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The Witch Trials Chronicled Part 2
Just an interesting side note for those who do not know what the Malleus Maleficarum is, it was a book of sorts written by two of the Catholic Church Inquisitors that challenges any and all arguments of that time against the existence of witchcraft and it goes on to tell how to identify, interrogate and convict witches. It was first published in Germany in 1487. Now onward in the chronicles of witch trials.
During the 15th and early 16th centuries the hunting and burning of witches would rise and fall but surged again in the early 17th century when it was believed that more of the “intellectuals” began to believe in the possibility of harm being committed by magic, or Maleficarum. Now it was believed that what was once thought of as a possible gift to protect and do good deeds was being seen as a pact with the devil and was propagandized by those who practiced Christianity deeming those who were witches to be fueled by wild Satanic parties where orgies and the killing of infants was all the status quo.
Germany was a late bloomer when it comes to witches and the capture, prosecution and execution of them. The first recorded such act was actually made into a pamphlet in 1563 called,” True and Horrifying Deeds of 63 Witches .” Just to not single out any particular country, in Denmark witch trials surged after 1536 confirming several hundred convicted and burned as witches. In Scotland there were over 70 people convicted of witchcraft due to bad weather while James VI was sailing to meet his betrothed in 1590. Possibly the most famous of trials in England was the Pendle Witches in 1612, this group of 20, later broken down into two groups, the Witches of Pendle Forest (12) and the Witches of Samlesbury, (8) were not all burned at the stake as England had enacted a Witchcraft Act in 1542 that regulated the punishment that could be doled out on the accused but 11 were hanged by the neck until dead.
The Pendle Witches however were immortalized like none other when the clerk of the court produced a publication of the trials called,” The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster” and due to the fact that ten of the eleven witches convicted were all hung at the same time. It is believed that in England between the 15th and 18th centuries there numbered 500 executions of witches, the Pendle Witches would have made up approximately 2 percent of that number. It is estimated that in all of Europe during the most active 300 years there were about 80,000 trials and anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 executions.
The witch madness infected the Americas in 1645 many years before the Salem Trials. It all began when a husband and wife, Hugh and Mary Parsons accused each other of witchcraft. Hugh was found not guilty while his wife who was acquitted of the witchcraft charges was sentenced to die for the death of her child. She died in prison before she could be hanged. From 1645 to 1663 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony 80 people were accused and went to trial and ended with 13 women and 2 men being executed.
The most famous case, at least in the Americas is of course the Salem Witch Trials which began in February of 1692 and would last until May of 1693. In this instance there were at least 19 confirmed deaths by hanging after being convicted of witchcraft while one man was actually pressed to death under heavy rocks because he would not plead either guilty or not guilty, it is believed he was in his 80’s at the time of his death. As many as 13 more persons died while awaiting their witchcraft trials in prison.
Though seen as an “ancient” practice this accusing of witches, in many places throughout the world people are still being accused and put to death over charges of witchcraft, the last recorded one that could be found was on December 12 of 2011 in Al Jawf Province in Saudi Arabia where a man was beheaded after being convicted of witchcraft and sorcery.
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