Between the 16th and 17th centuries, there were many recorded trials of men and women who landed in the unfortunate position of being accused of witchery. Most outcomes of witch trials ended in death for the accused – and sometimes the accuser if things went badly. During this time, the position of women, in particular, remained low – there was a direct negative correlation between the status of women and the level of “witch mania.” Adding to the fight for socio-economic equality and the increase in accusations of witchcraft, Charles V promised people a portion of the confiscated goods of those they reported, so it became common across Europe (except England) to have neighbors, friends, and even families turning one another in for fictionalized accusations of witchcraft.

This type of mania is not singular and has been seen in some form throughout history. The women caught up in the accusations and trials of witchcraft during this time fall into a category that has repeated itself most recently in the 1950s with McCarthyism and in the 1980s with “Satanic Panic.” This label of “other” and how it is used to single out and bring targeted groups of people to harm has been repeated throughout history.  I hope that through continued research and new ways of understanding why this keeps happening, we can find clues in our past to help stop or limit this from happening in the future. Witchcraft allegations are an essential indicator of social unrest, and by focusing on this topic, I hope that implications for the present and future will bring more positive insight into the concept of “other.” 

For a list of research material, use the following link: Resource Guide to Witch Mainia in the 16th & 17th Centuries.

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