How did fear play a role in the witch hunts

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it. Fear, hatred, guilt, jealousy, pain, grief, confusion, lust, and hunger are all feelings with one thing in common. They were the driving force that caused a witch-hunt amongst early modern Europeans. To fully understand what caused the witch-hunt, one must analyze the triggers behind these feelings.

Many social and religious factors triggered such emotions.

History and Effects of Witchcraft Prejudice and Intolerance on Early Modern Women

Early modern Europeans were in the process of a religious reformation. Rather than calming the people, the Reformation heightened awareness of evil within the culture. As fears arose, new beliefs emerged.

The REAL Cause of the Salem Witch Trials - Cool History

To combat these fears, people sought other means to fight evil, such as the benandante. Ironically, the very things people tried to protect themselves in this unpredictable setting where famine and poverty were commonplace was what increased the fear of witchcraft, leading to the death of many. The Reformation within the Church and the development of good witches with the already ingrained ideas about women and human sexuality set the stage for a witch-hunt by increasing emotions.

Between andthe Reformation had a significant impact on European countries and the way people perceived religion. Due to increasing disagreements amongst the community and the Catholic Church, the Church needed to reform. One reformer responsible for the rise in fear of Satan was John Calvin who stated. And many sorceries come from this condition. Communities wanted to purify their neighborhoods by getting rid of all evil, even if it meant putting their neighbor to death.

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They used the judicial system to advocate against any act that went against the Word of God. Although it was not just the poor women accused, they targeted women in general. The Malleus Maleficarum is one of the most notorious documents that reflect why early modern women were believed to be more susceptible to witchcraft. The Malleus Maleficarum backs this up by stating that. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives.

The one fault in this line of thinking, according to the Church, would be that God does not make mistakes. Unfortunately, the focus became a view that women were primarily sexual creatures.

Although the question arises, whose desire provoked the accusation, the witch, or the accuser?A witch-hunt or a witch purge is a search for people who have been labelled "witches" or a search for evidence of witchcraftand it often involves a moral panic [1] or mass hysteria. In other regions, like Africa and Asiacontemporary witch-hunts have been reported from Sub-Saharan Africa and Papua New Guineaand official legislation against witchcraft is still found in Saudi Arabia and Cameroon today.

In current language, "witch-hunt" metaphorically means an investigation that is usually conducted with much publicity, supposedly to uncover subversive activity, disloyalty, and so on, but with the real purpose of intimidating political opponents. The wide distribution of the practice of witch-hunts in geographically and culturally separated societies Europe, Africa, India, New Guinea since the s has triggered interest in the anthropological background of this behaviour.

The belief in magic and divinationand attempts to use magic to influence personal well-being to increase life, win love, etc. Belief in witchcraft has been shown to have similarities in societies throughout the world. It presents a framework to explain the occurrence of otherwise random misfortunes such as sickness or death, and the witch sorcerer provides an image of evil. One study finds that witchcraft beliefs are associated with antisocial attitudes: lower levels of trust, charitable giving and group participation.

Punishment for malevolent sorcery is addressed in the earliest law codes which were preserved; in both ancient Egypt and Babyloniawhere it played a conspicuous part. If a man has put a spell upon another man and it is not yet justified, he upon whom the spell is laid shall go to the holy river; into the holy river shall he plunge.

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If the holy river overcome him and he is drowned, the man who put the spell upon him shall take possession of his house.

If the holy river declares him innocent and he remains unharmed the man who laid the spell shall be put to death. He that plunged into the river shall take possession of the house of him who laid the spell upon him. No laws concerning magic survive from Classical Athens.

Livy emphasizes that this was a scale of persecution without precedent in Rome. Livy records that this persecution was because "there was nothing wicked, nothing flagitious, that had not been practiced among them". This law banned the trading and possession of harmful drugs and poisons, possession of magical books and other occult paraphernalia. StraboGaius Maecenas and Cassius Dio all reiterate the traditional Roman opposition against sorcery and divination, and Tacitus used the term religio-superstitio to class these outlawed observances.

The Hebrew Bible condemns sorcery. In the Judaean Second Temple periodRabbi Simeon ben Shetach in the 1st century BC is reported to have sentenced to death eighty women who had been charged with witchcraft on a single day in Ashkelon.

