Witch trials in the early modern period
The witch trials in the early modern period, alternately known as the Great Witch Craze, were a period of witch hunts that took place across early modern Europe and the European colonies in North America between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. The trials were sparked by the belief that malevolent Satanic witches were operating as an organized threat to Christendom. Those accused of witchcraft were portrayed as being worshippers of the Devil, who engaged in such acts as malevolent sorcery at meetings known as Witches' Sabbaths. Many people were subsequently accused of being witches, and were put on trial for the crime, with varying punishments being applicable in different regions and at different times.
Belief in the reality of magic and the existence of malevolent witches was widespread in Early Modern popular culture, but it was among the educated elite that the idea of witches' as Devil-worshippers developed. The Roman Catholic Church had persecuted various heretical groups during the preceding Late Medieval, and it was from that context that the Early Modern witch trials emerged. The peak of the witch hunt was during the period of the European wars of religion, between circa 1580 and 1630. The hunts declines in the early eighteenth century with the growth of the Englightenment and rationalism among the educated elites. Laws were implemented to bring about the end of organised persecution of accused witches, although sporadic lynchings of accused witches continued beyond the Early Modern.
Over the entire duration of the phenomenon of some three centuries, an estimated total of 40,000 people were executed. Among the best known of these trials were the Scottish North Berwick witch trials, Swedish Torsåker witch trials and the American Salem witch trials. Among the largest and most notable were the Trier witch trials (1581–1593), the Fulda witch trials (1603–1606), the Würzburg witch trial (1626–1631) and the Bamberg witch trials (1626–1631). The sociological causes of the witch-hunts have long been debated in scholarship. Mainstream historiography sees the reason for the witch craze in a complex interplay of various factors that mark the early modern period, including the religious sectarianism in the wake of the Reformation, besides other religious, societal, economic and climatic factors.
Academic scholarship on the subject has intensified since the 1970s, allowing for a sophisticated understanding of the trials. Meanwhile, alternative perspectives have also developed; the witch-cult hypothesis held that the witches persecuted were practitioners of a surviving pre-Christian religion, and has led to the formation of the Neo-Pagan religion of Wicca. Radical feminist interpretations of the trials have emerged, attributing them to an intentional attempt by men to subjugate women. The trials have since provided inspiration for various fictionalised portrayals in literature and film.
- 1 Background
- 2 History
- 3 Trials
- 4 Protests
- 5 Sociology and causes of the European witch-hunts
- 6 Academic study
- 7 Reception in wider culture
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Three developments in Christian doctrine have been identified as factors contributing significantly to the witch hunts: 1) a shift from the rejection of belief in witches to an acceptance of their existence and powers, 2) developments in the doctrine of Satan which incorporated witchcraft as part of Satanic influence, 3) the identification of witchcraft as heresy. Belief in witches and praeternatural evil were widespread in medieval Europe, and the secular legal codes of European countries had identified witchcraft as a crime before being reached by Christian missionaries. Scholars have noted that the early influence of the Church in the medieval era resulted in the revocation of these laws in many places, bringing an end to traditional pagan witch hunts.
Throughout the medieval era mainstream Christian teaching denied the existence of witches and witchcraft, condemning it as pagan superstition. Notable instances include an Irish synod in 800, Agobard of Lyons, Pope Gregory VII, and Serapion of Vladimire. The traditional accusations and punishments were likewise condemned. Historian Ronald Hutton therefore exonerated the early Church from responsibility for the witch hunts, arguing that this was the result of doctrinal change in the later Church.
However, Christian influence on popular beliefs in witches and maleficium (harm committed by magic), failed to eradicate traditional beliefs, and developments in the Church doctrine of Satan proved influential in reversing the previous dismissal of witches and witchcraft as superstition; instead these beliefs were incorporated into an increasingly comprehensive theology of Satan as the ultimate source of all maleficium. The work of Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century was instrumental in developing the new theology which would give rise to the witch hunts, but due to the fact that sorcery was judged by secular courts it was not until maleficium was identified with heresy that theological trials for witchcraft could commence. Despite these changes the doctrinal shift was only completed in the 15th century, when it first began to result in Church-inspired witch trials. Promulgation of the new doctrine by Henricus Institoris met initial resistance in some areas, and some areas of Europe only experienced the first wave of the new witch trials in the latter half of the 16th century.
Magic and witchcraft
Early Modern Europe and its North American colonies were replete with a belief in the reality of magic and witchcraft. Belief in the witch, an individual who practiced malevolent magic, was not new to Early Modern Europe. Witches had appeared both in literature – most prominently with the character of Circe in Homer's Odyssey – and in reality, with many individuals writing curses on leaden tablets across the Roman Empire. In parts of Early Medieval Europe there was a widespread and long-lasting belief in witches who rode out with a goddess, varyingly known as Diana, Herodias, Holda, or Perchta; in the Canon Episcopi, the Roman Catholic Church maintained that cavalcade did not really happen, and that instead it was an erroneous superstition caused by the Devil.
Many Early Modern communities contained professional or semi-professional practitioners of folk magic; in England they were known as "cunning folk" although other terms were used elsewhere. They were believed to be able to cure disease, counter malevolent sorcery, identify enemies, foretell the future, and locate treasure and lost property, and would offer their services in these areas for a fee. In contrast to this low magic was the high magic practiced by learned men of the Renaissance. Advocated by the likes of Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, this Renaissance high magic was influenced by ancient philosophies like Neoplatonism and Hermeticism and was theoretically complex, seeing the practice of magic as part of a wider spiritual system.
Historians like Carlo Ginzburg and Éva Pócs have suggested that various beliefs pertaining to magic and witchcraft in Early Modern Europe represented a survival of shamanistic pre-Christian beliefs about visionary journeys. For instance, Emma Wilby has argued that the Early Modern accounts of familiar spirits represent a survival of pre-Christian animism, and has drawn comparisons between alleged witches' Sabbath journeys and the spirit-visions found in ethnographically-recorded shamanic societies in Siberia and North America.
It was also during the Medieval period that the concept of Satan, the Biblical Devil, began to develop into a more threatening form. Around the year 1000, when there were increasing fears that the end of the world would soon come in Christendom, the idea of the Devil had become prominent, with many believing that his activities on Earth would soon begin appearing. Whilst in earlier centuries there had been no set depiction of the Devil, it was also around this time that he began to develop the stereotypical image of being animal-like, or even in some cases an animal himself. In particular, he was often viewed as a goat, or as a human with goat-like features, such as horns, hooves and a tail. Equally, the concepts of demons began to become more prominent, in particular the idea that male demons known as incubi, and female ones known as succubi, would roam the Earth and have sexual intercourse with humans. As Thurston noted, "By about 1200, it would have been difficult to be a Christian and not frequently hear of the devil ... [and] by 1500 scenes of the devil were commonplace in the new cathedrals and small parish churches that had sprung up in many regions." The field of demonology had emerged in Medieval Christendom as certain members of the clergy began to focus in particular on the actions of demons in the world.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, the concept of the witch in Christendom underwent a relatively radical change. No longer were they viewed as sorcerers who had been deceived by the Devil into practicing magic that went against the powers of God, as earlier Church leaders like Saint Augustine of Hippo had stated. Instead they became the all-out malevolent Devil-worshiper, who had made a pact with him in which they had to renounce Christianity and devote themselves to Satanism. As a part of this, they gained, new, supernatural powers that enabled them to work magic, which they would use against Christians. It was believed that they would fly to their nocturnal meetings, known as the Witches' Sabbath, where they would have sexual intercourse with demons. On their death, the witches’ souls, which then belonged to the Devil, subsequently went to Hell.
For many educated Christians in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including theologians and judges, there was a great concern about the idea that witches were in league with the Devil. Conversely, it appears that the idea of the witch as Satanist was far less prevalent among the peasantry and popular classes, who were far more concerned about the potential harm that they could receive from witches than from where the witches gained their magical power.
