Utkarsh Rajawat AP Euro Dr. Barnes 10/25/09 The Witch Witch. A word that, nowadays, carries along with it thoughts of pleasant schools of magic and candy corn for Halloween. But several hundred years ago, from about 1480 to 1700, the term “witch” was an altogether sinister and grave term, one that was not thrown around lightly, as it often brought upon those tagged with it fates arguably worse than death. It was the era of the Inquisition, in which panels of judges were created for the sole purpose of condemning witches, and executioners prospered like never before. It was a time of religious fanaticism and political cunning, of death and wrongful accusations. Witches were persecuted for mainly three reasons, namely for religion, profit, and dislike towards the old, lower-class women. Pope Innocent VIII himself endorsed the trials, claiming that the Devil had taken reign of the weak-willed, while others noted how the executioners prospered from all the executions to the point of their wealth rivaling that of the nobility. And then there are so many statistics showing that a good eighty percent of those executed were female, all of them lower class, and most of them around the age of sixty at a time when people lived not a day beyond seventy. Of course, religion was the base of this paranoia, and the biggest reason for all the persecutions. Religious reasons were the biggest reasons when it came to persecuting witches. People believed that witches were ultimately seduced by the Devil into doing his work for him, which encompassed killing babies and eating them (docA1). Others even considered simple acts such as caring for those with strange diseases as witchcraft (docA4). Others targeted witches for their un-Catholic behavior and difference of religion and faith (docB2). And there were those, such as Calvin, who found reason enough for burning witches in the Bible (docB4). The religious paranoia also had an adverse effect on the youth, who began to believe in devils and demons inhabiting people’s bodies (doc B5). Even scientists gave proof that the Devil was taking over old and embittered souls (docC1). Of course, not all persecutions were carried out for mere religious reasons. Some people had more concrete, materialistic gains to be had from the trials. Many people had much to gain from the trials. Some nobles were promoted for their extraordinary work in ridding the land of the Devil, while executioners raked in money with all the new business. Towns and inns in general profited from the great masses of people who would attend the trials and executions of the supposed witches (docA2). And then, of course, any important persons with power that stood in the way of someone’s advancement could always easily be disposed of by accusations of witchcraft (docA7). The mayor of Bamberg, Germany was one of several cases in which persons were bumped up the political ladder because of executions of those holding high government posts. Of course, not all reasons were as concrete. Pure contempt was just as potent a weapon. Many people disliked the sixty-something, lower-class women, for they were characterized as old and bitter and vengeful towards life itself. This can most clearly shown by cold, hard statistics (doc group D). The main targets were sixty-year old lower-class women. People just simply disliked this population, and looked at them badly before they became aware of their witchcraft and evil (docA3). People truly believed that there was nothing but resentment in their old, aged hearts (docA6). Others believed that these people were flawed from the beginning of existence, and were easily impressionable for this reason (doc B1). The more highly educated, however, such as Johan Wier, a Belgian physician, also saw the flaws in the same theory—they were old, frail, and were physically unable of all the atrocities they were blamed for (docC2). All in all, the Inquisition was fueled by religious causes, potential profit in the business, and general, outright dislike for the old, lower-class women.
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