Attitudes towards Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe: Scapegoat for Unusual Losses As a part of human nature, people tend to feel secure when they can explain an unexpected situation. In the 17th century, people had not yet possessed enough knowledge to explain as many natural phenomena as we do now, and that was probably when the concept “witchcraft” came in as an answer key to all unexplainable things. And, of course, with little knowledge about how “witchcraft” worked, people were generally afraid of this concept. The Trial of Tempel Anneke collects primary sources from that period of time and gives us an idea about so-called “witch-hunt of early modern Europe” and people’s attitude towards witchcraft, most of which was considered harmful. First of all, while magic could be used for either benevolent or malevolent purposes, general public were very afraid of harmful low magic and this fear was one of the factors leading to the popularity of witchcraft. This fear was a result of a linking of two distinct understandings of witchcraft – “maleficium” and “diabolism”. Maleficium refers to harmful magic, which is part of God’s natural creation, while diabolism, as a real crime of witchcraft, means gaining powers through a pact with the Devil. The linking of diabolism to maleficium defined the identity of a witch – a harmful sorcerer and devil worshippers – and led the legal authority to conduct investigations and prosecutions to those accused of witchcraft (Morton, xxiv-xxvi). Considering the fact that Brunswick was part of the Holy Roman Empire at this time, and Christianity played an important role in everyone’s lives, the notion of the witch as an agent of the Devil caused the fear from the general public as well as the proliferation of witch trials. One thing I found interesting about several cases in the trial of Temple Anneke is that people are afraid of witchcraft that they even condemned the good deeds they believed the witch did. For example, Hans...
Cited: Morton, Peter, ed. The Trial of Tempel Anneke: Records of a Witchcraft Trial in Brunswick, Germany, 1663. Print.
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