manuscript published in 1486, played an important role in the European witch trials. The manuscript used historical sources, including the Bible, to argue that women were more likely to be involved in witchcraft because of their weaker nature. The Malleus Maleficarum argued that women are more prone to vice and sin and outlined ways to uncover witchcraft and persecute those involved.


Effects
Although estimates vary depending on the source, between 48,000 to 60,000 Europeans accused of witchcraft were executed. Once the height of the Burning Times passed, in the mid-17th century, reason quickly overshadowed the superstitious witch hysteria. Consequently, the trials came to an end more abruptly than they began.


Misconceptions
Many Americans aren't aware of the extent of the European witch trials, which were far more devastating than the Salem witch trials. Only 37 individuals died in the Salem witch trials, but around 50,000 died in the European witch trials.
The witch trials in Europe and America did not occur at the same time; the European witch trials began and reached their peak nearly 100 years before the Salem witch trials. By the time the Salem witch trials began, the great witch hunts in Europe had ended.

The highest rates of condemning witches to death came from "community courts" and not from large-scale trials at the national level. Small communities were three times more likely to sentence the accused witch to death than were higher level courts and religious institutions.

This may have been because small communities often relied on testimonies from people against the accused individual. Local courts were also more likely to be swept up in witch hunt crazes that blamed a local misfortune, sickness or death on the evil work of a witch.


Read more: About the European Witch Trials | eHow.com [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]


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