Witch Trials

Andrew Heartquist and Mie Sørensen

Definition of Witch Trials

The Renaissance witch trials were a symptom of the religious hysteria and social upheaval, usually aimed towards women considered strange or witch-like. They were, in actuality, just scapegoat trials to blame innocent women for things they couldn't understand such as drought and disease.

Details of the Witch Trials

The Renaissance witch trials are renowned for their injustice, especially towards women. While most people believe that only women were accused of witchcraft, men actually made up 15% of all trials. Throughout the trials 40-60 thousand people were put to death condemned of witchcraft, most of these casualties were made up of old widows, mentally ill, simpletons, and handicapped people. Not only were people accused simply for being different, but many people accused another of witchcraft just because they didn't like them. In many regions, the witches estate would be split between the accuser and the government official involves, so often there was a economic motive behind the accusation as well. The severity of the trial varied from region to region. In peaceful regions acquittals were common, but in more frenzied areas just an accusation was enough to receive a death sentence. Counsel of defense was often permitted, however nobody wanted to defend an accused witch in fear of being accused themselves. Some of the more famous, and barbaric, ways to "test" if someone was a witch was to bind their hands and feet, throw them into the river and see if they floated. If they floated they were a witch and promptly executed, if they sank they were innocent, drowned, but innocent. Catholic countries often burned condemned witches while Protestant countries were more likely to hang. There was no justice in these trials, it simply brought out the frenzied mob mentality paired with the rampant sexism and paranoia which ended with the death of thousands of innocent people.
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