The European Witch Trials

Trials for witches were part of the European transformations in terms of economy, society and religion. These trials occurred for about three centuries starting from the fifteenth century. One of the reasons for these trials was the belief by Christians that the witches were threatening their religion. The type and level of punishments administered to the people found guilty of being witches varied with time and location. During the period of the European witch trials, at least 40,000 people were found guilty and consequently executed. This period was a huge part of the European history. Actually, many people received scholarships starting from 1970 in order for people to get an in depth understanding of these trials.

The Process of Trials

The motivation for trials of witches was not due to love of violence or acts of ignorance. The trials were considered morally correct. Despite the moral justification for this behavior, it was not a uniform act within all the European regions. Actually, the trials were sporadic. A certain area would be against witches and put them to trial while a neighboring area would be without such trials. However, states that were religiously homogenous such as Italy, which was mainly made up of Catholic believers, did not experience this transformation. On the other hand, countries with heterogeneous religious beliefs had a rampant occurrence of this trend. The greater percentage of accused individuals seemed to belong to certain groups: low economic class and men. However, the wealthy, women and children were also put on trial. Individuals found guilty of witchcraft were tortured through various ways in attempts to get information from them or to have them name other culprits. Torture worsened in 1468 due to pope’s declaration of “Crimen exceptum” on witchcraft, which left no limits for torture levels. Some of the torture methods used included depriving the guilty of sleep and sex-related humiliation.

Reasons for European Witch Trials

Different hypotheses have been put forward in an attempt to explain the reasons for witch trials in the European territory. One of the reasons was a reaction or putting blame on witches for disasters that occurred within different communities. These disasters included famine and destabilization of some societies. Another reason for these trials was the conflict of different socio-economic classes. People at higher levels used these trials to increase their dominance over people of lower classes.

The European Witch Trials were not only sporadic but also failed to follow a legal framework. Most people might have been put trial despite their innocence.

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