Later the women's relatives took revenge by bringing reportedly false witnesses against Simeon's son and causing him to be executed in turn. The ancient fabled King Filimer is said to have. Suspecting these women, he expelled them from the midst of his race and compelled them to wander in solitary exile afar from his army.

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There the unclean spirits, who beheld them as they wandered through the wilderness, bestowed their embraces upon them and begat this savage race, which dwelt at first in the swamps, a stunted, foul and puny tribe, scarcely human, and having no language save one which bore but slight resemblance to human speech.

This mild approach represented the view of the Church for many centuries. Let nobody presume to kill a foreign serving maid or female servant as a witch, for it is not possible, nor ought to be believed by Christian minds.

Burchard was writing against the superstitious belief in magical potions, for instance, that may produce impotence or abortion. These were also condemned by several Church Fathers. Such, for example, were nocturnal riding through the air, the changing of a person's disposition from love to hate, the control of thunder, rain, and sunshine, the transformation of a man into an animal, the intercourse of incubi and succubi with human beings and other such superstitions.

Not only the attempt to practice such things, but the very belief in their possibility, is treated by Burchard as false and superstitious. Neither were these the only examples of an effort to prevent unjust suspicion to which such poor creatures might be exposed. Early secular laws against witchcraft include those promulgated by King Athelstan — :.

And we have ordained respecting witch-crafts, and lybacs [read lyblac "sorcery"]and morthdaeds ["murder, mortal sin"] : if any one should be thereby killed, and he could not deny it, that he be liable in his life. In some prosecutions for witchcraft, torture permitted by the Roman civil law apparently took place. Condemnations of witchcraft are nevertheless found in the writings of Saint Augustin e and early theologians, who made little distinction between witchcraft and the practices of pagan religions.

Whatever the position of individual clerics, witch-hunting seems to have persisted as a cultural phenomenon. Arguably the first famous witch-hunt was the mob abduction, torture and execution of Hypatiaa female philosopher and mathematician who threatened the influence of Saint Cyril of Alexandria in AD.

Under Charlemagne, for example, Christians who practiced witchcraft were enslaved by the Church, while those who worshiped the Devil Germanic gods were killed outright.Tracy Borman reveals how James VI and I's obsession with devilry consigned hundreds of unfortunates to the flames.

The witch-hunts that swept across Europe from to were among the most controversial and terrifying phenomena in history — holocausts of their times. Historians have long attempted to explain why and how they took such rapid and enduring hold in communities as disparate and distant from one another as Navarre and Copenhagen. The ferocity of these persecutions can be attributed to the most notorious royal witch-hunter: King James VI of Scotland, who in became James I of England.

The year witnessed the largest and most high-profile witch trials in Scottish history. Convinced the tempest that had almost cost his life had been summoned by witchcraft, James was intent upon bringing the perpetrators to justice. Most of the suspects soon confessed — under torture — to concocting a host of bizarre and gruesome spells and rituals in order to whip up the storm.

James was so appalled when he heard such tales that he decided to personally superintend the interrogations.

James VI and I: the king who hunted witches

He had one of the main suspects, Agnes Sampson, brought to Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh so that he could question her himself. There followed the most dramatic moment of the interrogation when James, responding to something that Agnes had said, leapt up in fury and declared her a liar.

James was astounded at her revelation. She had subsequently fled to England, where she remained the captive of Elizabeth I for some 20 years, until her execution in As soon as the North Berwick trials ended, James commissioned Newes from Scotlanda pamphlet that relayed the whole saga in scandalised language aimed at intensifying popular fear of witches.

But he did not stop there. With all the passion of a religious zealot, he set about convincing his subjects of the evil that stirred in their midst. In he became the only monarch in history to publish a treatise on witchcraft. Though lacking in original or profound ideas, the fact that it had been written by a king made it enormously influential.

It is no coincidence that cases of witchcraft in his kingdom multiplied at an alarming rate thereafter. In persuading them of the evils of witchcraft he was, to a large extent, pushing on an open door. Such beliefs had been an integral part of society for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Until the Enlightenment of the 18th century, and even beyond, the Kingdom of Darkness seemed as real as the Kingdom of Heaven, and ordinary people everywhere believed in devils, imps, fairies, goblins and ghosts, as well as other legendary creatures such as vampires, werewolves and unicorns.

