He leant his weight to the belief that those who deny the existence of witchcraft must be witches themselves. No penalty could be too harsh. Even slow burning was insufficient penalty. He confirmed that judges who do not convict witches to the stake should themselves be put to death. In Merlin's traditional biography he is a cambion: born of a mortal woman, sired by an incubus, from whom he inherits his supernatural powers and abilities.
Roman Catholics were not the only Christians to kill people on charges of witchcraft. Malleus Maleficarum was so respected that it was used by Protestant authorities as well as Roman Catholic ones. It lay on the bench of every judge and magistrate, authoritative and irrefutable. Protestants rivalled Roman Catholics in their zeal as witch-finders. Being accused of heresy himself, Luther was initially opposed to burning heretics, but still argued that witches should be burned, even if they had done no harm to anyone.
He himself had four supposed witches roasted at Wittenburg. Calvin was also a keen advocate of killing witches, since "the Bible teaches us that there are witches and that they must be slain". Merril, Calvin himself was active in proceedings. He personally laid information against sorcerers and in was involved in actions against people accused of spreading the plague. Some of the men were sentenced to have their flesh torn off with pincers, and women to have their right hands cut off before being burnt at the stake.
Calvinists exported witch-hunting to the Puritan American colonies culminating in the famous Salem episode of Ann Hibbins see right was executed for witchcraft in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 19, Her execution was the third for witchcraft in Boston and predated the Salem Witch Trials. In continental Europe the burning of witches continued well into the eighteenth century.
Other nuns testified that they had seen her adopt the form of a pig and climb over the convent walls. In that form she drank the convent's best wine. In the form of a hare she would milk the convent's cows dry, and in the form of a cat she would prowl around the convent annoying the sisters. For these crimes she was burned alive in the local market place. Giles Cory refused to plead against charges of witchcraft during the Salem With Trials so he could not be tried and consequently could not have his proprty sequestered. He was pressed to death in an attempt to force him to plead.
For various reasons the use of torture was restricted in certain areas, and in those areas the witch terror never approached the heights of those areas where torture was applied freely. Examples are the Jura, Spain and England. In the Jura the authorities restricted the use of torture, paid little attention to the accusations of children, and required accusations to be made openly.
In Spain the Inquisition concentrated on heretics and apostates, and perhaps surprisingly generally discouraged witch-hunting. In England, witchcraft was regarded as a civil crime rather than an ecclesiastical one. It was for this reason that convicted witches were hanged rather than burned, as they were on the continent and in Scotland. And it was also for this reason that far fewer people lost their lives in England than in continental Europe, where the Church exercised unrestrained power. Even in England prosecutions were heavily one-sided. As on the continent of Europe, the accused were asked loaded questions, for example not whether they had consorted with the Devil, but how they had come to consort with the Devil.
The only hope was that the secular judge was an educated rationalist, who might expose the accusers as fraudulent. Standard tests for a witch included the old ordeal by water, now called "swimming", and advocated by James VI of Scotland in his book about witchcraft Demonologie , published in The theory was that water, as the instrument of baptism, would reject those who had renounced their baptism: the water would reject them, just as they had rejected it. The term swimming is perhaps misleading, since hardly anyone then learned to swim, and in any case the victims had their right thumb tied to their left foot, and their left thumb to their right foot.
They were then cast into open water. If they floated they had been rejected by the water on behalf of God, and were thus proved guilty. If they sank then they were innocent, but their innocence was often not apparent until they had drowned. Another method was to weigh the accused against a large bible.
Heavy people were pronounced innocent, light ones found guilty. Witches were burned in Catholic countries under cannon law, but hanged in England. Twelve bishops sat on the Committee to which the bill was referred on its second reading in the House of Lords.
In the same year, with the bishops" help, the old English Act was replaced by a new British Act introducing into English law continental themes like the diabolical pact and devil worship. The Devil and his followers duly amended their behaviour to conform to expectations, making pacts and organising formal sessions of Devil worship.
Witch trials in the early modern period
Under the earlier Elizabethan statute, a witch must have been accused of doing harm to deserve death, now anyone accused even of keeping an imp was liable to the death penalty. Imps generally took the form of ordinary animals. A common way of establishing that someone was a witch was to isolate that person in a room.
This animal visitor was clearly the witch's familiar, come to suckle. In earlier times people had been able to break a witch's spell by the application of a little counter magic for example by scratching the suspected witch and drawing blood. Now, the Church disapproved of such techniques, on the grounds that they also depended upon diabolical magic. Instead of receiving a scratch on the face, she was now likely to receive a noose around the neck. One authority has estimated that as many as 70, people were put to death under the statute.
A Timeline of Witch Hunts in Europe
The new translation of the Bible issued in James's reign, the Authorised Version also known as the King James Bible used the word witch more frequently than earlier versions, providing biblical authority for killing people. In , a year after James's new version of the Bible was published, eight people were hanged as witches in Pendle, Lancashire.
Their real crimes seem to have been that they were poor and unpopular. They included a mentally subnormal youth and an year-old woman. The story that led to their conviction had been fabricated, and was widely known to have been fabricated, but those responsible for it were never brought to court to answer for their perjury.
Many ordinary people already doubted the reality of witchcraft, but the Church and the learned professions that it controlled were agreed that it was a reality. As Robert Burton noted in "Many deny witches at all, or, if there be any, they can do no harm, but on the contrary are most lawyers, divines, physicians, philosophers". King James came to doubt the reality of witchcraft. In nine women were found guilty of witchcraft by Leicestershire Summer Sessions, on the evidence of a year-old boy.
