Accompanying and following the Renaissance “rebirth” during the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries and supplementing the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, the persecution of individuals as witches in Europe reached its zenith during the sixteenth century. Countless people, women and men alike, were accused of witchcraft, although this scale was tipped significantly toward poor, old women whose husbands’ had low wage work. The notion of witchcraft appealed to and was possible at the time to the general public because such occurrences as “mysterious disappearances” or “Satanic luck” necessitated explanations.
These events were thus attributed to “servants of the Devil,” or witches, who were supposedly possessed to bend to Satan’s will as stated my Luther. Luther’s bias was towards the bible because he was a religious leader; therefor he believed what it said, which was that witches existed. Many accused witches were tortured until they either admitted, like Walpurga Hausmannin, or were killed from torture. Hausmannin’s bias was towards women because she was one, and she was very skeptical towards all the women being killed.
No one was safe, as even mayors councilors and associate judges were persecuted. The witch-hunting excitement of the period resulted from religious, individual, societal, and sociological fears and interests prevalent during the time frame. First, highly influential religious individuals like Luther, Calvin, and the pope form a group of people who played a major role in promoting the belief of witchcraft among the people. Pope Innocent VIII, for example, willingly accepted the concept of witchcraft and even fully supported the persecution of witches.
His bias was also towards the Bible. As a religious leader, the Pope wholeheartedly believed that individuals “give themselves over to devils” and, as a servant of God, was obliged to purge the world of them. The notable Protestant leaders Martin Luther and John Calvin shared this identical perspective. Luther stresses that the “Devil’s whores” exist to cause chaos and disruption in God’s world. As he strictly upheld the status quo, Luther would have used the convenient explanation that the poor laborers were more likened to turn to witchcraft.
Calvin, on the other hand, compares the problem of witchcraft to that of waging “war against an infinite number of enemies”. Calvin, as an advocate of an organization adjoining religion and state, naturally views the campaign against witches as war. Clergy, influenced by these religious leaders, recorded any slightly suspicious activity as supernatural and Satanic. Since the majority of Europe was Catholic or some form of Protestant during the time, the people looked up to their respective leaders for “truth. As popes, Luther, and Calvin professed the existence of witchcraft, the people did as well. However, other individuals persecuted witches for purely individual or societal interests. The witch-hunting movement was promoted and effectively advertised by those who would gain from the persecution, namely the “notaries, copyists, and innkeepers…executioner”. According to the account, anyone could be put to trial or torture with the slightest provocation. As a result, the individuals who gained some form of wealth from the persecution supported it.
Judges gained support from the people for charging individuals with witchcraft. The demographic aspects of accused witches show that women were much more likely to be persecuted as a consequence of gender biases toward the “impurity” and “imperfection” of the feminine sex in the group. The authors of are Dominican monks attempting to clarify the reasons for which women are witches. Although John Wier is skeptical towards the idea of witchcraft, his views sustain the fact that old women’s physical state led to their increased chance of persecution.
The most important reason why numerous individuals were branded and persecuted as witches during the late fifteenth through seventeenth centuries was probably as a convenient sociological reason for unexplained occurrences. Any unusual event would cause mass hysteria (Doc B5), and as the people could not directly punish the devils for it, they would be satisfied to reprimand the devils’ servants, the witches, since there could be no other reasonable rationalization.
The composition of poems regarding witchcraft shows that it played a prominent role in the life of an ordinary person. It also subtly encourages readers not to fall under possession by resisting Satan’s attempts to control them. John Weir also indicates that the public, including some scientists, passionately favors witch persecution. In late seventeenth-century America, several girls’ witch accusations in Salem, Massachusetts caused two years of witch fear illustrating the common fear of spiritual evils.
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