"In the most general sense a witch is a person who possesses a supernatural, occult, or mysterious power to cause misfortune or injury to others."
Witch. The word recalls to most individuals an image of a gross, old, hag that wants to brings harm upon innocent villagers and/or children and whom worship Satan as god. As depicted in modern popular culture, witches either can have a good or bad affiliation, can sing to seduce children and adults to do their bidding, and have an insatiable desire to cause mischievousness stuff. As depicted above in the quote as well as the image, a witch is not limited to the female sex. The affiliation of witches being female stems from the famous witch trials and hunts intensified by branches of the Christian religion, specifically Catholicism and Protestantism.
During the witch-hunts, which peaked during the "Burning Times" between 1550-1650, 75% in Europe and 80% in the American Colonies of the cases of those accused were women. Women where more accused of being witches because they were seen as the inferior sex, which was, "a necessary evil," seen as more able to converse with devils during menstruation, had "insatiable carnal lust" (aka-horny 24/7), and had easier access to bodily fluids and body parts, such as semen, blood, hair, and dead babies. The average woman victim of witchcraft has a certain profile. This profile has the following elements: the accused was post-menopausal, the accused was single or widowed with no male protection to vouch for them in the various courts, had years of dislike against them, were outspoken, and were either very poor (ex: beggar) or very rich (mostly when there was no male heirs). However, the other 25% in Europe and 20% in America accused of rehearsing witchcraft were men.
In Iceland alone, 92% of witchcraft accusations where men. Men would general become accused during large outbreaks, such as the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts. When men were accused, it was general because: they were related to female suspects, part of a large panic, where witchcraft equaled heresy (which equaled death), "male magic" such as crop failure, and their jobs if they were against normal (ex: male dancer), traditional male jobs. Most males accused escaped death because they fled the site where accusations were brought against them.
The most common way of executing accused individuals of witchcraft was via burning at the stakes. St. Augustine (354-430 C.E.), widely considered the founder of Christian theology, urged the burning of all witches because it would give them a taste of what's to come. St. Augustine was ahead of his time in complete witchcraft destruction as during his period, the Christian religion, specifically the Catholic branch, tolerated it but condemned it as pagan. Most citizens during the conversion period (300-1100 C.E.), would practice both Christianity and "witchcraft" because most where confused by Christian theology. During the evolution of church stance on witchcraft, during the 12th century Renaissance, there was "good magic" (white; ex: Astronomy) and "bad magic" (black: harmful); traditionally, white magic was performed by highly-educated men while black magic was practiced by women and lower-educated men.
Coming full circle, the church during the late middle ages (starting around 1350 C.E.), using St. Augustine's ideology, condemned all magic as bad and as a collective institution of demonic carriers that was too damn humans to the fiery pits of hell. Venturing back to execution, while burning at the stake was the most common way of dispatching the sentences, hanging was the preferred way of executing on the British islands and the American colonies. With that being said, there is a unique case.
The witchcraft trails of Collette du Mont, Marie Becquet, and Isabel Becquet in Guernsey in 1617 resulted them in being hung (English practice) then have their bodies burned after death (French practice). The reasoning behind burning witches at the stake, other than giving them a taste of what's to come, was to "boil their magic," it was believed that witch magic was in a witch's blood. However, despite the preferred methods of executing witches being presented, 75% of witch accusations were dismissed. The only exception to this is Germany, which executed most of the accused because they had tortured a confession out of them. The idea of witches in modern day popular culture is a warped analysis of the past, and needs to be corrected. Witches aren't just female, not everyone died by fire, and not everyone suffered by magic, good or bad.
January 27, 2017
KILLING SOME WITCHES
Billy Butcherson: Go to hell! Winifred Sanderson: Oh! I've been there, thank you. I found it quite lovely. --Hocus Pocus (1993)
Burn the Witch! This fanatic cry has echoed into modern popular culture in regards to how evil witches, such as witches on the third season of American Horror Story, should meet their end. Despite this being the popular way of dispatching witches, it was not the only way to kill or torture said accused. In an analysis of countries, Germany, Spain, and Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland) need to be compared to present a greater idea of witchy torture.
Germany, by far the highest accused-to-execution rate of all countries during the witch-hunt craze of the 15th and 16th century, had a unique way of perpetrating witches. Said accused would be captured by the German authorities and placed into a witch holding cell that also housed a torture facticity, called a Hexenhaus. On the first day of residency in this jail, the accused would be stripped of all clothes and given a “tour-de-torture” of the location and told what each instrument of torture would do to the body. Some of these devices are pictured below.