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witches - The Witch-Hunt in Europe Superstition and...

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The Witch-Hunt in Europe Superstition and Skepticism
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Witch-Hunting During the early modern era (1450-1700) at least 40,000 people were executed throughout Europe for being witches. The age of witch panics closely corresponded to that of the Reformation and the Wars of Religion It became an accepted legal theory that certain individuals were capable of doing physical harm through non-physical (supernatural) actions. And these people had to be punished. Both church and civil authorities combined in lending credulity to folk beliefs concerning witchcraft. A combination of a superstitious populace and credulous authorities who had come to accept the reality of witchcraft led to the persecutions.
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Witch Executions in Germany, 1649
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Facts About the Witch-Hunt Satan was believed to work through witches and to grant them power in return for their souls. Elderly women, often widows, had been associated with witchcraft in European folklore going back to the Ancient world. In the era (lasting over two hundred years) of the great witch-hunts the educated and powerful came to accept these stereotypes. Satan was constantly at work in the world. Skepticism was often regarded as collusion with the Devil. Over 80% of the victims of witch-hunters were women. Over half of the accusers were women, as well. This highlights how ingrained the stereotype of the witch was in European culture. The worst persecutions took place in Germany during the Thirty Years War. Frequently areas that experienced religious conflict also endured witch persecutions. Over half of all the people (as many as 25,000) executed as witches died in Germany.
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An Early Condemnation of Witchcraft “Know that she or he who claims to have the power to break a charm knows as well, be assured, how to work one. When such people say that they wish to cure anyone, do you know what you should do? There is nothing better to do than cry ‘To the fire! To the fire! To the fire!’” Bernadino of Siena - 1427
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Witch and Devil and Flying Witch on a Broomstick
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Flying Witch - Durer
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Further Facts about the Witch Hunts “Incredible among us Germans … are the popular superstition, envy, calumnies, back-bitings, insinuations and the like, which being neither punished by the magistrates nor refuted by the pulpit, first stir up suspicion of witchcraft. All the divine judgments which God has threatened in Holy Writ are now ascribed to witches. No longer do God or nature do aught, but witches everything.” – Friedrich
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