Medieval persecution of heresy
While the witch trials only really began in the 15th century, with the start of the early modern period, many of their causes had been developing during the previous centuries, with the persecution of heresy by the Medieval Inquisition during the late twelfth and the thirteenth centuries, and during the Late Medieval period, during which the idea of witchcraft or sorcery gradually changed and adapted. The inquisition had the office of protecting Christian orthodoxy against the "internal" threat of heresy (as opposed to "external" military threats such as those of the Vikings, the Mongols, and the Saracens or Turks).
During the High Middle Ages, a number of heretical Christian groups, such as the Cathars and the Knights Templar had been accused of performing such anti-Christian activities as Satanism, sodomy and malevolent sorcery in France. While the nucleus of the early modern "witch craze" would turn out to be popular superstition in the Western Alps, reinforced by theological rationale developed at or following the Council of Basel of the 1430s, what has been called "the first real witch trial in Europe", the accusation of Alice Kyteler in 1324, occurred in 14th-century Ireland, during the turmoils associated with the decline of Norman control.
Thurston (2001) speaks of a shift in Christian society from a "relatively open and tolerant" attitude to that of a "persecuting society" taking an aggressive stance towards minorities characterized as Jews, heretics (such as Cathars and Waldensians), lepers or homosexuals, often associated with conspiracy theories assuming a concerted effort on the part of diabolical forces to weaken and destroy Christianity, indeed "the idea became popular that one or more vast conspiracies were trying to destroy Christianity from within." An important turning-point was the Black Death of 1348–1350, which killed a large percentage of the European population, and which many Christians believed had been caused by their enemies. The catalog of typical charges that would later be leveled at witches, of spreading diseases, committing orgies (sometimes incestuous), cannibalizing children, and following Satanism, emerged during the fourteenth century as crimes attributed to heretics and Jews.
Witchcraft had not been considered a heresy during the High Medieval period. Indeed, since the Council of Paderborn of 785, the belief in the possibility of witchcraft itself was considered heretical. While witch-hunts only became common after 1400, an important legal step that would make this development possible occurred in 1326, when Pope John XXII authorized the inquisition to persecute witchcraft as a type of heresy.
By the late fourteenth century, a number of "witch hunters" began to publish books on the topic, including Nicholas Eymeric, the inquisitor in Aragon and Avignon, who published the Directorium Inquisitorum in 1376.
Beginning of the witch hunts during the 15th century
While the idea of witchcraft began to mingle with the persecution of heretics even in the 14th century, the beginning of the witch-hunts as a phenomenon in its own right become apparent during the first half of the 15th century in south-eastern France and western Switzerland, in communities of the Western Alps, in what was at the time Burgundy and Savoy.
Here, the cause of eliminating the supposed Satanic witches from society was taken up by a number of individuals; Claude Tholosan for instance had tried over two hundred people accusing them of witchcraft in Briançon, Dauphiné by 1420.
Soon, the idea of identifying and prosecuting witches spread throughout the neighboring areas of northern Italy, Switzerland and southern Germany, and it was at Basel that the Council of Basel assembled from 1431 to 1437. This Church Council, which had been attended by such anti-witchcraft figures as Johann Nider and Martin Le Franc, helped to standardize the stereotype of the Satanic witch that would be propagated throughout the rest of the trials.
Following the meeting of the Council and the increase in the trials around this area of central Europe, the idea that malevolent Satanic witches were operating against Christendom began spreading throughout much of the Holy Roman Empire and several adjacent areas. According to historian Robert Thurston, "From this heart of persecution the witch stereotype spread, both through a flood of new writings on the subject and through men who had been at the Council of Basel and now went elsewhere to take up new assignments in the church." The most notable of these works was published in 1486, written by the German Dominican monk, Heinrich Kramer—allegedly aided by Jacob Sprenger—known as the Malleus Malificarum (The Hammer of the Witches) in which they set down the stereotypical image of the Satanic witch and prescribed torture as a means of interrogating suspects. The Malleus Malificarum was reprinted in twenty-nine editions up till 1669.
On December 5, 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued the Summis desiderantes affectibus, a papal bull in which he recognized the existence of witches and gave full papal approval for the inquisition to move against witches, including the permission to do whatever necessary to get rid of them. In the bull, which is sometimes referred to as the "Witch-Bull of 1484", the witches were explicitly accused of having "slain infants yet in the mother's womb" (abortion) and of "hindering men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving" (contraception[dubious ]).
Peak of the trials: 1580–1630
The height of the European trials was between 1560 and 1630, with the large hunts first beginning in 1609. During this period, the biggest witch trials were held in Europe, notably the Trier witch trials (1581–1593), the Fulda witch trials (1603–1606), the Basque witch trials (1609-1611), the Würzburg witch trial (1626–1631) and the Bamberg witch trials (1626–1631).
In 1590, the North Berwick witch trials occurred in Scotland, and were of particular note as the king, James VI, became involved himself. James had developed a fear that witches planned to kill him after he suffered from storms whilst traveling to Denmark in order to claim his bride, Anne, earlier that year. Returning to Scotland, the king heard of trials that were occurring in North Berwick and ordered the suspects to be brought to him—he subsequently believed that a nobleman, Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell, was a witch, and after the latter fled in fear of his life, he was outlawed as a traitor. The king subsequently set up royal commissions to hunt down witches in his realm, recommending torture in dealing with suspects, and in 1597 he wrote a book about the menace that witches posed to society entitled Daemonologie.
Decline of the trials: 1650–1750
Whilst the witch trials had begun to fade out across much of Europe by the mid-17th century, they continued to a greater extent on the fringes of Europe and in the American colonies. In Scandinavia, the late 17th century saw the peak of the trials in a number of areas; for instance, in 1675, the Torsåker witch trials took place in Sweden, where seventy-one people were executed for witchcraft in a single day. In the nearby Finland, which was then under the control of the Swedish monarchy, the hunt peaked in that same decade. During the same period, the Salzburg witch trials in Austria led to the death of 139 people (1675–1690).
The clergy and the intellectuals began to speak out against the trials from the late 16th century. Johannes Kepler in 1615 could only by the weight of his prestige keep his mother from being burnt as a witch. The 1692 Salem witch trials were a brief outburst of witch hysteria in the New World at a time when the practice was already waning in Europe. In the 1690s Winifred King Benham and her daughter Winifred were thrice tried for witchcraft in Wallingford, Connecticut, the last of such trials in New England. While found innocent, they were compelled to leave Wallingford to settle in Staten Island, New York. In 1706 in Virginia, Grace Sherwood was tried by ducking and jailed for allegedly being a witch.
The eighteenth-century witnessed increased urbanisation and technological development in Europe, which gave Early Modern society an increased belief in its own abilities to fashion the world; this led to a decreasing believe in the existence of invisible forces affecting humanity. Belief that Satan interfered in human affairs directly had also begun to wane. Belief in demons became rare among the educated elites, and thus a belief in demonic witchcraft eroded with it. Rationalist sceptics of the trials came to the opinion that the use of torture had resulted in erroneous testimony.
During the early 18th century, the practice subsided. Jane Wenham was among the last subjects of a typical witch trial in England in 1712, but was pardoned after her conviction and set free. The last execution for witchcraft in England took place in 1716, when Mary Hicks and her daughter Elizabeth were hanged. Janet Horne was executed for witchcraft in Scotland in 1727. The Witchcraft Act of 1735 saw the end of the traditional form of witchcraft as a legal offense in Britain, those accused under the new act were restricted to people who falsely pretended to be able to procure spirits, generally being the most dubious professional fortune tellers and mediums, and punishment was light.
Helena Curtens and Agnes Olmanns were the last women to be executed as witches in Germany, in 1738. In Austria, Maria Theresa outlawed witch-burning and torture in the late 18th century; the last capital trial took place in Salzburg in 1750.
Sporadic witch-hunts after 1750
While the educated elites had largely abandoned their belief in the reality of witchcraft, this belief remained widespread in popular culture. From this point on, it was very rare for an accused witch to undergo a judicial process and be threatened with execution, but there was still a danger from popular justice and lynch mobs.
