[MR] Wikipedia: Witch Trials

Garth Groff via Atlantia atlantia at seahorse.atlantia.sca.org
Sat Aug 19 02:43:43 PDT 2017

Noble Friends,

Normally in the SCA we don't pay much attention to witch trials, such 
topics being not among the "good parts" of history we prefer. But witch 
trials did take place during our period of interest, and are a 
legitimate area of study, even if (thankfully!) we chose to ignore them 
in how we "live the dream".

On this date in 1612, the "Samlesbury Witches", three Lancashire women, 
were tried for witchcraft. They were acquitted when the chief witness 
against them was denounced by the judge as"the perjuring tool of a 
Catholic priest". The Samlesbury trial is out of our period of interest 
(hence no link, but it is on Wikipedia). This led me to check Wikipedia 
for earlier witch trial activity within our period of interest.

I discovered the page "Witch trials in the early modern period" ( 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch_trials_in_the_early_modern_period ), 
which gives an interesting summary of the situation. I was surprised to 
learn that throughout most of our period of interest the Catholic Church 
generally did not prosecute against witchcraft through the Inquisition 
unless other crimes such as heresy were involved. This changed during 
the 15th century, particularly after the invention of the printing press 
allowed low-cost books about witchcraft to be widely distributed. Pope 
Innocent VIII issued the so-called "Witch Bull of 1484" which ordered 
the Inquisition to move against suspect witches and opened the flood 
gates of persecutions and extracted confessions under torture.

The article suggests that at this time, witch hunts and trials could be 
seen as influenced by the struggle between the Catholic Church and 
emerging Protestantism, as was certainly the case in the Samlesbury 
trial. Both faiths seem to have been quite keen on stamping out heresy, 
and accusations of witchcraft fit well into this atmosphere of paranoia 
and hatred.

King James VI of Scotland seems to have done a great job of fanning the 
flames of hysteria. He took a personal interest in the 1590 trials of 
witches in North Berwick: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Berwick_witch_trials . The North 
Berwick trials included accusations of witchcraft against one of the 
King's personal enemies, Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell. James 
was also responsible for the 1597 book DAEMONOLOGY, and considered 
himself an expert on the evils of witchcraft: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daemonologie .

The witch hysteria exploded during the 17th century, which is thankfully 
out of our period.

Yours Aye,

Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge

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