Helahel

Witch Hunts in Europe

Witch Hunts in Europe

Amir Created Nov 18, 2021 04:18
2 Comments

In 1572, the killings began. That year, authorities in the tiny settlement of St Maximin, in present-day Germany, charged a woman named Eva with using witchcraft to murder a child. Eva confessed under torture; she, along with two women she implicated, were burned at the stake.

The pace of prosecution picked up from there. By the mid-1590s, the territory had burned 500 people as witches—an astonishing feat, for a place that only had 2,200 residents to begin with.

Between 1400 to 1782, when Switzerland tried and executed Europe’s last supposed witch, between 40,000 and 60,000 people, mostly women, were put to death for witchcraft, according to historical consensus. The epicenter of the witch hunts was Europe’s German-speaking heartland, an area that makes up Germany, Switzerland, and northeastern France.

The ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ (Hammer of Witches), published in the late 15th century, written by inquisitors for inquisitors, provided a guide for hunting and persecuting witches that would heavily influence the next 200 years of the European witch craze.

7 Bizarre Witch Trial Tests
From barbaric tortures and occult dessert dishes to unwinnable trials by ordeal, find out more about seven unusual tests once used as evidence of supernatural misconduct.

1. Swimming Test
As part of the infamous “swimming test,” accused witches were dragged to the nearest body of water, stripped to their undergarments, bound and then tossed in to to see if they would sink or float. Since witches were believed to have spurned the sacrament of baptism, it was thought that the water would reject their body and prevent them from submerging. According to this logic, an innocent person would sink like a stone, but a witch would simply bob on the surface. The victim typically had a rope tied around their waist so they could be pulled from the water if they sank, but it wasn’t unusual for accidental drowning deaths to occur.

2. Prayer Test
Medieval wisdom held that witches were incapable of speaking scripture aloud, so accused sorcerers were made to recite selections from the Bible—usually the Lord’s Prayer—without making mistakes or omissions. While it may have simply been a sign that the suspected witch was illiterate or nervous, any errors were viewed as proof that the speaker was in league with the devil. This twisted test of public speaking ability was commonly used as hard evidence in witch trials. In 1712, it was applied in the case Jane Wenham, an accused witch who supposedly struggled to speak the words “forgive us our trespasses” and “lead us not into temptation” during her interrogation. Still, even a successful prayer test didn’t guarantee an acquittal. During the Salem Witch Trials, the accused sorcerer George Burroughs flawlessly recited the prayer from the gallows just before his execution. The performance was dismissed as a devil’s trick, and the hanging proceeded as planned.

3. Touch Test
The touch test worked on the idea that victims of sorcery would have a special reaction to physical contact with their evildoer. In cases where a possessed person fell into spells or fits, the suspected witch would be brought into the room and asked to a lay a hand on them. A non-reaction signaled innocence, but if the victim came out of their fit, it was seen as proof that the suspect had placed them under a spell.

4. Witch Cakes
A bizarre form of counter-magic, the witch cake was a supernatural dessert used to identify suspected evildoers. In cases of mysterious illness or possession, witch-hunters would take a sample of the victim’s urine, mix it with rye-meal and ashes and bake it into a cake. This stomach-turning concoction was then fed to a dog—the “familiars,” or animal helpers, of witches—in the hope that the beast would fall under its spell and reveal the name of the guilty sorcerer.

5. Witch’s Marks
Witch-hunters often had their suspects stripped and publically examined for signs of an unsightly blemish that witches were said to receive upon making their pact with Satan. This “Devil’s Mark” could supposedly change shape and color, and was believed to be numb and insensitive to pain. Prosecutors might also search for the “witches’ teat,” an extra nipple allegedly used to suckle the witch’s helper animals. In both cases, it was easy for even the most minor physical imperfections to be labeled as the work of the devil himself. Moles, scars, birthmarks, sores, supernumerary nipples and tattoos could all qualify, so examiners rarely came up empty-handed. In the midst of witch hunts, desperate villagers would sometimes even burn or cut off any offending marks on their bodies, only to have their wounds labeled as proof of a covenant with the devil.

6. Pricking and Scratching Tests
If witch-hunters struggled to find obvious evidence of “witch’s marks” on a suspect’s body, they might resort to the ghastly practice of “pricking” as a means of sussing it out. Witch-hunting books and instructional pamphlets noted that the marks were insensitive to pain and couldn’t bleed, so examiners used specially designed needles to repeatedly stab and prick at the accused person’s flesh until they discovered a spot that produced the desired results. In England and Scotland, the torture was eventually performed by well-paid professional “prickers,” many of whom were actually con men who used dulled needlepoints to identify fake witch’s marks. Along with pricking, the unfortunate suspect might also be subjected to “scratching” by their supposed victims. This test was based on the notion that possessed people found relief by scratching the person responsible with their fingernails until they drew blood. If their symptoms improved after clawing at the accused’s skin, it was seen as partial evidence of guilt.

7. Incantations
Also known as “charging,” this test involved forcing the accused witch to verbally order the devil to let the possessed victim come out of their fit or trance. Other people would also utter the words to act as a “control,” and judges would then gauge whether the statements had any effect on the victim’s condition. Charges were famously used in the 16th century witch trial of Alice Samuel and her husband and daughter, who were accused of bewitching five girls from the wealthy Throckmorton family. During the proceedings, judges forced the Samuels to demand that the devil release the girls from their spell by stating, “As I am a witch…so I charge the devil to let Mistress Throckmorton come out of her fit at this present.” When the possessed girls immediately recovered, the Samuels were found guilty and hanged as witches.



 

This topic has 3 comments

No Photo

Deleted User

Nov 18, 2021 09:23

These are interesting. Keep it going.

Amir

Nov 25, 2021 20:50

That was Abrar who posted the previous comment.

Predictions for 2022. Higher inflation and war(s) along too many flash point - Donbass, Balkans, Nagorno-Karabagh, Himalayas or South China Sea. Bosnians have already said, they'll exit as refused rather than fighting another war. Older generation could fight. Newer can't.

Amir

Nov 25, 2021 21:20

That's another flash point, Algeria-Moroc, while Turkey and Pakistan are facing currency devaluation and economic crisis.

Another prediction has to do with global warming causing water crisis, droughts and rising food prices. Fuel prices will lead inflation.

 

Leave comment...

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in or register.