In the later 18th century, witchcraft had ceased to be considered a criminal offense throughout Europe, but there are a number of cases which were not technically witch trials which are suspected to have involved belief in witches at least behind the scenes. Thus, in 1782, Anna Göldi was executed in Glarus, Switzerland, officially for the killing of her infant, a ruling at the time widely denounced throughout Switzerland and Germany as judicial murder. Like Anna Göldi, Barbara Zdunk was executed in 1811 in Prussia not technically for witchcraft but for arson. In Poland, the Doruchów witch trial occurred in 1783 and the execution of additionally two women for sorcery in 1793, trialed by a legal court but with dubious legitimacy.
Despite the official ending of the trials for Satanic witchcraft, there would still be occasional unofficial killings of those accused in parts of Europe, such as was seen in the cases of Anna Klemens in Denmark (1800), Krystyna Ceynowa in Poland (1836), and Dummy, the Witch of Sible Hedingham in England (1863). In France, there was sporadic violence and even murder in the 1830s, with one woman reportedly burnt in a village square in Nord.
In the 1830s a prosecution for witchcraft was commenced against a man in Fentress County, Tennessee, based upon his alleged influence over the health of a young woman. The case against the supposed witch was dismissed upon the failure of the alleged victim, who had sworn out a warrant against him, to appear for the trial. However, some of his other accusers were convicted on criminal charges for their part in the matter, and various libel actions were brought. The persecution of those believed to perform malevolent sorcery against their neighbors continued right into the twentieth century. For instance, in 1997 two Russian farmers killed a woman and injured five other members of her family after believing that they had used folk magic against them.
There were extensive efforts to root out the supposed influence of Satan by various measures aimed at the people who were accused of being servants of Satan. To a lesser degree, animals were also targeted for prosecution: see animal trial. People suspected of being "possessed by Satan" were put on trial. On the other hand, the church also attempted to extirpate the superstitious belief in witchcraft and sorcery, considering it as fraud in most cases.
Geoffrey Scarre and John Callow thought it "without doubt" that some of those accused in the trials had been guilty of employing magic in an attempt to harm their enemies, and were thus genuinely guilty of witchcraft.
Most of the trials were not motivated by stupidity or a love of violence, but of a belief that it was the morally appropriate course of action for people to take; while some of those carrying out the trials appeared to exhibit sadism, most appear to have acted "from a spirit of duty and a concern for the public welfare." Scarre and Callow described the trials as "a frightning example of how morally motivated action can lead to massive suffering".
The evidence required to convict an alleged witch varied from country to country—but prosecutions everywhere were most frequently sparked off by denunciations, while convictions invariably required a confession. The latter was often obtained by extremely violent methods. Although Europe's witch-frenzy did not begin until the late 15th century—long after the formal abolition of "trial by ordeal" in 1215—brutal techniques were routinely used to extract the required admission of guilt. They included hot pincers, the thumbscrew, and the "swimming" of suspects (an old superstition whereby innocence was established by immersing the accused in water for a sufficiently long period of time). Investigators were consequently able to establish many fantastic crimes that could never have occurred, even in theory. That said, many judicial procedures of the time required proof of a causative link between the alleged act of witchcraft and an identifiable injury, such as a death or property damage.
The flexibility of the crime and the methods of proving it resulted in easy convictions. Any reckoning of the death toll should take account of the facts that rules of evidence varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and that a significant number of witch trials ended in acquittal.
In York, England, at the height of the Great Hunt (1567–1640) one half of all witchcraft cases brought before church courts were dismissed for lack of evidence. No torture was used, and the accused could clear himself by providing four to eight "comparators", people who were willing to swear that he wasn't a witch. Only 21% of the cases ended with convictions, and the Church did not impose any kind of corporal or capital punishment.
In the Pays de Vaud, nine of every ten people tried were put to death, but in Finland, the corresponding figure was about one in six (16%). A breakdown of conviction rates (along with statistics on death tolls, gender bias, and much else) can be found in Brian Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (2nd ed, 1995).
A country's government and legal system often made a major difference. England, for instance, had and has a long history of strong judicial centralization and therefore regulations prevented easy convictions, except for periods such as the English Civil War and the periods of Witch-hunting ; Scotland, on the other hand, lacked the strong central government that England had and authorities had greater trouble controlling local justice or even contributed to the problem. During the time of the Witch Hunts, Germany was a patchwork of over 300 autonomous territories and was highly decentralized politically, therefore making Germany highly vulnerable to massive witch hunts in the absence of judicial regulations
There are particularly important differences between the English and continental witch-hunting traditions. The checks and balances inherent in the English jury system, which required a 23-strong body (the grand jury) to indict and a 12-strong one (the petit jury) to convict, always had a restraining effect on prosecutions. Another restraining influence was its relatively rare use of torture: the country formally permitted it only when authorized by the monarch, and no more than 81 torture warrants were issued (for all offenses) throughout English history. Continental European courts, while varying from region to region, tended to concentrate power in individual judges and place far more reliance on torture. The significance of the institutional difference is most clearly established by a comparison of the witch-hunts of England and Scotland, for the death toll inflicted by the courts north of the border always dwarfed that of England. It is also apparent from an episode of English history during the early 1640s, when the Civil War resulted in the suspension of jury courts for three years. Several freelance witch-hunters emerged during this period, the most notorious of whom was Matthew Hopkins, who emerged from East Anglia and proclaimed himself "Witchfinder General". Such men were inquisitors in all but name, proceeding pursuant to denunciations and torture and claiming a mastery of the supposed science of demonology that allowed for identification of the guilty by, for example, the discovery of witches' marks.
Interrogation and "proofs"
Various acts of torture were used against accused witches to coerce confessions and perhaps cause them to name their co-conspirators. The torture of witches began to increase in frequency after 1468 when the Pope declared witchcraft to be "crimen exceptum" and thereby removed all legal limits on the application of torture in cases where evidence was difficult to find. With the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum in 1487 the accusations and torture of witches again began to increase, leading to the deaths of thousands.
In A History of Torture, George Ryley Scott says:
The peculiar beliefs and superstitions attached to or associated with witchcraft caused those who were suspected of practising the craft to be extremely likely to be subjected to tortures of greater degree than any ordinary heretic or criminal. More, certain specific torments were invented for use against them.
In Italy, an accused witch was deprived of sleep for periods of up to forty hours. This technique was also used in England, but without a limitation on time. Sexual humiliation torture was used, such as forced sitting on red-hot stools with the claim that the accused woman would not perform sexual acts with the devil.
Besides torture, at trial certain "proofs" were taken as valid to establish that a person practiced witchcraft. Peter Binsfeld contributed to the establishment of many of these proofs, described in his book Commentarius de Maleficius (Comments on Witchcraft).
- The diabolical mark. Usually, this was a mole or a birthmark. If no such mark was visible, the examiner would claim to have found an invisible mark.
- Diabolical pact. This was an alleged pact with Satan to perform evil acts in return for rewards.
- Denouncement by another witch. This was common, since the accused could often avoid execution by naming accomplices.
- Relationship with other convicted witch/witches
- Participation in Witches' Sabbath
- To cause harm that could only be done by means of sorcery
- Possession of elements necessary for the practice of black magic
- To have one or more witches in the family
- To be afraid during the interrogatories
- Not to cry under torment (supposedly by means of the Devil's aid)
- To have had sexual relationships with a demon (fornicating with the devil)
Legal treatises on witchcraft that were widely referred to in continental European trials include the popular Malleus Maleficarum (1487) by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, the Tractatus de sortilegiis (1536) by Paolo Grillandi and the Praxis rerum criminalium (1554) by Joos de Damhouder.
In the Old Testament's Exodus 22:18 it states that "Thou shalt not permit a sorceress to live". There were other sentences, the most common to be chained for years to the oars of a ship, or excommunicated then imprisoned.
Nearly always, a witch's execution involved burning of their body. In England, witches were usually hanged before having their bodies burned and their ashes scattered. In Scotland, the witches were usually strangled at the stake before having their bodies burned—though there are several instances where they were burned alive. In France, witches were nearly always burned alive. In America people convicted of witchcraft were hanged  (in a handful of exceptional cases, such as that of Giles Corey at Salem, alleged witches who refused to plead were pressed to death without trial). Most of the victims were never given proper burials, since they had been convicted of witchcraft, they were no longer considered people. They were often laid in unmarked graves.
