Symposium Essay Witch Hunts As you have heard, witch legends credited the accused of some pretty extravagant and crazy things. Witchcraft and Sorcery were serious crimes and as such, had both serious trial procedures and very grave consequences. The people persecuting them, Inquisitors and lead hunters were well respected and thought be to doing good work. All of Europe had Witch trials and witch hunts. (And very famously, so did Salem Massachusetts. ) I am going to talk to you a little bit about how two specific countries hunted and tried those accused of malefic. As we heard, witches started off as scapegoats to blame a bad crop on.
If your milk went bad because you forgot about it in the sun and didn’t want to take the rap, blame a witch! Over time however, witches got progressively more vilified and the crimes they were accused of committing got worse. The trials, treatments and torture got worse. From a modern perspective, where witchcraft is largely a Joke rather something people really believe in, the question of identifying witches is intriguing. How do you find a witch? In our minds, you don’t! Very few people nowadays believe in witchcraft and much less in the methods used to determine who was a witch or not.
And once you decide who is a witch, what do you do with them? According to statistics by William Mentor, 60% of the 500, 000 witches tried in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands were killed whereas only 10% of the 10, 000 witches tried in Spain, Portugal and Italy died. And between North America and the British Isles, about 35% of the 5, 000 accused were executed(Mentor peg 12). Though all of the countries, 80% of those witches were women. But why such different numbers in different countries? If witches are always evil, shouldn’t the numbers be more uniform?
Well the differences have to do with he fact that different countries had different laws and trail procedures. In Germany, if you were accused of being a witch, you were arrested and investigated. And more likely than not, you were a witch. In Spain, you had to be accused by two independent sources and have an actual case, with rigorous evidential standards to be committed of witchcraft. Not only did the Spanish have high standards for admissible evidence but they had many stipulations that had to be met before torture could be used or applied. Germany did not.
In some extreme cases, such as Hexachord, the Witch Bishop, the accused weren’t even allowed to defend themselves. He ordered a special prison to be built for the accused to wait until being hung. There was no chance for defense, guaranteeing the death penalty in every single case (NYC. Unusual site). While these cases were extreme, they showcase how emotionally involved people got. In Germany, where so many of the accused was executed, 60% of those accused were killed. In Spain, you had to be fed, questioned multiple times, have two reliable accusers willing to testify, and have some sort of proof to be a candidate for torture.
However, superstition was legally backed until 1936, Spain’s last legal witch burning(expatiate). It had full approval of both the church and the local government; the woman had confessed to being a witch and was mercifully strangled before her In both countries, a confession was a sure conviction and therefore a much easier trial that would usually result in the execution of the confessor. But how do you get someone to confess to something that doesn’t really exist, to something that they couldn’t have actually done? The answer is simple and cruel: torture.
Confessions were very often tortured out of their victims. The victims were put under such intense pain that they were willing to confess to Just about anything to make the pain o away. The inquisitors wanted to hear what the witches had done, so many would confess to acts they had only heard of in legends. They thought that telling the interrogators their deeds would make the torture stop. It didn’t. The accused were subjected to the boot, cold baths, force-feeding, scalding hot baths, and binding to prayer stools. The Spanish boot was a pair of high boots made of leather and placed on the witch’s feet.
They were then tied to a table near a huge fire, and boiling water was poured into the boots. The water penetrated the leather, ate away the flesh, and even dissolved the bones of the victim. There were also foot presses. These were made of a pair of horizontal iron plates which tightened around the foot by a crank. They would cut the flesh and crush the bones of the foot. Different kinds of presses included hundreds of sharp spikes and a crank that was connected to a drill, so that when the device was tightened around the foot a hole was drilled in the center of the instep.
Foot roasting was another torture method commonly used; the feet would be roasted over red-hot coals after being smeared with Lard. In other cases, the accused necks were lacerated by ropes and some were forced to sit upon a roasting Ron chair. Some had to endure burning feathers dipped in sulfur and then applied to the armpits or groin. The accused also suffered though scourging, the stocks, the ladder, as well as thumbscrews(Medieval Warfare). The ways a person could be tortured knew no limits during these trials. Those indicted of witchcraft could have their right hand cut off before being hung or have their breast mutilated.
Interrogations were also very unique. The Cannon Episcopal gives many sample questions and penances like the following: “ Have you made north, and incantation, and those various enchantment which evil men, swineherds, ploughman, and moieties hunter make, while they say diabolical formulae over bread or graded and over certain nefarious bandages, and either hide there in a tree to throw them where two roads, or three roads, meet, and that they may set free their animals or dogs from pestilence or destruction and destroy those of another. If you have, you shall do penance for two years on the appointed days. Depending on the severity of the answers and beliefs of the accused, penance ranges from a week to seven years. The questions vary from very specific to very broad like: “ Do you believe yourself to be a witch” type questions to very specific questions like: ” Have you done what some women do at the initiation of the devil? When any child had died without Baptism, they take the corpse of the little one and place it in some secret place and transfix its little body with a stake, saying that if they did not do so the little child would arise and injure many? . And if the answer to the aforementioned question was yes, the witch would be Authors who write about the world and time they live in often incorporate elements of their lives in their stories. This can include folktales and common beliefs. In The Master and Margarita, Bulgaria describes some common beliefs at Satin’s ball ND Margarita’s travel arrangements to get there. She flies out of her house, naked and on a broom after covering herself with a special cream given to her by the devil’s assignment. As Satin’s queen, she is initially bathed in blood.
She walks around naked in front of both women and men. After her refreshing blood bath, she greets all of the terrifying guests one by one. All of the male guests are clothed and have tails while the females only cover and decorate their hair. Becoming weak, she is again bathed and the blood restores her strength. Her guests dance and she watches as a head upon a plate speaks. These show what the common people, and Bulgaria in particular, had heard about witches and what they did. Many other ideas of witches and witch balls included group orgy’s and actually kissing the Devil’s ass.
Some legends spoke of group sex and public sex with Satan. Bulgaria didn’t show all of these acts and neither did Goethe. But Goethe does show a few other common ideas. In Faustus Hallucinating, there are many naked witches dancing around a fire. They sing and dance and generally Just make noise and wreak havoc. The first witch they physically come across tries to sell them a dagger that has killed a man, a up filled with poison, a gem that tempted a young woman, and a sword used in battle. The witch represents the cunning nature of evil and trickery.
Later on, Faust is distracted by Medusa who looks Just like Gretchen and Mephistopheles has to save him from being turned to stone, another witches trick (Witchcraft Trial Doc) Where did Bulgaria and Goethe get these details and ideas? A lot came from folktales. Someone read the trial transcripts and repeated what the witches confessed to. From these stories came legends, which ingrained themselves in the culture of the people who transmitted them to their literature. William Mentor: Witch trials in Continental Europe, (in:) Witchcraft and magic in Europe, deed.