On Aug. 10 mark World Day against the witch hunt. Held for the first time this year, the day by the Papal Missionary Association (German called Missio) created to unravel a global problem that is still affecting so many people today.
From the late 15th to 18th centuries, about 60,000 people across Europe had been in action because it was said to be a witch. Violations that are alleged to be flying on snowballs or causing a loss of season are severely punished. Many of the confessed people were forced through torture and the way they were being assaulted was often horrible.
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Wolfgang Behringer is a professor of early modern history at the University of Saarland in Saarbrücken and is very well versed in the history of belief in cooperation. The historian told DW of similarities between the past and the present day.
Wolfgang Behringer: Call somebody who is a witch who’s been bad. You can call somebody so because you want to harm them, or because you are afraid of someone you assign to magical power.
In Europe, they are usually women, but not always. There are certainly similarities between being attributed to witches in Europe and in other parts of the world such as in Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia. In many cases, suspicion aimed at older women who have no relatives can protect them and resist women who are probably a little odd.
In anthropology, it is said that they are related to unhappiness – and that is reality. It is about personal unhappiness, for example, the illness of a child, a paralyzing attack, or the sudden death of a child. What kind of case affects the individual. There are also collective misfortuonality, such as when cattle die or hail destroys crops. Then, not only have each playback appear, but the entire community asks the authorities to prosecute the witches to stop the disaster.
The hunt for realistic witches in Europe began only until the 15th century when the Roman Church agreed to the point that this crime could even exist. Before that, since Christianity was early in the Middle Ages, the Church considered the witch to be truly a spiritual fault.
But in the process of suppression of those who deviate from the faith, in the 15th century, the Roman Church came to the conclusion that the witch art was real. That’s when things become risky in Europe; When not only the people but both the church and the state courts also believed in witches. This “lawful” witch suppression extends from the 15th century to the 18th century. In Europe, it peaked around 1560 to 1630.