A pregnant woman would avoid gazing at the moon for fear that it could render her baby insane.

how did fear play a role in the witch hunts

In one of his tracts on witchcraft, Puritan preacher George Gifford described a number of signs that were believed to augur evil — from salt spilt at a banquet to the sudden onset of a nosebleed. He grew up to scorn — even revile — women. Though he was by no means alone in his view of the natural weakness and inferiority of women, his aversion towards them was unusually intense.

He took every opportunity to propound the view that they were far more likely than men to succumb to witchcraft. James was soon to have an entirely new outlet for his obsession. Elizabeth I died in without any direct heirs, so the Scottish king was named her successor, becoming James I of England. James found his new subjects a good deal more ambivalent than their northern neighbours and, indeed, the rest of Europe on the subject of witchcraft. In contrast to Scotland, the use of torture was outlawed, and convicted witches were hanged rather than burned.

There was also a growing scepticism about the existence of witches. James was determined to change all of that. Barely a year after his accession, the new king ordered that the Elizabethan statute on witchcraft be replaced by a much harsher version.

Until that time, those who practised witchcraft were severely punished only if they were found to have committed murder or other injuries through their devilish arts.

In short, it was the crimes caused by witchcraft, not the practice of witchcraft itself, that had been the object of concern. James, though, wanted the practice of any form of magic to be severely punished, regardless of whether it had caused harm to others.

His new statute made hanging mandatory for a first offence of witchcraft, even if the accused had not committed murder. A rash of witchcraft cases were brought before the courts in every part of his new kingdom. Among the most notorious was the Pendle witch trial of Book Guides. In studying The Crucibleyou will inevitably be faced with questions about the play's connections to the "Red Scare" of the s and the phenomenon known as McCarthyism. These connections are important because they demonstrate that The Crucible is not merely a highly adapted retelling of historical events but also an allegorical reference to the timelessness of certain central human flaws.

In this article, I'll provide historical background on McCarthyism, tell you about Arthur Miller's personal involvement with the investigations of alleged communists in the s, and explain how and why interpretations of The Crucible are so closely tied to the political attitudes and events of that decade.

how did fear play a role in the witch hunts

McCarthy was a Republican from Wisconsin who rose through the political ranks in the s and was elected to the Senate in When it looked like he might not be reelected in after a few unremarkable years of service, he decided to try a new political strategy: targeting communist subversives. To see why this was even an option, you have to understand the political climate at the time. McCarthy was able to use this fear to his advantage.

On February 9,he claimed to possess a list of the names of people in the US State Department who were members of the American Communist Party.

The public, in the throes of a communist hysteria, demanded an investigation of these supposed agitators within the government. This persecution of alleged subversives became known colloquially as "McCarthyism. McCarthy finally lost power in soon after proposing an investigation of the military to root out communists. President Eisenhower, who never liked McCarthy and had great respect for the military as a former commander, decided things had finally gone too far.

He worked behind the scenes to discredit McCarthy. He died soon after infour years after the opening of The Crucible. Though the modern-day witch hunt philosophy carries his namesake, Joseph McCarthy was far from the only driving force behind the investigation of suspected communists during the Cold War.

Another congressional group called the House UnAmerican Activities Committee played a similar and, some would argue, even more dramatic role at the same time. HUAC was a congressional committee originally established in with the primary goal of investigating communist and fascist organizations that had become active during the Great Depression.

Members of the committee were convinced that disloyal communists had managed to infiltrate the US government, educational system, and entertainment industry. Anyone deemed suspicious was issued a subpoena by the committee and subsequently questioned about their political activities and the activities of other potential subversives.Although accusations of witchcraft in contemporary cultures provide a means to express or resolve social tensions, these accusations had different consequences in premodern Western society where the mixture of irrational fear and a persecuting mentality led to the emergence of the witch hunts.

In the 11th century attitudes toward witchcraft and sorcery began to change, a process that would radically transform the Western perception of witchcraft and associate it with heresy and the Devil. By the 14th century, fear of heresy and of Satan had added charges of diabolism to the usual indictment of witches, maleficium malevolent sorcery.

