The origins of the persecution of people on charges of witchcraft lie in antiquity – in ancient Rome and Greece. The first case of the burning of a “witch” in medieval Europe was recorded in 1128 in Flanders.
So, the apogee of its so-called witch-hunt reached in Western Europe XV-XVIII centuries. Then, in order to be accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake, a woman, say, had to be just very beautiful … Or have a black cat at home. Or maybe just cross the road for someone important!
It is believed that with the help of show trials of “witches”, Catholics strengthened their shattered authority and instilled fear in the surrounding population. And the Protestants just gained this very authority. And at the same time they switched the people’s anger to “scapegoats” in the form of women accused of witchcraft.
Auto-da-fé in Europe
Witch-hunting spread throughout modern Western Europe. And even stepped across the ocean – to the British North American colonies, where the English Puritan Protestants moved. According to various sources, Europeans for about three hundred years of hunting for witches managed to destroy from 50 to 200 thousand of their most beautiful countrywomen…
By the way, Catholics stopped chasing witches en masse much earlier than Protestants. At the beginning of the 17th century, the Spanish Inquisition itself proclaimed that witches and demons did not exist. But the Protestants could not leave this matter until the very end of the 18th century.
But Orthodox Russia practically did not know witch hunting – we did not have reformation and religious wars, there was no point in asserting itself by tsarist and spiritual power by persecuting women.
Why were witches burned?
By the way, not everyone knows why the Europeans burned witches accused of witchcraft. And not, say, just cut off their heads. There are several reasons for that.
The Catholic Church tried “even to be merciful to witches.” And I wanted to “do without the shedding of blood.” Therefore, the ladies accused of witchcraft were sent to the stake. In any case, “the soul does not suffer – it will go to God.”
But superstitious Protestants feared the resurrection of these same witches. It was believed that the only way to defeat witchcraft spells was with a cleansing fire. Otherwise, the witch will simply resurrect and punish those who tried to deal with her.
In addition, burning at the stake, auto-da-fé, is also a long public show in the central square of the city. It was very entertaining for the medieval public, eager for any spectacle! At the same time, she was frightened and disciplined …
It is no coincidence that the townspeople hurried to look at the fires, wearing their best clothes. Even from the farthest outskirts of the city…
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