The frequent use of "swimming" to test innocence or guilt means that an unknown number also drowned before conviction.
It has been suggested that the execution of persons associated with witchcraft resulted in the loss of much traditional knowledge and folklore, which was often regarded with suspicion and tainted by association.
Numbers of executions
Around 40,000 individuals faced capital punishment for witchcraft in the period, either by being burned at the stake, hanged on the gallows, or beheaded. Ever since the ending of the witch hunt, various scholars have estimated how many men, women and children were executed for witchcraft across Europe and North America, with numbers varying wildly depending on the method used to generate the estimate. In the nineteenth century, historians were still unsure as to the exact number, for instance the German folklorist Jacob Grimm claimed that the number was simply "countless" whilst the Scottish journalist Charles Mackay believed that it was "thousands upon thousands". A news report of 1832 suggested 'however incredible it may appear, the enormous sum of three thousand one hundred and ninety-two individuals were condemned and executed in Great Britain alone'. Within several decades, the American suffragette Matilda Joslyn Gage had claimed that nine million women had been killed in the European trials, a figure which would be repeated by a number of later writers such as Gerald Gardner, although it has since been described as having "no rational basis whatsoever" by the professional historian Ronald Hutton.
In the latter part of the 20th century, as historians began to study the witch trials in greater depth, the estimated number of executions began to be reduced, with the historian Norman Cohn, in Europe's Inner Demons (1975) criticizing claims that they were in the hundreds of thousands, calling these "fantastic exaggerations". Attempting to come to an accurate figure, the historian Brian Levack, author of The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe (1987), took the number of known European witch trials and multiplied it by the average rate of conviction and execution. This provided him with a figure of around 60,000 deaths, however, for the third edition of the work (2006) he later reassessed that number to 45,000.
Ronald Hutton, in his unpublished essay "Counting the Witch Hunt", counted local estimates, and in areas where estimates were unavailable attempted to extrapolate from nearby regions with similar demographics and attitudes towards witch hunting. He reached an estimate of 40,000 total executions. Table of recorded and estimated executions according to Hutton's estimates
|England (and Wales)||228||300–1,000|
In the sixteenth-century, there were isolated individuals who expressed scepticism regarding the trials; for instance in 1584 the English writer Reginald Scot stated that those who beleived that they could cause harm using magic were simply deluded.
Sociology and causes of the European witch-hunts
One theory for the number of early modern witchcraft trials connects the counter-reformation to witchcraft. In south-western Germany between 1561 and 1670 there were 480 witch trials. Of the 480 trials that took place in southwestern Germany, 317 occurred in Catholic areas, while Protestant territories accounted for 163 of them. During the period from 1561 to 1670, at least 3,229 persons were executed for witchcraft in the German Southwest. Of this number 702 were tried and executed in Protestant territories, while 2,527 were tried and executed in Catholic territories. Nineteenth-century historians today dispute the comparative severity of witch hunting in Protestant and Catholic territories. “Protestants blamed the witch trials on the methods of the Catholic Inquisition and the theology of Catholic scholasticism, while Catholic scholars retorted that Lutheran preachers drew more witchcraft theory from Luther and the Bible than from medieval Catholic thinkers.”
Other theories have pointed out that the massive changes in law allowed for the outbreak in witch trials. Such laws established criteria for determining heretical nature, and punished all aspects. Another theory is that rising number of devil literature popularized witchcraft trials, in which the German market saw nearly 100,000 devil-books during the 1560s. Another assumption is that climate-induced crop failure and harsh weather was a direct link to witch-hunts. This theory follows the idea that witchcraft in Europe was traditionally associated with weather-making. Scholars also imply that a connection between witchcraft trials and the Thirty Years’ War may also have a direct correlation.
While the previously mentioned theories mainly rely on micro level psychological interpretations, another theory has been put forward that provides an alternative macroeconomic explanation. According to this theory, the witches, who often had highly developed midwifery skills, were prosecuted in order to extinguish knowledge about birth control in an effort to repopulate Europe after the population catastrophe triggered by the plague pandemic of the 14th century (also known as the Black Death). Citing Jean Bodin's "On Witchcraft", this view holds that the witch hunts were not only promoted by the church but also by prominent secular thinkers to repopulate the European continent. By these authors, the witch hunts are seen as an attempt to eliminate female midwifery skills and as a historical explanation why modern gynecology—surprisingly enough—came to be practiced almost exclusively by males in state-run hospitals. In this view, the witch hunts began a process of criminalization of birth control that eventually led to an enormous increase in birth rates that is described as the "population explosion" of early modern Europe. This population explosion produced an enormous youth bulge which supplied the extra manpower that would enable Europe's nations, during the period of colonialism and imperialism, to conquer and colonize 90% of the world. While historians specializing in the history of the witch hunts have generally remained critical of this macroeconomic approach and continue to favor micro level perspectives and explanations, prominent historian of birth control John M. Riddle has expressed agreement.
As this theory has an alternative macroeconomic explanation some scholars oppose it. Diane Purkiss argues "that there is no evidence that the majority of those accused were healers and midwives; in England and also some parts of the Continent, midwives were more than likely to be found helping witch-hunters."
Another theory, proposed by the prominent American anthropologist, Marvin Harris, in his work, 'Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches' (1973), is that the witches were scapegoats victimized by the Church and secular lords to focus and divert public furor at a time of economic dislocation: "The practical significance of the witch mania therefore was that it shifted responsibility for the crisis of late medieval society from both Church and state to imaginary demons in human form." (Harris, 1973, 205) Religious and secular authorities, argues Harris, in leading the witch hunts, not only exonerated themselves but made themselves indispensable, cementing their power.
While the modern notion of a "witch hunt" has little to do with gender, the historical notion often did. In general, supposed "witches" were female. Said noted Judge Nicholas Rémy (c.1595), "[It is] not unreasonable that this scum of humanity, [witches], should be drawn chiefly from the feminine sex." Concurred another judge, "The Devil uses them so, because he knows that women love carnal pleasures, and he means to bind them to his allegiance by such agreeable provocations."
The vast majority of the victims of the European and North American witch trials were women. Estimates of the fraction of women among the victims range between 75% and 85%. Historian Robert Thurston nevertheless stressed that this did not mean that the hunts were "an attack, intentional or otherwise, on women".
Barstow (1994) claimed that a combination of factors, including the greater value placed on men as workers in the increasingly wage-oriented economy, and a greater fear of women as inherently evil, loaded the scales against women, even when the charges against them were identical to those against men. Thurston (2001) saw this as a part of the general misogyny of the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods, which had increased during what he described as "the persecuting culture" from that which it had been in the Early Medieval. He noted that at the time, women were generally considered less intelligent and more susceptible to sin than men.
Whilst not all of those who condemned witchcraft in this period specifically condemned women as well, there were those who did, for instance, in the Malleus Malificarum, Sprenger and Kramer stated that:
- All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman ... What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colours!
Though statistically insignificant, in a few countries men accounted for the majority of the accused. In Iceland, for instance, 92% of the accused were men, and in Estonia 60% of the accused victims were male, mainly middle-aged or elderly married peasants, and known healers or sorcerers.
Many modern scholars argue that the witch hunts cannot be explained simplistically as an expression of male misogyny, as women were frequently accused of witchcraft by other women. It is also argued that the supposedly misogynistic agenda of works on witchcraft has been greatly exaggerated.
Early rationalist historians interpreted the witch trials as an example of mass superstition, and thus their end in the eighteenth-century was seen as a revival of common sense among the population. This idea did not take into account that the existence of malevolent witches fitted within the worldview of the Early Modern, with its strong divide between good and evil, and that a belief in witches was therefore "common sense" to Early Modern people.
