Witch Hunts And What Characteristics Made A Witch
Being a witch in the old days was not only unique, it was a downright health hazard. The witch trials of the sixteenth century almost wiped out witches everywhere as well as a good many mn and women who were innocent of any crime. The witch trials were a time when religion and religious people used might, power and cruelty to enforce their own will upon the people. If you were independent or in the way, look out because they labelled you a witch.
The most common assumption of witchcraft in days gone by was the cooperation of mortals with devils with the intent to harm others. It was believed that witches had a spiteful alliance with evil forces rather than an alliegance to God.
What were the characteristics of a witch?
Anyone who had a scar or birthmark could be targeted as being a witch. During the Salem Witch Trials, if someone had a vision of you as a witch it was enough for the judge and jury to condemn you.
Although anyone could be accused of witchcraft, chances were higher if you were widowed, if you were middle aged, if you had few or no children, if you had a temper, if you were suspected of petty theft or other small crimes, if you were of a Puritan background or if an accused witch herself accused you of witchcraft. If you were poor and depended on the neighbors, they would often accuse you of witchcraft – problem solved.
The Salem Witch Hunt and Trials
During the frenzy of the Salem Witch Trials, fifty nine people in total were accused of witchcraft. Fifty two were women and seven were male. Out of these, fourteen women were hung and so were five men. The townspeople were convinced that these people were witches, but what caused this frenzy? The Salem Witch Hunts started off with one woman, a slave woman named Tituba, being accused of witchcraft by two young girls and it snowballed from there. Typically, a woman who was accused was middle aged or older with a strong willed personality and either wealthy or extrememly poor. Many of those accused in the Salem witch trials were linked to property – women did not usually inherit property but if there were no husbands or brothers, they occasionally did inherit. This did not sit well with the puritan lifestyle of Salem and many women who were outspoken, wealthy or independent were falsley accused of witchcraft to get rid of them. Women who tended to the sick and dying were accused of witchcraft, and women everywhere were at the mercy of spiteful young girls who would behave erratically and blame others, pointing the figer of witchcraft.
At the outset of the trials, men were not accused of witchcraft. During the height of the frenzy, men who were accused of being witches were in fact related to women who had been accused initially. One of the most famous men accused of witchcraft was John Proctor. He was a well off farmer and tavern keeper who was married to a woman from a prominent family in Salem.
Globally, over the period of the witch hunts it is believed that more than 80,000 people were persecuted and killed. These were primarily women, many of whom held the knowledge of herbal folklore and other learning leaving a hole in our knowledge today. Religion was a driving factor, with many people backing up their accusations with the bible "Thou shalt not suffer a witch". Others blame the shifting economic climate and an effort to maintain power over the poor. No matter the reason, thousands of people were senselessly persoecuted, tortured and punished.