Friday, July 23, 2010

Who Burned The Witches

Who Burned The Witches Cover The 30,000 to 50,000 casualties of the European witch-hunts were not distributed uniformally through time or space, even within particular jurisdictions. Three-quarters of Europe saw not a single trial. witch persecution spread outward from its first center in alpine Italy in the early 15th century, guttering out in Poland, where witchcraft laws were finally repealed in 1788. The center had generally stopped trying witches before the peripheries even started.

The Spanish Road stretching from Italy to the Netherlands was also a "witch-road." The Catholic-ruled Spanish Netherlands (today's Belgium) saw far worse persecutions than the Protestant-ruled United Provinces of the Netherlands, which had stopped burning convicted witches by 1600. There were early panics in the German cities of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg, as well as in Lorraine, France, and parts of Switzerland and Scotland. The Rhineland and Southwest Germany suffered severe outbreaks, with German ecclesiastical territories hit hardest. Three-quarters of all witchcraft trials took place in the Catholic-ruled territories of the Holy Roman Empire. But Catholic Portugal, Castile and Spanish-ruled Italy, and the Orthodox lands of Eastern Europe saw virtually none. The panic in Salem, Massachusetts, was as bad as anything in England, but there seem to have been no executions in the Latin colonies of the New World.

The regional tolls demonstrated the patchwork pattern of witch-hunting. The town of Baden, Germany, for example, burned 200 witches from 1627 to 1630, more than all the convicted witches who perished in Sweden. The tiny town of Ellwangen, Germany, burned 393 witches from 1611 to 1618, more than Spain and Portugal combined ever executed. The Catholic prince-bishop of Wurzburg, Germany, burned 600 witches from 1628 to 1631, more witches than ever died in Protestant Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland combined. The Swiss canton of Vaud executed about 1,800 witches from 1611 to 1660, compared with Scotland's toll of between 1,300 and 1,500 and England's toll of 500. The claim of some Catholic apologists that Elizabeth I executed 800 witches a year is gross slander. In Southwest Germany alone, 3,229 people were executed for witchcraft between 1562 and 1684 -- more than were executed for any reason by the Spanish, Portuguese, and Roman Inquisitions between 1500 and 1800. (All three of these Inquisitions burned fewer than a dozen witches in total.)

The most-dreaded lay witch-hunter was Nicholas Remy, attorney general of Lorraine, who boasted of sending 900 persons to the stake in a single decade (1581-1591). But the all-time grand champion exterminator of witches was Ferdinand von Wittelsbach, Catholic prince-archbishop of Cologne, Germany, who burned 2,000 members of his flock during the 1630s.

Let no one argue that witch-hunting was a predominantly Protestant activity. Both Catholic and Protestant lands saw light and heavy hunts. Demonologists and critics alike came from both religious camps.

Books You Might Enjoy:

Ralph Blum - The New Book Of Runes
Marian Green - A Witch Alone
Tarostar - The Witchs Spellcraft Revised
Margaret Alice Murray - God Of The Whitches

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