All of the women were executed. Afterwards the King himself examined the boy and deduced that his evidence was false. Nine women had been killed for no good reason. At the Staffordshire Assizes on 26 th July the boy admitted that he had fabricated accusations of witchcraft. He had been trained by a Roman Catholic priest to simulate the symptoms of being bewitched.
This was not an isolated case: as on the continent, a number of Catholic priests had been discovered training children to feign such symptoms either to demonstrate their own powers of exorcism, or else to provide evidence with which to accuse their enemies. James now turned detective. He developed rationalist experiments to test the victims of witchcraft. In the light of the evidence obtained, James attributed the workings of devils and witches to falsehoods and delusions, and in the latter part of his reign witch-hunting declined. It would now be the domain of extremists: Puritans on one wing, Papists on the other.
Puritans were soon in power under Cromwell's Commonwealth, and witch-hunting was underway once again.
Torture was illegal in England, but was thought of as purely physical. Witch-finders discovered that sleep deprivation worked just as well as the application of physical pain, and no one considered it to constitute torture. Teams of helpers kept the accused awake continuously for a few days and nights, and thus obtained confessions just as convenient, detailed, incriminating and contrived as continental torturers. This became a favourite technique of Calvinists like Matthew Hopkins, known as England's Witchfinder General, who was responsible for an unknown number of deaths, certainly hundreds, probably thousands.
The needle would leave neither puncture hole nor blood, and neither would the victim feel pain, although innocent onlookers thought they could see the needle sinking into the victim's flesh. England was comparatively restrained, but it was still possible as late as to hang a little girl, along with her mother, for having sold their souls to the Devil and for having caused their neighbours to vomit pins. King James's Act was replaced by a new one in , which was directed at those pretending to possess magical powers. But belief in the reality of witchcraft continued in mainstream Christian denominations.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists in the eighteenth century, was a keen advocate of witch-hunting. He wrote in support of it after even Roman Catholics were starting to be embarrassed by the subject. He saw that denial of witchcraft amounted to denial of the Bible. If there were no witches then the Bible was in error.
And if the Bible was in error then the whole of Christianity was mistaken. It was therefore necessary to fight against rationalists, who were now in the majority.
A Timeline of Witch Hunts in Europe
As an authority on the history of witch beliefs says:. As a general pattern, prosecutions for witchcraft dried up earliest in areas where the Church's influence was weakest. The last official executions took place in Holland in , in America in , and in Scotland in In France the last execution took place in , and prosecutions ceased altogether after a series of impostures were exposed. The last official executions took place in Germany in , in Switzerland in , and in Poland in It is apparently not known when they ceased in areas under Church control like Italy and Spain, but it cannot have been earlier than the nineteenth century.
The last official executions in England took place in The judiciary were already sceptical. Proceedings were conducted according to the law, but some judges were clearly unsympathetic to witchcraft prosecutions. When, at her trial in , Jane Wenham was accused of having flown through the air, Mr Justice Powell is reputed to have pointed out that there was no law against flying. Witchcraft was longer being taken seriously in educated circles, and even though the jury convicted Jane Wenham and sentenced her to death, the judge succeeded in getting the sentence repealed. The last witchcraft trial in England took place in Wales, which seems to have been relatively free from the witch terrors in earlier times, became one of the last strongholds of witch beliefs after the spread of Methodism there.
Another stronghold of witch belief was the Southwestern peninsula Cornwall, Devon and Somerset , where Methodism was also popular. Legal records in England show the continued popularity of drowning witches in the nineteenth century. The Times reported such a case as late as 24 th September Many Christians still believe in witchcraft and feel that it needs to be held in check.
Churches still maintain exorcists to keep up the fight against Satan's army. Some look back with affection to the times when witches could be dealt with properly. At Pendle, where eight people had been hanged as witches in , representatives of many denominations decided in the s that far from needing to feel regret, they still needed to protect themselves from the agents of Satan. Reverberations of witch-hunting continued into the twentieth century.
In England a Mrs Helen Duncan was charged with witchcraft in , under the Act, and imprisoned. The Act was repealed in England in , and replaced by the Fraudulent Mediums Act, though Christian bodies were demanding the reintroduction of witchcraft laws as late as Other countries still have witchcraft statutes in force. In a Frenchwoman was charged in South Africa for having threatened to turn two policewomen into frogs. The occasional unofficial killing of witches also persisted in Europe into recent times.
There was an attempted murder of a poor elderly spinster suspected of witchcraft in Germany as late as Many traditionalist Christian groups still believe in the reality of witches and witchcraft. Ships with Tracking Number! Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory n. George L. The Witch-Persecutions. Publisher: BiblioLife , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:.
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About AbeBooks. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. Search for all books with this author and title. Customers who bought this item also bought. Lying wonders. There are wonderful Storms in the great World, and wonderful Wounds in the little World, often effected by these evil Causes. They do things which transcend the ordinary Course of Nature, and which puzzle the ordinary Sense of Mankind. Some strange things are done by them in a way of Real Production. They do really Torment, they do really Afflict those that their Spite shall extend unto.
Other Strange Things are done by them in a way of Crafty Illusion. They do craftily make of the Air, the Figures and Colours of things that never can be truly created by them. All men might see, but, I believe, no man could feel, some of the Things which the Magicians of Egypt exhibited of old. In this regard also they are not the Authors of Miracles: those are things commonly done for the Good of Man, alwaies done for the Praise of God. But of these Hell-hounds it may in a special manner be said, as in Psal. Thou lovest evil more than good. I suspect that there are none of that sort; but rather think, There is none that doeth good, no, not one.
If they do good, it is only that they may do hurt. It is by virtue of evil Spirits that Witches do what they do. We read in Ephes. Every one has his Post, and his Work; and they are all glad of an opportunity to be mischievous in the World.