Salem Witch Trials Essay

1478 Words 6 Pages
The Salem witch trials began with the accusation of people in Salem of being witches. But the concept of witchcraft started far before these trials and false accusations occurred. In the early Christian centuries, the church was relatively tolerant of magical practices. Those who were proved to have engaged in witchcraft were required only to do penance. But in the late Middle Ages (13th century to 14th century) opposition to alleged witchcraft hardened as a result of the growing belief that all magic and miracles that did not come unambiguously from God came from the Devil and were therefore manifestations of evil. Those who practiced simple sorcery, such as village wise women, were increasingly regarded as practitioners of diabolical …show more content…
Theologians, influenced by Aristotelian rationalism, increasingly denied that "natural" miracles could take place and therefore alleged that anything supernatural and not of God must be due to commerce with Satan or his minions. Later, the Reformation, the rise of science, and the emerging modern world—all challenges to traditional religion created deep anxieties in the orthodox population. At the dawn of the Renaissance (15th century to 16th century) some of these
Developments began to coalesce into the "witch craze" that possessed Europe from about 1450 to 1700. During this period, thousands of people, mostly innocent women, were executed on the basis of "proofs" or "confessions" of witchcraft that is, of sorcery practiced through Allegiance to Satan obtained by means of cruel tortures. A major force for the hysteria was the papal bull Summis Desiderantes issued by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484. It was included as a preface in the book Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches) published by two Dominican inquisitors in 1486. In the years of the witch-hunting mania, people were encouraged to inform against one another. Professional witch finders identified and tested suspects for evidence of witchcraft and were paid a fee for each conviction. The most common test was pricking: All witches were supposed to have somewhere on

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