From the 1970s onward, there was a "massive explosion of scholarly enthusiasm" for the study of the Early Modern witch trials. This was partly because scholars from a variety of different disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, and feminist theory, all began to investigate the phenomenon and brought their different insights to bear on the subject. This was accompanied by in-depth analysis of the trial records and the socio-cultural contexts on which they emerged, allowing for a far more sophisticated understanding of the trials than had previously been available.
Reception in wider culture
Witch-cult hypothesis and Wicca
Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the common belief among educated sectors of the European populace was that there had never been any genuine cult of witches and that all those persecuted and executed as such had been innocent of the crime. However, at this time various scholars suggested that there had been a real cult that had been persecuted by the Christian authorities, and that it had had pre-Christian origins. The first to advance this theory was the German Professor of Criminal Law Karl Ernst Jarcke of the University of Berlin who put forward the idea in 1828; he suggested that witchcraft had been a pre-Christian German religion that had degenerated into Satanism. Jarcke's ideas were picked up by the German historian Franz Josef Mone in 1839, although he argued that the cult's origins were Greek rather than Germanic.
In 1862, the Frenchman Jules Michelet published La Sorciere, in which he put forth the idea that the witches had been following a pagan religion. The theory achieved greater attention when it was taken up by the Egyptologist Margaret Murray, who published both The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921) and The God of the Witches (1931) in which she claimed that the witches had been following a pre-Christian religion which she termed "the Witch-Cult" and "Ritual Witchcraft". She claimed that this faith was devoted to a pagan Horned God and involved the celebration of four Witches' Sabbaths each year: Halloween, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh. However, the majority of scholarly reviews of Murray's work produced at the time were largely critical, and her books never receiving support from experts in the Early Modern witch trials. Instead, from her early publications onward many of her ideas were challenged by those who highlighted her "factual errors and methodological failings".
However, the publication of the Murray thesis in the Encyclopaedia Britannica made it accessible to "journalists, film-makers popular novelists and thriller writers", who adopted it "enthusiastically". Influencing works of literature, it inspired writings by Aldous Huxley and Robert Graves. Subsequently, in 1939, an English occultist named Gerald Gardner claimed to have been initiated into a surviving group of the pagan Witch-Cult known as the New Forest coven, although modern historical investigation has led scholars to believe that this coven was not ancient as Gardner believed, but was instead founded in the 1920s or 1930s by occultists wishing to fashion a revived Witch-Cult based upon Murray's theories. Taking this New Forest coven's beliefs and practices as a basis, Gardner went on to found Gardnerian Wicca, one of the most prominent traditions in the contemporary Pagan religion now known as Wicca, which revolved around the worship of a Horned God and Goddess, the celebration of festivals known as Sabbats, and the practice of ritual magic. He also went on to write several books about the historical Witch-Cult, Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959), and in these books, Gardner used the phrase "the burning times" in reference to the European and North American witch trials.
In the early twentieth century, a number of individuals and groups emerged in Europe, primarily Britain, and subsequently the United States as well, claiming to be the surviving remnants of the pagan Witch-Cult described in the works of Margaret Murray. The first of these actually appeared in the last few years of the nineteenth century, being a manuscript that American folklorist Charles Leland claimed he had been given by a woman who was a member of a group of witches worshipping the god Lucifer and goddess Diana in Tuscany, Italy. He published the work in 1899 as Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches. Whilst historians and folklorists have accepted that there are folkloric elements to the gospel, none have accepted it as being the text of a genuine Tuscan religious group, and believe it to be of late-nineteenth-century composition.
Wiccans extended claims regarding the witch-cult in various ways, for instance by utilising the British folklore associating witches with prehistoric sites to assert that the witch-cult used to use such locations for religious rites, in doing so legitimising contemporary Wiccan use of them. By the 1990s, many Wiccans had come to recognise the innacuracy of the witch-cult theory and had accepted it as a mythological origin story.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, various feminist interpretations of the witch trials have been made and published. One of the earliest individuals to do so was the American Matilda Joslyn Gage, a writer who was deeply involved in the first-wave feminist movement for women's suffrage. In 1893, she published the book Woman, Church and State, which was "written in a tearing hurry and in time snatched from a political activism which left no space for original research." Likely influenced by the works of Jules Michelet about the Witch-Cult, she claimed that the witches persecuted in the Early Modern period were pagan priestesses adhering to an ancient religion venerating a Great Goddess. She also repeated the erroneous statement, taken from the works of several German authors, that nine million people had been killed in the witch hunt.
In 1973, two American second-wave feminists, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, published an extended pamphlet in which they put forward the idea that the women persecuted had been the traditional healers and midwives of the community who were being delibrately eliminated by the male medical establishment. This theory disregarded the fact that the majority of those persecuted were neither healders nor midwives and that in various parts of Europe these individuals were commonly among those encouraging the persecutions. Although they had initially self-published the work, they received such a positive response that the Feminist Press took over publication, and the work then began worldwide distribution, being translated into French, Spanish, German, Hebrew, Danish and Japanese.
Other feminist historians have rejected this interpretation of events; historian Diane Purkiss described it as "not politically helpful" because it constantly portrays women as "helpless victims of patriarchy" and thus does not aid them in contemporary feminist struggles. She also condemned it for factual innacuracy by highlighting that radical feminists adhering to it ignore the historicity of their claims, instead promoting it because it is perceived as authorising the continued struggle against patriarchal society. She asserted that many radical feminists nonetheless clung to it because of its "mythic significance" and firmly delineated structure between the oppressor and the oppressed.
"Nine million women"
A figure of nine million victims (or "nine million women" killed) in the European witch-hunts is an influential popular myth in 20th-century feminism and neopaganism. The nine million figure is ultimately due to Gottfried Christian Voigt. The history of this estimate was researched by Behringer (1998).
Voigt published it in a 1784 article, writing in the context of the Age of Enlightenment, wishing to emphasize the importance of education in rooting out superstition and a relapse into the witch-craze which had subsided less than a lifetime ago in his day. He was criticizing Voltaire's estimate of "several hundred thousand" as too low. Voigt based his estimate on twenty cases recorded over fifty years in the archives Quedlinburg, Germany. Based on records of the 29 year period 1569 to 1589, he estimated about 40 executions in this period, and extrapolated to about 133 executions per century. Voigt then extrapolated this number to the entire population of Europe, arriving at "858,454 per century" and for an assumed 11 centuries of witch-hunts at "9,442,994 people" in total. Voigt's number was rounded off to nine million by Gustav Roskoff in his 1869 Geschichte des Teufels ("History of the Devil"). It was subsequently repeated by various German and English historians, notably the 19th-century women's rights campaigner Matilda Joslyn Gage by Margaret Murray (1921), and notoriously in Nazi propaganda, which in the 1930s used witches as a symbol of northern völkisch culture, as opposed to Mediterranean or "Semitic" Christianity. The 1935 Der christliche Hexenwahn ("The Christian Witch Craze") claimed that the witch-hunts were a Christian, and thus ultimately Jewish, attempt to exterminate "Aryan womanhood". The survey of judicial records taken by Himmler's Hexen-Sonderkommando within the SS has proven useful for modern estimates of the number of victims. Mathilde Ludendorff in her 1934 Christliche Grausamkeit an Deutschen Frauen ("Christian cruelty against German women") also repeated the figure of nine million victims.
Curiously, not only the nine million estimate of Voigt's has proven influential, but his estimate of "133 Quedlinburg executions per century" also has an involved history, appearing as the claim that 133 witches being burnt in the year 1589 alone in Geschichte der Hexenprozesse (1880, revised 1910), and even as a mass-execution of 133 witches on a single day in Quedlinburg in Gustav Roskoff, Geschichte des Teufels (1869, p. 304). Reference to this supposed mass-execution as factual was made as late as 2006 in the third edition of Brian P. Levack's The Witch Hunt in Modern Europe (p. 24). Reference to an alleged execution of 133 witches in Osnabrück as factual appears as late as 2007 in John Michael Cooper, Mendelssohn, Goethe, and the Walpurgis night: the heathen muse in European culture, 1700–1850 (p. 15).
