Witch Hunt in Europe

Witch Hunt in Europe

Witchcraft as a crime

Magical exercises, collectively known as "witchcraft," arose at the dawn of mankind. Practically in all early cultures, groups of people appeared in one way or another, trying to influence the forces of nature with the help of various rites.

Attitudes toward sorcerers often depended on the results of their activities, changing from adoration and reverence to hate and desire for physical violence.1

With the advent of the first states, the authorities began to view sorcerers as persons with their influence capable of undermining the authority of the rulers.

Even in the famous ancient laws of King Hammurabi, responsibility for witchcraft was provided for: “If a person threw a charge of witchcraft at a person and did not prove it, then the one who was charged with witchcraft must go to the Deity of the River and plunge into the River; if the River grabs him, his accuser will be able to take his house.

If the River cleans this man and he remains unharmed, then the one who threw the accusation of witchcraft at him must be killed, and the one who plunged into the River can take his accuser’s house ”.The person found guilty of witchcraft, with convincing evidence, was subject to the death penalty.

In ancient Rome, witchcraft was punished depending on the degree of damage in the framework of the so-called talion law. If a person found guilty of injuring another with witchcraft could not pay compensation to the victim, then the same injury should have been caused to him. Death by witchcraft was similarly punishable by death.

Dangerous Cathar Heresy

The fight against witchcraft has reached a new level with the assertion of Christianity in Europe. In an effort to completely eradicate paganism, theologians declared the pagan gods to be demons and forbade any contact with them, calling it idolatry. At first, however, idolatry threatened only excommunication.

At the same time, Christian theologians of the first millennium were not inclined to exaggerate the possibilities of sorcerers. Thus, Bishop Burchard of Worms called on the Holy Fathers to expose the lies about the night flights of sorceresses that they allegedly commit in the retinue of the pagan gods.

At the beginning of the second millennium, the church faced a new problem - the emergence of Christian sects, denying the tenets of the faith and opposing the rule of the Roman high priests. The sect of the Cathars, or the “Good Christians,” as they called themselves, has reached especially great influence.

The Cathars professed the neo-Manichaean dualistic concept of two equal principles of the universe, good and evil, and the material world was viewed as evil.2

Ian Luiken. Preparations for the execution in 1544. 17th century engraving

In the XIII century, seeking to end the growing influence of the Cathars, Pope Innocent III sanctioned the first ever crusade in Christian lands. The Qatari, or Albigoi, crusade, which began in 1209, stretched out for 20 years and ended with the complete defeat of the Cathars.

This, however, did not stop there - the Roman Church granted a special ecclesiastical court, called the “Inquisition,” broad powers to eradicate heresy, including by physically eliminating its carriers.

"Devil" as an argument

But the broad theological disputes between various branches of Christianity were incomprehensible to the general population.For many, it looked like this: at the command of the Pope, some Christians exterminate others.

In order to get rid of this awkwardness, the Cathars were actively accused of witchcraft and connections with the devil. Under torture, heretics confessed to denying Christ, worshiping devilish forces, and the very same night flights that theologians had called lies and nonsense several centuries before.3

Torture accused of witchcraft. 1577

Accordingly, now the situation for the masses looked like this: the church is fighting not with Christians, but with the machinations of the devil and those who, succumbing to his influence, have stood at the service of the enemy of humanity.

Such accusations proved to be a very effective and efficient tool, and after the final destruction of the Cathars, they were actively used by the Inquisition against other enemies of the church.

Cramer Inquisitor's Career

Medieval Europe was the perfect place for rumors of numerous witches and sorcerers. Regular failures, epidemics of deadly diseases, wars caused panic and despair in the inhabitants of the Old World. At the same time, the search for the culprit in both large and small disasters was rather short-term - “witches and sorcerers are to blame for everything.”Anyone who, for whatever reason, was unsympathetic to the prosecutor, could be credited for this role. To justify the accused of witchcraft was extremely difficult.

In the second half of the 15th century, Heinrich Kramer, a native of the free city of Schlettstadt, became widely known. Coming from a poor family, he joined the order of the Dominicans and rose to the position of inquisitor.

Kramer began his career as an inquisitor with an investigation in Trient, where a group of Jews was charged with the ritual murder of a two-year-old boy. The outcome of the trial was the death sentence for the nine defendants.

After this process, the inquisitor Kramer engaged in a struggle against witches and sects. In Ravensburg, he conducted a process in which two women were found guilty of witchcraft and burned at the stake.

Dad gives good

Kramer, however, believed that his capabilities were insufficient to fight the devil's minions. In 1484, he managed to convince Pope Innocent VII to sanctify the fight against witches with his authority.

Bulla Summis desiderantes affectibus ("By all the forces of the soul") dates back to December 5, 1484. Officially recognizing the existence of witches, she gave full papal approval to the actions of the Inquisition, with permission to use all necessary means for this.Attempts to impede the actions of the Inquisition were punished by excommunication.

First of all, the bull belonged to the Rhineland, where Heinrich Kramer and his associate, Inquisitor Jacob Sprenger, acted, but in fact it launched the great witch hunt in Europe.

Inquisitor Kramer, who received special powers, launched a real terror, the victims of which were dozens of "witches" and "sorcerers." Far from everyone appreciated the zeal of the fighter against the devil - in 1485 a real uprising in Innsbruck rose up against Kramer, and local authorities chose to release all women he had captured and expel the inquisitor himself from the city.

