12 Crazy Reasons Why Your Ancestors Were Accused Of Witchcraft
During the Early Modern Period, Europe played host to the witch trials which were caused by moral and religious panic. People believed that the Devil had possessed and convinced mankind to join his allegiance on Earth and would do his bidding to help spread evil by practising witchcraft and dabbling in the Occult. Whilst this may seem silly to you, fear of those who don’t know any better created mass hysteria and the presence of witches, as well as the Supernatural, were believed to be very real.
Of course, who could label the witch hunts and trials as irrational and inhumane when the King himself imposed the law to burn witches and even participated in the trials? If anyone had any doubt about the existence of Dark Magic then all they had to go was follow the law like a good citizen and help to abolish this evil. James VI published a book, Daemonologie, in 1597 defending his rights to torture and kill witches (male and female) who were threatening his position and the authority of the Church with their wicked ways.
The fear of the Supernatural and the distrust that the public then had with their neighbours led to the mass execution of thousands of innocent people across Europe. They were tortured to the point where they confessed to performing witchcraft just so that they could finally die, and the most popular methods of execution were burning witches at the stake or drowning them. Witches were thrown into a river or lake, tied to a stone, and if they drowned then they were innocent, but if they floated they were guilty and would then be burned at the stake. Either way, they died.
So what would you need to have done to get you accused of practising witchcraft in the Early Modern Period?
You Were Poor
Being poor meant you did not have the financial resources to defend yourself so others just blamed the presumed crime on you. Conversely if you were a woman who was (and still is, cough....) considered a second class citizen but you were financially independent, clearly you must be a witch since you were able to do well without the help of a husband or male family member. So as a woman especially the situation was pretty much lose/lose at either end of the spectrum.
Walking In Groups
You might have thought there would be safety in numbers but indeed if you were a group of women walking together or seen together the assumption would be you are a coven of witches off to have orgiastic bestial demonic rites which included the devil (and possibly too good a time!). But really safety in numbers was very much a wrong assumption to make. If you had a group of friends you pretty much were going to be labeled a witch and killed.
If You were too beautiful, Ugly or had any Deformities
Again you couldn't win here. If you were deemed too beautiful you had cast a spell upon yourself to seduce souls into your evil realm. If you had any marks, deformities or were deemed too ugly, you were obviously the devil's. Before being killed women were shaved of all hair to show all the devil's marks and or marks their familiars had left in feeding. I guess being strictly average was the way to go during the witch trials era. Again come to think of it, not that much has changed....
You Had No Or Few Children
If you were married and you and didn’t have many children, or no children at all, then you might have been accused of being a witch. This is because your neighbors would have assumed that you were dedicated your own lives to the devil, as having children sort of takes up a majority of your time and if you’re not having sex with your spouse, then you’re having sex with Satan.
Whilst you may have just had difficulty in conceiving, your neighbors wouldn’t accept any medical excuse.
- Then again if you had too many children you may have asked Satan for help with that too, so again you were pretty much out of luck no matter which...-
If You Struggled To Speak In Public
One method of discovering who was a witch was by getting the accused to read out a passage of scripture. It was understood that witches could not read scripture out loud but bearing in mind that not everyone could actually read in those days, it wasn’t really a fair trial. If you couldn’t read because you were never taught then this wasn’t a legitimate excuse, you weren’t illiterate, you were a witch. If you could read and stumbled on a word; you were a witch.
You Produced Quality Livestock
If you did anything better than your neighbour, then they would probably accuse you of being a witch. Everyone could accuse anyone they wanted and if you were good at something then they would use this against you.
- You'd better hope your grass wasn't greener than your neighbors back then -
Due to the mass panic and hysteria that the witch trials created, pets weren’t really seen as pets anymore, but a person’s familiar. A familiar is an animal that can take a variety of forms which appears to someone who is in need; if they are poor, grieving, or struggling to survive, their familiar will appear to them in order to help them by blessing them with magical powers.
Naturally, there were some animals which people were more suspicious of than others. Cats, particularly those with black fur were seen as being a sort of reincarnation of Satan as the colour was synonymous with evil. Dogs also weren’t trusted of being actual canines, but the devil in disguise (as were some birds, frogs and iguanas). So if you owned any of these animals, you were more likely going to be accused of being a witch.
If You Openly Caused Someone Pain Or Distress
Even if you had an argument with someone that happened behind closed doors, it would become public news soon afterwards because whoever you were having a disagreement with, would claim that you attacked them. Similarly if you did something to hurt or annoy someone in public, like accidentally walk in to them on the way to Church, then you were deliberately going out of your way to spread evil.
As there was no limit to the amount of people that you could accuse of being a witch, you would do anything to avoid being judged and trialled yourself. So many people pointed the finger at anyone in order to save themselves and often made up arguments for the sake of an execution.
If You Were Caught Having Sex
If you were caught having sex out of wedlock then whoever walked in on you, pretty much condemned you. Not only was it a big no no in the eyes of the Church, but it also branded you as a harlot and in some places, this was punishable by death. If you were with child then things got even worse, as in some cases you were killed before the baby was born or the child was slaughtered as soon as it was delivered.
This is because no one wanted a baby Satan growing up in their village.
If Your Friend Or Relative Was Accused Of Witchcraft
If you knew anyone who was killed for being a witch then you were likely to be accused too, purely out of association. You are judged by the company you keep and if someone close to you was convicted of dabbling in the Supernatural, then chances are, you would have been likely to have joined in with them.
If you were trialled and not convicted as being a witch (which was extremely rare) then you would have been killed anyway, for protecting and associating with a proven witch.
If Your Clothes Were Too Clean
If your clothes were cleaner than everyone else’s then it was because you were dabbling in dark magic instead of being really good at washing, or shopping for new clothes. Similarly, if your clothes were too dirty and covered in mud (because you were poor) it was actually because you had been rolling around in the mud, on top of a mountain, performing a witches Sabbath.
If in doubt, always go for the in between stage – not too dirty, but not too clean.
If You Were A Human Being
We’ve pretty much learned that all you had to do to be accused and convicted of being a witch, was to be a human being. It didn’t matter if you were poor, rich, old, young, single, married, a loner, popular, male, female or had any pets; if someone pointed the finger at you, it was likely that you were going to die shortly afterwards.
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