During the late fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries, thousands of individuals were persecuted as witches. It was thought that these individuals practiced black magic and performed evil deeds, the deeds of the devil. This all happened during a time of great change in Europe, during the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, and the consolidation of national governments. They were persecuted for a variety of reasons, but three major ones were religious reasons, social prejudices, and the economic greed of the people. Religious leaders such as Martin Luther and John Calvin influenced the ideas of their followers. Religion dominated the time period and it’s easy to see how many opinions were shaped by the religion. Socially it is quite evident that the Europeans held many prejudices, mainly against older women. They were not loved in society so they were tried as witches when something bad would happen involving them. Also, people used the idea of witchcraft as a means for economic gains. When someone was tried and killed, their money, goods or wares, and all their belongings were taken, usually by the accuser. Some saw this as a way to increase their personal wealth.
The witch craze took place between 1480-1700, encompassing both the Protestant and Catholic Reformations. The religious philosophies and the influence of the prevalent religious leaders of the time played a crucial role in the progression of the accused. Religion dominated the time period and it’s easy to see how many opinions were shaped by the religion. A great example is Martin Luther. Luther preaches that “sorcerers or witches are the Devil’s whores who…torture babies in their cradles…force people into love and immortality.” He then states that the Devil himself is capable of doing these by himself, but chooses to use humans to carry out his evil deeds. (Doc. 10) As Luther was quite influential, it’s known that he shaped the beliefs and...
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