Thursday, March 29, 2012

SiBelle Stone Guest Post and give away

Please Welcome Sibelle Stone  while she tells us all about 15th century witchs.

The European Witch Craze

In the middle of the 15 century, the Inquisition that had been hunting down heretics turned their powerful eyes in the direction of witches. Witches were vigorously hunted, tried and often executed in large numbers from around 1450 until the turn of the 18th century. In that time historians have estimated that nearly 200,000 victims were executed in Britain and Europe.

This era has been labeled, “the witch craze” -- because fear of the Devil, who supposedly controlled witches, was rampant in the communities that so stringently persecuted witches. People turned on their friends, neighbors and even family members in a manner that begged the question -- was this a period of mass hysteria, or was something else influencing these accusations?

Many of those accused, mostly poor women, were folk healers, herbalists, mid-wives and conjurers. These people were often descended from generations of healers and served as the local medical staff. Medical science was still in its infancy, so if a doctor attended you, he was likely to use poultices, leeches or cuts to bleed you, and horrible tasting potions to purge your stomach or bowels.

The local mid-wife c could probably do just as well, with her cupboard of medicinal herbs, her observations, and a willingness to accept payment in butter, cheese or eggs. They delivered babies, attended to injuries and were trusted by their neighbors. Some they attended did die, but then so did many who received care from a doctor or surgeon.

It wasn’t a crime to practice what many perceived as “white witchcraft” until around the 13th century, when a cleric, Thomas Aquinas, began to spread the beliefs that witches copulated with demons, flew through the air, shape shifted, controlled storms, conducted sabbats and were heretics. The people who were accused of being witches often lived on the fringes of society, and were especially threatening to the Roman Catholic church. Living outside of political and religious control, they appeared to contradict established religious beliefs. Aquinas also believed that all heretics should be burned, and thus began the custom of burning witches at the stake.

In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII declared witches were heretical sorcerers. Two years later Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger published the Malleus Maleficarum, which established the rules for identifying, prosecuting and punishing witches. Most often, the sentence was death, usually following interrogation by torture.

Witch hunters scoured the countryside for witches, accusations of witchcraft were often followed by implications of other people in the community, as torture was used as means to extricate the names of accomplices in practicing black magic.

While most witches on the European continent were burned, (often alive), In Great Britain they were hanged. While some men were accused , tried and executed for practicing witchcraft, most of those who suffered and died were women.

Reasons for the “witch craze” have ranged from mass hysteria, illness brought on by food-borne pathogens, religious zealotry to the misogynistic persecution of women. Anthropologists have even proposed that many of the women were members of an ancient pagan religion that worshiped the Goddess and her consort, the Horned God.

Witchcraft and the modern pagan religion Wicca are often lumped together, but they are different belief systems. Neither directly involve Devil worship, that was an element that was constructed by the Roman Catholic Church.

The witch craze was a dark chapter in history, as many women and children, and some men became victims of superstition and fear. It’s likely we will never know how many innocent people died, and we certainly will never know their names.

Sibelle is giving away a copy of  Beneath a Silver Moon -winner’s choice of format -either a free Ebook or a print copy- and a One $10 Starbucks Gift Card open to US Shipping

To win leave Comment and  your email

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