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Elizabethan Era Witches and Witchcraft

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When children are little they sometimes like to dress up as witches or wizards and think how cool it would actually be one. However, back in the 15th century, people wouldn’t agree. People in the Elizabethan era were killed because they were witches. The citizens who killed the “witches” and accused others of being witches were just scared of the changing world. People of the era thought all the new inventions were made and discovered because witches created them. It got to the point that even owning some common herbs meant death.

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During the Elizabethan era the ignorance of the people resulted in the killing of the witches. The image of a witch developed over time and it was based on the idea of an old single women. The witches’ broom stick was added to witches because it was a common household item of women and it was the explanation of how witches could travel long distances in such a short time.

These days, witches are seen as old hags. That image was given to them because the women accused were single and did not have a man to defend them.

Because these single women would often own a cat or other animals, the animals was seen as a familiar; an evil spirit in animal form that does evil deeds for its companion. One of the more famous superstitions is that witches brewed potions. Wise woman would often be able to create medicines from common herbs. (Elizabethan-superstitions) The reason so many people knew about herbs and how to craft poisons is that witchcraft was seen as religion and so was passed on from generation to generation. (Witchcrafthistory) Bibles are one of the main ways the idea of witches and their witchcraft being evil was spread.

Bibles were the first of the printed books, and since the bible was so popular many people read it. In the bible, the witches were talked of in slanderous terms. Also there was limited knowledge at the time, so when something bad happened and no one knew the answer, there had to be someone to blame, so they blamed witches. Mainly those accused of being witches were the poor, old, and single women who often had pets considered to be their familiars. (Elizabethan-witchcraft-and-witches) The bible supported the idea of witchcraft as being a religion.

Witchcraft was broken up into two groups, the white and the black witches. The white witches used herbs to rid people of their illness. This knowledge was passed from generation to generation. The black witches were said to have used their knowledge to harm people, animals, and properties. Some widows who were accused of being witches were also said to have killed their husbands. The religion based on witchcraft is now called Wicca to escape persecution and harassment. Wiccans don’t require any kind of sacrifice the Wiccans draw the required energy from their surroundings. Witchcrafthistory) With the passing of the Elizabethan Witchcraft act in 1562, it didn’t matter if you were a white or black witch, and with this the witch hunts began. (Elizabethan-witchcraft-and-witches) In 1562 there was a new, witchcraft law in place. It stated that lesser crimes of witchcraft resulted in the witch being pilloried. This is when someone’s head and hands are in between two pieces of wood. Burning wasn’t a method England used to get rid of the witches, but it was used by the French and Spanish.

Torture wasn’t allowed as a part of investigation or punishment. Sorcery wasn’t seen as heresy in the new law; crime against religion wasn’t the prosecuted. Some say that Queen Elizabeth showed interest in astrology, which may explain her leniency towards witches. In Essex, 13% of the trials were for witchcraft; 63 were accused and 53 were found guilty. (Elizabethan-witchcraft-and-witches) Most of the accused confessed even though torture wasn’t allowed. Back in the 15th and 16th century lives weren’t valued like they are now, so people would just say they were a witch. Elizabethanenglandlife) In total there were 270 trails against witches and only 23 of them were against men! This was because men were seen as all powerful and women knew much of what they considered witchcraft. (Elizabethan-witchcraft-and-witches) The Renaissance didn’t help stop the idea of witch hunts, instead it helped the idea. Alchemy, astrology, and magic came into play when the Renaissance started. (Sarkis) The idea that witches could use their powers for evil made the witch hunts even more of a need. The main reason the witch hunts happened was because everyone was scared.

People don’t like the unknown and will destroy it or will do experiments to figure it out. Although the people during the Elizabethan era mistreated the witches and misunderstood witchcraft, it is the people who were accused fault, not the accusers. If the people accused were indeed innocent and wanted to live they could have proven that they were. The lack of knowledge is a key factor to the witches’ deaths. For if everyone had some basic knowledge like we do today this whole event could have possible been avoided.

Cite this Elizabethan Era Witches and Witchcraft

Elizabethan Era Witches and Witchcraft. (2017, Jan 24). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/elizabethan-era-witches-and-witchcraft/

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