Apparently, Voigt's estimate of the "average number of executions per century in Quedlinburg" happened to coincide with the number of victims in a spurious report of a singular mass execution in a single day in Osnabrück distributed in the late 1580s. References to this supposed mass execution as factual is also found in 19th-century literature, sometimes together with the claim that the four prettiest of those condemned were lifted out of the flames and carried away through the air before they were burned. Finally, Roskoff (1869) seems to have mixed up "133 executions on a day in Osnabrück" with "133 executions per century in Quedlinburg" to arrive at "133 executions on a day in Quedlinburg". The Osnabrück report seems to originate with a flyer first distributed in 1588, claiming an execution of 133 witches on a single day in "this year". The flyer was later reprinted, in 1589 and during the 1590s, with the reported event always kept as occurring in "this year". This sensationalist headline perhaps reflects the historical mass execution in Osnabrück of 121 witches during the summer of 1583 (in the course of about five months, not on a single day), the highest number of executions by far recorded for any year in this city (Pohl 1990)
- Sanders 1995, p. 169.
- Thurston 2001, p. 1.
- Thurston 2001. p. 15.
- Hutton 1991. p. 257.
- "Likewise, the Lombard King Rothari (c. 606–52) decreed in 643 that Christians must not believe that women devour a human being from inside (ut mulier hominem vivum instrinsecus possit comedere), and therefore supposed witches (strigae) must not be killed, particularly not convicted in court." Behringer, Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History, p. 30 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "Clearly, there was an increase in skeptical voices during the Carolingian period, even if we take into account an increase in surviving sources.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 31 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "Likewise, an Irish synod at around 800 condemned the belief in witches, and in particular those who slandered people for being lamias (que interpretatur striga).", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", pp. 30–31 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "A Crown witness of 'Carolingian skepticism', Archbishop Agobard of Lyon (769–840), reports witch panics during the reign of Charlemagne. In his sermon on hailstorms he reports frequent lynchings of supposed weather magicians (tempestarii), as well as of sorcerers, who were made responsible for a terrible livestock mortality in 810. According to Agobard, the common people in their fury over crop failure had developed the extravagant idea that foreigners were secretly coming with airships to strip their fields of crops, and transmit it to Magonia. These anxieties resulted in severe aggression, and on one occasion around 816, Agobard could hardly prevent a crowd from killing three foreign men and women, perceived as Magonian people. As their supposed homeland's name suggests, the crop failure was associated with magic. The bishop emphasized that thunderstorms were caused exclusively by natural or divine agencies.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", pp. 54–55 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "In 1080 Harold of Denmark (r. 1076–80) was admonished not to hold old women and Christian priests responsible for storms and diseases, or to slaughter them in the cruelest manner. Like Agobard before him, Pope Gregory VII (r. 1073–85) declared in his letter to the Danish king that these catastrophes were caused by God alone, that they were God's punishment for human sins, and that the killing of the innocent would only increase His fury.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 55 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "Witches were executed at Novgorod in 1227, and after a severe famine in the years 1271-4 Bishop Serapion of Vladimire asked in a sermon: 'you believe in witchcraft and burn innocent people and bring down murder upon earth and the city... Out of what books or writings do you learn that famine in earth is brought about by witchcraft?'", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 56 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "A capitulary of Charlemagne (747–814) for the Saxons in 787 imposed the death penalty on those who, like pagans, believed that a man or woman could be a striga, one who devours humans, and burned them.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 30 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "A decree of King Coloman of Hungary (c. 1074–116, r. 1095–1116) against the belief in the existence of strigae (De strigis vero que non sunt, ne ulla questio fiat) suggests that they were thought to be human beings with demonic affiliation: witches.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 32 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "Study after study has shown how, all over Europe, ordinary people regularly appealed not to their own consciences, or to the conscience of the Church, but to local practitioners skilled in healing, divination, and astrology for help with their everyday problems. They did this frequently in cases of suspected maleicium, but any kind of misfortune, anticipated or experienced, could justify a visit to the 'cunning' man or woman.", Clark, "Thinking With Demons: the Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe", p. 457 (1999). Oxford University Press.
- "Early Christian theologians attributed to the Devil responsibility for persecution, heresy, witchcraft, sin, natural disasters, human calamities, and whatever else went wrong. One tragic consequence of this was a tendency to demonize people accused of wrongs. At the instance of ecclesiastical leaders, the state burned heretics and witches, burning symbolizing the fate deserved by the demonic. Popular fears, stirred to fever pitch in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, sustained frenzied efforts to wipe out heretics, witches, and unbelievers, especially Jews.", Hinson, "Historical and Theological Perspectives on Satan", Review & Expositor (89.4.475), (Fall 1992).
- "Trevor-Roper has said that it was necessary for belief in the Kingdom of Satan to die before the witch theory could be discredited.", Larner, 'Crime of Witchcraft In Early Modern Europe', in Oldridge, 'The Witchcraft Reader', p. 211 (2002). Routledge.
- "Christian theology underwent a major shift of attitude only during the thirteenth century. In his Summa contra Gentiles, Thomas Aquinas (1255–74) not only confirmed Augustine's semiotic theory, according to which spells, amulets or magical rituals indicated a secret pact with demons, but gave the impression that sorcerers, through the support of the devil, could physically commit their crimes.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", pp. 35–36 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "Sorcery was, however, still subject to secular law and secular courts, since the main indictment was maleficium. Subsequent inquisitors like Nicolas Eymeric (c. 1320–99), inquisitor of Aragon, in his Directorium Inquisitorum of 1376 equated sorcerers with heretics because both were supposed to adore the devil. Sorcery, or witchcraft, was thus redefined as a spiritual crime, subject primarily to ecclesiastical courts, and the Inquisition in particular.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 36 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "We are reasonably confident today that the 'classical' doctrine of witchcraft crystallized during the middle third of the fifteenth century, shortly after the Council of Basel, primarily within a western Alpine zone centred around the duchy of Savoy (Ostorero et al. 1999).", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", pp. 18–19 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "By the end of the fifteenth century, scattered trials for witchcraft by both secular and ecclesiastical courts occurred in many places from the Pyrenees, where the Spanish Inquisition had become involved, to the North Sea.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", pp. 18–19 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "Germany was emphatically not the center of this activity; Institoris encountered enormous hostility in the Austrian Alps, and absolutely no evidence exists that the publication of his Malleus started any chain of trials anywhere in the Empire.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 19 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
- "In Switzerland, the rustic 'forest cantons' of the original Confederation apparently remained unaffected by witch trials until after 1560.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 19 (2004).
- "the first known witch-hunt in the kingdom of France began in the northern Pyrenees in the spring of 1562", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 21 (2004).
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 11; Thurston 2001, p. 15.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 11.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 12.
- Hutton 1999, p. 86; Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 6; Davies 2003, pp. 103–109.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 8–10.
- Ginzburg 1988.
- Wilby 2005, p. 61.
- Wilby 2005, pp. 84–91.
- Thurston 2001. pp. 29–31.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 12–15.
- Thurston 2001. pp. 56–57.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 6–7.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 7.
- Thurston 2001. p. 73.
- Thurston 2001. pp. 73–75.
- Thurston 2001. pp. 16–18, 32.
- Russell, Jeffrey Burton. A History of Medieval Christianity, p. 173.
- Thurston 2001. p. 76.
- Thurston 2001. p. 67.
- Thurston 2001. p. 77.
- Thurston 2001. p. 78.
- The Bull of Innocent VIII as published in the Malleus Maleficarum translated by Montague Summers
- The English translation is from this note to Summers' 1928 introduction.
- Thurston 2001. p. 79.
- Thurston 2001, pp. 80-81.
- "Va. Woman Seeks To Clear Witch of Pungo". USA Today. Associated Press. July 9, 2006. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 65.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 71.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 66.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 69–70.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 63.
- Robert Tombs (1996). "Collective Identities: Community and Religion". France 1814–1914. London: Longman. p. 245. ISBN 0-582-49314-5.
- Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, Volume LX, August 10, 1834, Number 17,057 (From the Nashville (Tenn.) Herald, of 22d July) (transcribed at http://www.topix.com/forum/city/jamestown-tn/TPAPB6U4LVF0JDQC8/p2
- History of Fentress County, Tennessee, Albert R. Hogue, compiled by the Fentress County Historical Society, p. 67 (http://books.google.com/books?id=b1wvAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA67; transcribed at http://boards.ancestry.com/localities.northam.usa.states.tennessee.counties.fentress/260.258/mb.ashx)
- Touring the East Tennessee Back-roads By Carolyn Sakowski, p. 212.(http://books.google.com/books?id=rLBrUbj02IcC&pg=PA212)
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 2.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 73.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 74.
- Gibbons 1998, p. 1.
- Levack, Brian P. (1995). The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe (Second Edition). London and New York: Longman. Pg. 98-102
- John H. Langbein, Torture and the Law of Proof (Chicago and London, 1977), p. 81 ff.
- Brian Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (2nd ed, 1995), p. 202; see also Christina Larner, Enemies of God. The Witch-hunt in Scotland (London, 1981), pp. 62–3.
- A detailed account of Hopkins and his fellow witchfinder John Stearne can be found in Malcolm Gaskill's Witchfinders: A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy (Harvard, 2005). The duo's activities were portrayed, unreliably but entertainingly, in the 1968 cult classic Witchfinder-General (US: Conqueror Worm).
- H.R. Trevor-Roper, The European Witch-Craze of The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries and Other Essays, (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), 118.
- Camille Naish, Death Comes to the Maiden: Sex and Execution 1431–1933 (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 27.
- Henry Charles Lea, Witchcraft, p. 236 as quoted in Camille Naish, Death Comes to the Maiden: Sex and Execution 1431–1933 (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 28.
- Murray 1921
- "In the colonies, individuals convicted of witchcraft were hanged, just as they were in England..." Historical Dictionary of Stuart England, edited by Ronald H. Fritze and William B. Robison. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996. ISBN 0313283915 (p.552).
- See Keith Thomas' Religion and the Decline of Magic, first published in 1973.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 1.
- Grimm, Jacob (1883 ). Teutonic Mythology Volume III. Page 1067.
- Mackay, Charles (1841). Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions Volume II. Page 168.
- "WITCHCRAFT.". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 29 September 1832. p. 4. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
- Hutton 1999, p. 142.
- Cohn 1975, p. 253.
- Levack, Brian (2006). The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe Third Edition. Longman. Page 23.
- "Estimates of executions". Based on Ronald Hutton's essay Counting the Witch Hunt.
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 3.
- H.C. Erik Midelfort, Witch Hunting in Southwestern Germany 1562–1684, 1972, 31
- H.C. Erik Midelfort, Witch Hunting in Southwestern Germany 1562–1684, 1972, 31–32
- H.C. Erik Midelfort, Witch Hunting in Southwestern Germany 1562–1684, 1972, 69–0
- Wolfgang Behringer, Witches and Witch-Hunts,2004,88
- H.C. Erik Midelfort, Witch Hunting in Southwestern Germany 1562–1684, 1972
- Gunnar Heinsohn/Otto Steiger: "Witchcraft, Population Catastrophe and Economic Crisis in Renaissance Europe: An Alternative Macroeconomic Explanation.", University of Bremen 2004 (download)
- Gunnar Heinsohn/Otto Steiger: The Elimination of Medieval Birth Control and the Witch Trials of Modern Times, International Journal of Women's Studies, 3, May 1982, 193–214
- Gunnar Heinsohn/Otto Steiger: "Birth Control: The Political-Economic Rationale Behind Jean Bodin's "Démonomanie"", in: History of Political Economy, 31, No. 3, 423–448
- Heinsohn, G. (2005): "Population, Conquest and Terror in the 21st Century." webcitation.com
- Walter Rummel: 'Weise' Frauen und 'weise' Männer im Kampf gegen Hexerei. Die Widerlegung einer modernen Fabel. In: Christof Dipper, Lutz Klinkhammer und Alexander Nützenadel: Europäische Sozialgeschichte. Festschrift für Wolfgang Schieder (= Historische Forschungen 68), Berlin 2000, S. 353–375, historicum.net
- see John M. Riddle: "The Great Witch-Hunt and the Suppression of Birth Control: Heinsohn and Steiger's Theory from the Perspective of an Historian", Appendix to: Gunnar Heinsohn, Otto Steiger (2004). Witchcraft, Population Catastrophe and Economic Crisis in Renaissance Europe: An Alternative Macroeconomic Explanation. Discussion Paper, University of Bremen 2004 (full text); also see John M. Riddle: "Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West", Princeton: Harvard University Press 1999, ISBN 0-674-27026-6, esp. Chapters 5–7
- Purkiss 1996, p. 8.
- Klaits, Joseph. Servants of Satan: The Age of the Witch Hunts (1985) p. 68
- According to R. W. Thurston, 75–80% of the victims across both Europe and North America were women, Thurston 2001. p. 42. According to Anne Llewellyn Barstow, 80% of those accused and 85% of those executed in Europe were women. Barstow, Anne Llewellyn (1994) Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts San Francisco:Pandora. p. 23
- Gibbons, Jenny (1998)  "Recent Developments in the Study of the Great European Witch Hunt"] in The Pomegranate #5, Lammas 1998.
- Jones, Adam (1999-2002)
- Thurston 2001, p. 169.
- Barstow, Anne Llewellyn (1994) Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts San Francisco: Pandora.
- Thurston 2001. pp. 42-45.
- Kramer and Sprenger. Malleus Malificarum.
- Madar, Maia. Estonia I: Werewolves and Poisoners. pp. 257–272
- 'the theory that witch-hunting equals misogyny is embarrassed by the predominance of women witness against the accused', Purkis, 'The Witch In History', p. 92 (1996); Purkis provides detailed examples, and also demonstrates how some documents have been misread in a manner which attributes accusations or legal prosecution to men, when in fact the action was brought by a woman.
- ‘More numerous than midwives among the accused were women who were engaged in caring for other women’s children. Lyndal Roper has shown that many witchcraft accusations in Ausburg in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century arose out of conflicts between mothers and the lying-in maids who provided care for them and their infants for a number of weeks after birth. It was not unnatural for the mothers to project their anxieties about their own health, as well as the precarious health of their infants, on to these women. When some misfortune did occur, therefore, the lying-in maids were highly vulnerable to charges of having deprived the baby of nourishment or of having killed it. What is interesting about these accusations is that they originated in tensions among women rather than between men and women. The same can be said regarding many other accusations made against women for harming young children.’, Levack, ‘The Witch-Hunt In Early Modern Europe’, p. 140 (2nd edition 1995)
- Gibbons 1998.
- 'In Lorraine the majority were men, particularly when other men were on trial, yet women did testify in large numbers against other women, making up 43 per cent of witnesses in these cases on average, and predominating in 30 per cent of them.', Briggs, 'Witches & Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft', p. 264 (1998)
- 'It appears that women were active in building up reputations by gossip, deploying counter-magic and accusing suspects; crystallization into formal prosecution, however, needed the intervention of men, preferably of fairly high status in the community.', ibid., p. 265
- 'The number of witchcraft quarrels that began between women may actually have been higher; in some cases, it appears that the husband as "head of household" came forward to make statements on behalf of his wife, although the central quarrel had taken place between her and another woman.', Willis, 'Malevolent Nature', p. 36 (1995)
- 'In Peter Rushton's examination of slander cases in the Durham church courts, women took action against other women who had labeled them witches in 61 percent of the cases.', ibid., p. 36
- 'J.A. Sharpe also notes the prevalence of women as accusers in seventeenth-century Yorkshire cases, concluding that "on a village level witchcraft seems to have been something peculiarly enmeshed in women's quarrels."14 To a considerable extent, then, village-level witch-hunting was women's work.', ibid., p. 36
- 'The widespread division of labour, which conceives of witches as female, and witch-doctors male, can hardly be explained by Christian influence. In some European countries, like Iceland, Finland, and Estonia, the idea of male witchcraft was dominant, and therefore most of the executed witches were male. As Kirsten Hastrup has demonstrated, only one of the twenty-two witches executed in Iceland was female. In Normandy three-quarters of the 380 known witchcraft defendants were male.', Behringer, ‘Witches and Witch-Hunts: a global history’, p. 39 (2004)
- 'On the whole, however, the literature of witchcraft conspicuously lacks any sustained concern for the gender issue; and the only reason for the view that it was extreme and outspoken in its anti-feminism is the tendency for those interested in this subject to read the relevant sections of the Malleus maleficarum and little or nothing else.', Clark, ‘Thinking with Demons: the idea of witchcraft in early modern Europe’, p. 116 (1999)
- Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 64.