It was this combination of sorcery and its association with the Devil that made Western witchcraft unique. This fabric of ideas was a fantasy. The witch hunts varied enormously in place and in time, but they were united by a common and coherent theological and legal worldview. Local priests and judges, though seldom experts in either theology or law, were nonetheless part of a culture that believed in the reality of witches as much as modern society believes in the reality of molecules.

Since careful research has elucidated law codes and theological treatises from the era of the witch hunts and uncovered much information about how fear, accusations, and prosecutions actually occurred in villages, local law courts, and courts of appeal in Roman Catholic and Protestant cultures in western Europe.

Charges of maleficium were prompted by a wide array of suspicions. It might have been as simple as one person blaming his misfortune on another. For example, if something bad happened to John that could not be readily explained, and if John felt that Richard disliked him, John may have suspected Richard of harming him by occult means. The most common suspicions concerned livestock, crops, storms, disease, property and inheritance, sexual dysfunction or rivalry, family feuds, marital discordstepparents, sibling rivalries, and local politics.

Maleficium was a threat not only to individuals but also to public order, for a community wracked by suspicions about witches could split asunder. Another accusation that often accompanied maleficium was trafficking with evil spirits. In the Near East—in ancient Mesopotamia, Syria, Canaan, and Palestine—belief in the existence of evil spirits was universal, so that both religion and magic were thought to be needed to appease, offer protection from, or manipulate these spirits.

In Greco-Roman civilization, Dionysiac worship included meeting underground at night, sacrificing animals, practicing orgies, feasting, and drinking. Classical authors such as AeschylusHoraceand Virgil described sorceresses, ghosts, furies, and harpies with hideous pale faces and crazed hair; clothed in rotting garments, they met at night and sacrificed both animals and humans.

A bizarre set of accusations, including the sacrifice of children, was made by the Syrians against the Jews in Hellenistic Syria in the 2nd century bce. These accusations would also be made by the Romans against the Christians, by early Christians against heretics dissenters from the core Christianity of the period and Jews, by later Christians against witches, and, as late as the 20th century, by Protestants against Catholics.

Accusations similar to those expressed by the ancient Syrians and early Christians appeared again in the Middle Ages. These allegations would have important implications for the future because they were part of a broader pattern of hostility toward and persecution of marginalized groups. This pattern took shape in —, which was also an era of enormous reform, reorganization, and centralization in both the ecclesiastical and secular aspects of society, an important aspect of which was suppressing dissent.

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The visible role played by women in some heresies during this period may have contributed to the stereotype of the witch as female. The Devil was deeply and widely feared as the greatest enemy of Christ, keenly intent on destroying soul, life, family, community, church, and state. If witchcraft existed, as people believed it did, then it was an absolute necessity to extirpate it before it destroyed the world.

Because of the continuity of witch trials with those for heresy, it is impossible to say when the first witch trial occurred.

Salem Witch Trials

Even though the clergy and judges in the Middle Ages were skeptical of accusations of witchcraft, the period —30 can be seen as the beginning of witch trials. In Pope Gregory XI declared that all magic was done with the aid of demons and thus was open to prosecution for heresy.

Witch trials continued through the 14th and early 15th centuries, but with great inconsistency according to time and place.Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

Gender played a significant role in the witch hunts that took place in Early-Modern Europe as well as in Salem. More than 90 percent of these English witches were women. The Early-Modern European views on women played a significant role in the accusations. Early-Modern European views that played a role include their roles within society, the vulnerability of their soul, and an inability to fit into a male-dominated society. Women also had a stricter view of sin during this time frame than men did, which led to higher confessions amongst women.

It was not until women and men began to view sin similarly that witch hunts ended. Many of the impacts that occurred during this time frame, also happened during the Salem Witch Trials as well. Women had responsibilities surrounding tasks that dealt with the survival of the community, such as preparing food, being a midwife or lying in maid, and tending animals. Because of this, many believed that witches had considerable control over the health and life of others.

Because these were all jobs that had the potential of going very wrong, when someone died or became sick, they blamed the nearest person who was usually a woman. A midwife who delivered a deformed or stillborn child could very well become targeted.

