HST 376 – Paper 2
October 18, 2012
The Reformations Role in Rise and Decline of the Witch Hunts and the Change in Magic The Reformation era was a time of great change in Early Modern Europe. Sixteenth and seventeenth century Europeans were attempting to make sense of the frightening events that were happening, such as the Black Death and famine. To find meaning in a world that seemed in constant chaos, early modern Europeans looked to find patterns that would set things right. “The Reformation would not have happened if ordinary people had not convinced themselves that they were actors in a cosmic drama plotted by God: that in the Bible he had left them a record of his plans and directions as to how to carry them out.” The Reformations brought a new direction of faith, where one had to be more active in one’s own salvation. They also brought a profound sense of the fear of hell, and this directed much of the actions of the reformed. The Reformations were a catalytic force in the rise of the witch hunts during sixteenth- and seventeenth- century Europe because they brought a new emphasis on the fear of the devil, a new direction of faith that required personal accountability and brought a sense of guilt to the one that felt they were not doing as they should, and did away with the familiar tokens and practices of magic that characterized an aspect of pre-Reformation, early modern European religion. The Reformations also contributed to the decline of the witch hunts as theology evolved during the time period to include an awareness of the sovereignty of God as well as Biblical literalism.
The Reformations contributed to the development of the witch hunts in several ways, the first being a new emphasis on the fear of the devil. In terms of the Protestant Reformation, this was not necessarily a contradiction to former Catholic beliefs of demonology, as Catholics had an awareness of the presence of the devil. It was simply a new
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