Coren, M. Eberle, P. Giannelli, P. Imwinkelried ed. Hamilton, B.
The witch hunt as a structure of argumentation
Huber, P. Hurley, P.
Imwinkelried, E. Krabbe, E. Lea, H. Loftus, E. Morton, J. Peters, E. In Austria, Maria Theresa outlawed witch-burning and torture in the late 18th century. The last capital trial, that of Maria Pauer occurred in in Salzburg, which was then outside the Austrian domain. In the later 18th century, witchcraft had ceased to be considered a criminal offense throughout Europe, but there are a number of cases which were not technically witch trials, but are suspected to have involved belief in witches at least behind the scenes. Despite the official ending of the trials for witchcraft, there would still be occasional unofficial killings of those accused in parts of Europe, such as was seen in the cases of Anna Klemens in Denmark , Krystyna Ceynowa in Poland , and Dummy, the Witch of Sible Hedingham in England In France, there was sporadic violence and even murder in the s, with one woman reportedly burnt in a village square in Nord.
In the s a prosecution for witchcraft was commenced against a man in Fentress County, Tennessee, named either 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.
In , 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 persecution of those believed to perform malevolent sorcery against their neighbors continued into the 20th century. In , two Russian farmers killed a woman and injured five other members of her family after believing that they had used folk magic against them. 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. The torture of witches began to increase in frequency after , 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. 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. 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. A variety of different punishments were employed for those found guilty of witchcraft, including imprisonment, flogging, fines, or exile. The scholarly consensus on the total number of executions for witchcraft ranges from 40,—60,  not including unofficial lynchings of accused witches, which went unrecorded but are nevertheless believed to have been somewhat rare in the Early Modern period.
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.
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Notably, a figure of nine million victims was given by Gottfried Christian Voigt in 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.
Himmler's Witch Hunt | History Today
The estimate was only reliably placed below , in scholarship of the s. There were many regional differences in the manner in which the witch trials occurred. The trials themselves emerged sporadically, flaring up in some areas while neighbouring areas remained largely unaffected. 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. Italy saw much less witchcraft accusations, and even fewer cases where witch trials ended in execution.
In , the establishment of the Roman Inquisition effectively retrained secular courts under its influence from liberal application of torture and execution.
In contrast with other parts of Europe, trials by the Venetian Holy Office never saw conviction for the crime of malevolent witchcraft, or "maleficio". 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. 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.
In south-western Germany, between and , there were witch trials. Of the trials that took place in southwestern Germany, occurred in Catholic areas, while Protestant territories accounted for of them. Of this number, were tried and executed in Protestant territories, while 2, were tried and executed in Catholic territories. A study in the Economic Journal , examining "more than 43, 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. 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".
The proper translation and definition of the Hebrew word in Exodus was much debated during the time of the trials and witch-phobia. From the s onward, there was a "massive explosion of scholarly enthusiasm" for the study of the Early Modern witch trials. 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.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, various feminist interpretations of the witch trials have been made 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 , she published the book Woman, Church and State , which was "written in a tearing hurry and in time snatched from a political activism which left no space for original research". 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.
In , 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. 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.
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. In Early Modern Europe, it was widely believed that women were less intelligent than men and more susceptible to sin.
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Barstow 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.
Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the common belief among educated sectors of the European populace was that there had never been any genuine cult of witches and that all those persecuted and executed as such had been innocent of the crime. The first 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 ; he suggested that witchcraft had been a pre-Christian German religion that had degenerated into Satanism.
In , 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 and The God of the Witches in which she claimed that the witches had been following a pre-Christian religion which she termed "the Witch-Cult" and "Ritual Witchcraft".
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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. 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". He also went on to write several books about the historical Witch-Cult, Witchcraft Today and The Meaning of Witchcraft , and in these books, Gardner used the phrase "the burning times" in reference to the European and North American witch trials.
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 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.
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. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Further information: Protests against early modern witch trials. Further information: Counter-Reformation. Main article: Feminist interpretations of the Early Modern witch trials. Main article: Witch-cult hypothesis. 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 avoid the somewhat dull academic texts that present solid research, preferring sensational writers who play to our emotions.