A mother may want to blame someone for their tragedy, and since the midwife was present, they are subject to being accused of doing something supernatural to cause this. Puritans believed that Satan assaulted the body through sexual transgressions. Because women provided the nourishment for infants, this idea of suckling only reinforced the idea that witches were women.

Suckling was believed to be used for sexual pleasure, as well. One characteristic that both men and women shared regarding the witch-hunts was the idea that their souls were feminine. Although this should cause men and women to be viewed as equally susceptible to sin, this was not the case. Puritans believed that the body protected the soul.


If the body was strong, then the soul was better protected. Females, as a whole, were considered more accessible targets for Satan due to being viewed as weaker than men physically, spiritually, and morally.

Even though witchcraft was not considered to be inherited, often people who were closely related to a previously accused witch were thought to be witches themselves, such as daughters, sisters, and even male relatives of the accused.

how did fear play a role in the witch hunts

Women, on the other hand, were not allowed to possess masculine traits without being seen as odd and not fit easily within society. Reis explains this further:.

how did fear play a role in the witch hunts

In other words, men could maintain their perception of masculinity, despite having a feminine soul. Their feminine soul allowed them to be submissive to Christ without appearing feminine to their neighbors. Women, in contrast, were not permitted to show masculine characteristics without being viewed negatively by society. The women that were most likely to be accused were those who did not fit easily into society.

Women during this period were expected to be quiet, submissive, and under the male head of the household.Between the 15th and 18th centuries in Europe, many people were accused of and put on trial for practicing witchcraft. The witch trials in the early modern period were a series of witch hunts between the 15th and 18th centuries, when across early modern Europe, and to some extent in the European colonies in North America, there was a widespread hysteria that malevolent Satanic witches were operating as an organized threat to Christendom.

Many people were subsequently accused of being witches and were put on trial for the crime, with varying punishments being applicable in different regions and at different times.

In early modern European tradition, witches were stereotypically, though not exclusively, women. During the medieval period, there was widespread belief in magic across Christian Europe. The medieval Roman Catholic Church, which then dominated a large swath of the continent, divided magic into two forms—natural magic, which was acceptable because it was viewed as merely taking note of the powers in nature that were created by God, and demonic magic, which was frowned upon and associated with demonology.

It was also during the medieval period that the concept of Satan, the Biblical Devil, began to develop into a more threatening form. Around the yearwhen there were increasing fears that the end of the world would soon come in Christendom, the idea of the Devil had become prominent. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the concept of the witch in Christendom underwent a relatively radical change. No longer were witches viewed as sorcerers who had been deceived by the Devil into practicing magic that went against the powers of God.

Instead they became all-out malevolent Devil-worshippers, who had made pacts with him in which they had to renounce Christianity and devote themselves to Satanism.

As a part of this, it was believed that they gained new, supernatural powers that enabled them to work magic, which they would use against Christians. An image of a witch and her familiar spirits taken from a publication that dealt with the witch trials of Elizabeth Stile, Mother Dutten, Mother Devell, and Mother Margaret in Windsor, While the idea of witchcraft began to mingle with the persecution of heretics even in the 14th century, the beginning of the witch hunts as a phenomenon in its own right became apparent during the first half of the 15th century in southeastern France and western Switzerland, in communities of the Western Alps, in what was at the time Burgundy and Savoy.

While early trials fall still within the late medieval period, the peak of the witch hunt was during the period of the European wars of religion, between about and Over the entire duration of the phenomenon of some three centuries, an estimated total of 40, topeople were executed.

The height of the European witch trials was between andwith the large hunts first beginning in The persecutions started in the diocese of Trier in and reached the city itself inwhere they were to lead to the deaths of about people, and as such it was perhaps the biggest mass execution in Europe during peacetime.

In Denmark, the burning of witches increased following the reformation of Christian IV of Denmark, in particular, encouraged this practice, and hundreds of people were convicted of witchcraft and burned. In England, the Witchcraft Act of regulated the penalties for witchcraft. While the witch trials had begun to fade out across much of Europe by the midth century, they continued to a greater extent on the fringes of Europe and in the American colonies.

The clergy and intellectuals began to speak out against the trials from the late 16th century.

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