"A hammer like a sword"

Stung by such a turn of affairs, Kramer, who did not back down from his ideas, decided to present his vision of the problem and the ways to solve it in writing.

A treatise of 3 parts, 42 chapters and 35 questions was written in Latin in 1486 and first published in the city of Speyer in 1487. Co-author of Heinrich Kramer was his colleague Jacob Sprenger.6

Cover of the book of Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger "The Hammer of the Witches".

The full title of this treatise is “The Hammer of the Witches, destroying the witches and their heresies, like the strongest sword”, but it is more known under the short name “The Hammer of the Witches”.

In the first part, the viewpoint of the church was set forth on the essence of witchcraft, where it was declared the worst of crimes and cruelly punished. It was believed that, in addition to harming people, another task of the witches was to multiply evil forces on Earth and create damned places.

In addition, the authors cited the division of witches into different types and explained the basics of legal proceedings in their cases. In particular, it was emphasized that in view of the exceptional guilt of the accused, in such cases, testimony is allowed to be given to any witnesses, including those who have been excommunicated, convicted criminals, foreigners, and so on.

Sex, women and satan

The second, the largest part of the “Hammer”, consisting of 26 chapters, is devoted to the description of the theory of the existence and activity of witches, as well as ways to combat them.

Among all kinds of vedovstva, such as a truce, sending diseases and managing the elements, the greatest place is given to sexual issues related to witches. The topics of sexual intercourse with demons and incubus, as well as the birth of children from the devil, loving witchcraft at people and their violent seduction to sexual intercourse are thoroughly understood.

Although the authors of The Hammer of the Witches dedicated a separate chapter to male sorcerers, it is obvious that the inquisitors did not see them as the main threat. Direct text said that the sorcerers are much rarer and less of a threat than women. The female gender was considered by the authors of the “Witch's Hammer” as easy prey for the devil because of its initial instability in faith and the tendency to sin.

The third part of the treatise contains formal rules for initiating a lawsuit against the witch, ensuring her conviction and sentencing. It includes 35 questions and answers to them, which are designed to clarify all possible aspects of the process over the witch.

The Hammer of the Witches very quickly turned into a kind of inquisitors handbook. Over the next 200 years, he has endured more than two dozen publications, becoming a true symbol of the witch hunt.

Burn with us, burn like we, burn more than us

Inquisitor Heinrich Kramer, who signed The Witch Hammer in the Latin version of the name Henricus Institor, stated that he personally sent 200 witches to the fire. But the writings of the author himself were only the beginning of the madness that swept over Europe.

In the 16th – 17th centuries, witch hunters sent hundreds and thousands of women to death. The European Reformation not only did not change, but even worsened the situation, because in Protestant states the laws on witchcraft turned out to be much tougher than in the Catholic ones.

In the Saxon city of Quedlinburg, with a population of 12,000, 133 “witches” were burned in one single day in 1589. In Silesia, some inventive inquisitor invented a special furnace for burning witches, where only in 1651 sent 42 people, including young children.8

The massive execution of witches in Scotland. 1659

The paradox of the situation is that people dissatisfied with the domination of the church, having ousted the Inquisition, did not abandon the persecution of the sorcerers, but transferred this process into the hands of secular authorities, after which the number of victims increased markedly.

People accused of witchcraft, out of fear and under torture, began to testify against their relatives, neighbors, and casual acquaintances. The arrest of a 12-year-old "devil's servant" in the German city of Reutlingen led to the fact that 170 more "witches and sorcerers" were captured on the basis of his testimony.

"Three or four-year-old children have been declared the devil's lovers"

The picture of what is happening in the German city of Bonn at the beginning of the seventeenth century is captured in a letter by a certain priest addressed to Count Werner von Salm:

“It seems that half the town is involved: professors, students, pastors, canons, vicars and monks have already been arrested and burned ... The Chancellor and his wife and the wife of his personal secretary have already been captured and executed.

At Christmas, the Most Holy Mother of God executed a pupil of a prince-bishop, a nineteen-year-old girl known for her piety and piety ...

Three to four-year-old children were declared Devil Lovers. They burned students and boys of noble birth 9-14 years. In conclusion, I will say that things are in such a terrible state that no one knows with whom you can talk and cooperate. ”

Once a witch hunt started in a town or village, she could no longer stop. In the millstones of terror, both the representatives of the lower strata and the nobility were detained. In some places, it came to the complete extermination of women, and in other localities the judges regretted that the process was halted due to the ... lack of firewood.

US echoes of the European epidemic

The total number of witch victims today is difficult to establish.The process was long, sometimes fading and re-flashing in a period of serious social upheaval. Most often, modern researchers speak of 40,000-100,000 who died as a result of a witch hunt, although some believe that there could be much more victims.

European hysteria has affected the territory of the modern United States. The most famous witch hunt in the New World was the “trial of the Salem witches,” in which 19 people were hanged, one died under torture, and about 200 more were accused of witchcraft.

Only the fact that the charges, based on the testimony of young girls, were questioned, made it possible to stop further reprisals.

Only in the XVIII century, the European rulers by the introduction of new laws were able to stop the witch hunt. Improved living conditions in Europe contributed to this.

The last person executed in Europe for witchcraft is considered to be Swiss Anna Geldi. A woman under torture admitted to practicing black magic that, together with the accusation of poisoning, was the reason for the death sentence.

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  • Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe

    Witch Hunt in Europe