- Purkiss 1996, p. 15.
- Cohn 1975, p. 103.
- Cohn 1975, pp. 103–104; Purkiss 1996, p. 34; Hutton 1999, p. 136.
- Cohn 1975, p. 104; Hutton 1999, pp. 136–137.
- Murray 1952; Murray & 1962.
- Sheppard 2013, p. 169.
- Hutton 1999, p. 198.
- Eliade 1975, p. 152.
- Simpson 1994, p. 89.
- Heselton 2004.
- Gardner 1954. p. 139.
- See for instance Hutton 1999. pp. 142–148 and Magliocco 2002.
- Doyle White 2014, p. 68.
- Simpson 1994, p. 95.
- Hutton 1999. p. 141.
- Purkiss 1996, pp. 19–20; Hutton 1999, p. 342.
- Ehrenreich and English 2010. pp. 12–13.
- Purkiss 1996, p. 17.
- Purkiss 1996, pp. 11, 16.
- Hutton, Ronald. Triumph of the Moon. p. 141.; (German) Behringer, Wolfgang: Neun Millionen Hexen. Enstehung, Tradition und Kritik eines populären Mythos, in: Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht 49. 1987, pp. 664–685, extensive summary on 
- Nach diesem Verhältnis würden in jedem Jahrhundert in Quedlinburg 133 Personen als Hexen verbrannt worden seyn. 
- Behringer (1998)
- Gage, Matilda Joslyn (1893). Woman, Church and State.
- Poole, Robert (ed.) (2003) The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-6204-7. p. 192.
- the records of the survey were re-discovered in Poland by German historian Gerhard Schormann in 1981
- Michael David Bailey, Magic and Superstition in Europe pp. 236–238
- Cooper cites Annemarie Dross, Die erste Walpurgisnacht: Hexenverfolgung in Deutschland (1978), p. 171 and Soldan, Heppe and Bauer, Die Geschichte der Hexenprozesse (1900, revised edition of Soldan's 1843 work), vol. 1, p. 514.
- Wilhelm Havemann, Geschichte der Lande Braunschweig und Lüneburg für Schule und Haus, 1838, 86f.
- an inscription in the Osnabrück Marienkirche dated 1591 records 121 witches burned in 1583, compared to a total of 44 over the period of 1584 to 1590. Sabine Wehking, Die Inschriften der Stadt Osnabrück, Wiesbaden 1988, 135–141 (Nr. 162).
- Caro Baroja, Julio (2001) . The World of the Witches. Nigel Glendinning (translator). London: Phoenix. ISBN 9781842122426.
- Cohn, Norman (1975). Europe's Inner Demons: An Enquiry Inspired by the Great Witch-Hunt. Sussex and London: Sussex University Press and Heinemann Educational Books. ISBN 978-0435821838.
- Davies, Owen (2003). Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History. London: Continuum.
- Doyle White, Ethan (2014). "Devil's Stones and Midnight Rites: Folklore, Megaliths, and Contemporary Pagan Witchcraft". Folklore 125 (1): 60–79.
- Eliade, Mircea (1975). "Some Observations on European Witchcraft". History of Religions (University of Chicago) 14 (3): 149–172.
- Ginzburg, Carlo (1983) . The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. John and Anne Tedeschi (translators). Baltimore: John Hopkins Press. ISBN 978-0801843860.
- Ginzburg, Carlo (1990). Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath. Pantheon. ISBN 978-0394581637.
- Halliday, W.R. (1922). "Review of Margaret Murray's The Witch-Cult in Western Europe". Folklore 33. pp. 224–230.
- Hughes, Pennethorne (1952). Witchcraft. Longmans, Green.
- Hutton, Ronald (1999). The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0192854490.
- Hutton, Ronald (2010). "Writing the History of Witchcraft: A Personal View". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies (London: Equinox Publishing) 12 (2): 239–262. doi:10.1558/pome.v12i2.239.
- Hutton, Ronald (2011). "Revisionism and Counter-Revisionism in Pagan History". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies (London: Equinox Publishing) 13 (2): 225–256. doi:10.1558/pome.v12i2.239.
- Jensen, Gary (2007). The Path of the Devil: Early Modern Witch Hunts. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-46974.
- Klaniczay, Gábor (1990). The Uses of Supernatural Power: The Transformation of Popular Religion in Medieval and Early-Modern Europe. Susan Singerman (translator). Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691073774.
- Murray, Margaret A. (1962) . The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Murray, Margaret A. (1952) . The God of the Witches. London: Faber and Faber.
- Purkiss, Diane (1996). The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-Century Representations. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415087629.
- Rose, Elliot (1962). A Razor for a Goat: A Discussion of Certain Problems in Witchcraft and Diabolism. Toronto: Toronto University Press.
- Runciman, Steven (1962). Margaret Murray, ed. The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Russell, Jeffrey B.; Alexander, Brooks (2007). A New History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-28634-0.
- Sanders, Andrew (1995). A Deed Without a Name: The Witch in Society and History. Oxford and Washington: Berg. ISBN 1-85973-053-1.
- Scarre, Geoffrey; Callow, John (2001). Witchcraft and Magic in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Europe (second ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave. ISBN 9780333920824.
- Sheppard, Kathleen L. (2013). The Life of Margaret Alice Murray: A Woman's Work in Archaeology. New York: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-7417-3.
- Simpson, Jacqueline (1994). "Margaret Murray: Who Believed Her and Why?". Folklore 105. pp. 89–96.
- Thomas, Keith (1971). Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
- Thurston, Robert W. (2001). Witch, Wicce, Mother Goose: The Rise and Fall of the Witch Hunts in Europe and North America. Edinburgh: Longman. ISBN 978-0582438064.
- Wilby, Emma (2005). Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 1-84519-078-5.
- Bailey, Michael D. (2006). Magic and Superstition in Europe: A Concise History from Antiquity to the Present. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-3386-8.
- Briggs, Robin (1996). Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-014438-3.
- Davies, Owen (2009). Grimoires: A History of Magic Books. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-920451-9.
- Hutton, Ronald (1991). The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Leconteux, Claude (2003). Witches, Werewolves and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions.
- Levack, Brian P. ed. The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America (2013) excerpt and text search
- Levack, Brian P. (1995). The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe (Second Edition). London and New York: Longman.
- Pócs, Éva (1999). Between the Living and the Dead: A Perspective on Witches and Seers in the Early Modern Age. Budapest: Central European Academic Press.
- Purkiss, Diane (2000). At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins and Other Troublesome Things. New York: New York University Press.
- Trevor-Roper, Hugh (1969). The European Witch-Craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries and Other Essays. New York: Harper & Row.
- Gibbons, Jenny (1998). "Recent Developments in the Study of the Great European Witch Hunt". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 5.
- Halliday, W.R. (1922). "Review of Murray". Folklore 33.
- Magliocco, Sabina (2002). "Who Was Aradia? The History and Development of a Legend". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 18.
- Ehrenreich, Barbara and English, Deirdre (2010). Witches, Midwives & Nurses: A History of Women Healers (Second Edition). New York: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York. ISBN 978-1-55861-661-5.
- Gardner, Gerald (1954). Witchcraft Today. London: Rider.
- Heselton, Philip (2004). Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration: An Investigation into the Sources of Gardnerian Witchcraft. Somerset: Capall Bann.
- The Stages of a Witch Trial—a series of articles by Jenny Gibbons.
- 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia entry on "Witchcraft". Retrieved April 2011
- The Decline and End of Witch Trials in Europe by James Hannam
- Research on witch trials in Scotland