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Maleficium as a Latin term (or malefice in English) means "wrongdoing" or "mischief", and describes malevolent, dangerous, or harmful magic, "evildoing," or "malevolent sorcery". In general, the term applies to any magical act intended to cause harm or death to people or property. Maleficium can involve the act of poisoning or drugging someone. Practitioners of maleficium are not exclusively females, although, popular culture of witchcraft favors it. Women accused of Maleficium were punished by being imprisoned or even executed. It is usually considered to be performed through the power of the Devil.
The Knights Templar were accused by Philip IV of France of maleficium. The trial of the Knights Templar set a social standard for the popular belief in maleficium and witchcraft that contributed to the great European witch hunt.[page needed] In early New England, more men would get accused of such Maleficium that was "non-malefic".
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