Elizabethan Witchcraft: An Era of Persecution

Fuelled by the hate campaigns against witches, ordinary people and nobility alike started blaming witches for every bit of misfortune that came about. Blame for everything ranging from bad harvests, to fires, to animal disease and even to the Bubonic Plague were ascribed to the evil powers of Witches. The problem was though, that not only Witches were targeted in this frenzy. Most of the victims of the ensuing genocide were not practitioners of the Craft at all, but ordinary Christian women, children and men. Because men were powerful and women were viewed as inherently sinful, they made up the bulk of the suspects and the bulk of the convicted. As a result of the ensuing Witch hunts, 270 Elizabethan witch trials were conducted. 247 of the suspects were women and only 23 were men. The women accused were mostly old, poor and unprotected. Many were single women or widows and many kept pets for company. These pets were said to be their ‘familiars’. Most of them lacked beauty – at a time when ugliness was considered a sign of evil. In the trials for Maleficium, which is the use of diabolical power to cause harm, only 13% of those accused went free.

The hunts continued as did the trials beyond the reign of Elizabeth I. James I – a self proclaimed expert in identifying witches – saw to that. Fortunately and in spite of the fact that the laws on Witchcraft remained in place for a further century or more, by 1700 the frenzy had died down and most respectable people no longer paid attention to or believed in the existence of Witches anymore.

Sadly, it was too late. Much, if not most of the information on the practice of the Craft during the Elizabethan era, has been lost. Forever.

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Rose Ariadne: Providing “Magickal” answers to your Pagan, Wiccan, Witchcraft spell casting questions since 2006.

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