The Prosecution of Witches in Early Modern Europe

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Throughout the years, witchcraft has been the common fear of mankind. In England, the legal definition of a witch was “a person who hath a conference with the devil to consult with him or to do some act”. In early modern Europe, women were thought to be witches due to their biblical association with the devil, the superstitions and misunderstanding of the people of Europe, and the negative perceptions of those who deviated from the social norm. As a result, these beliefs and superstitions led to the death of thousands of alleged witches. (Witch Hunts) Witches were thought to be consults of the devil who gave up their bodies and led others away from the church for the devil in exchange for otherworldly power. In addition to this women were marked as being sexually voracious, the origin of this mindset being the Garden of Eden.(Witchcraft and Midwifery) It was also believed that because women were weaker than men and had fewer rights, they were more likely to succumb to the devil in order to obtain their wishes. (Witch Hunts) In this respect they were “ nature instruments of Satan -- they [were] by nature carnal, a structural defect rooted in the original creation.” (Steven Katz, Gendercide Watch: European Witch-Hunts) Because of the influential role religion held in European communities, these associations women held were powerful instruments in their accusations. Still tying into religious influences, the very physical appearance of a woman could lead to the belief that she is a witch. Warts and other natural marks of age were viewed as if they were stamps from the devil himself. Older women were the typical candidates for being a witch, many older than 50 years of age. They had no protectors, as they were often widowed, and could incite revenge if they erred in a way that would make them public targets of the community. These women were often

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