Women have been suspected of witchcraft since ancient times. For example, the death penalty for witchcraft existed in Babylon 2000 BC. In ancient times, witches were also suspected of being witches. But never has the fight against witches been as widespread and brutal as in medieval Europe.
Almost all over Western Europe in the XV-XVII centuries the fires of the Inquisition blazed, on which tens of thousands of women, men and children accused of witchcraft were burned. So what caused this mass hysteria?
Historians attribute this to the fact that it was during this historical interval that the economic model of most Western European countries was no longer effective, the population was rapidly becoming poorer, and social tensions were rising. A wave of epidemics and crop failures only exacerbated the situation. It is no secret that people are often inclined to explain their plight by the intervention of otherworldly forces, the evil eye and spoilage. That is exactly what happened in those difficult times. The clergy declared witches to be the devil's accomplices, and witchcraft was equated to a mortal sin. Witches were now blamed for all cataclysms and personal misfortunes. It began to be considered that the more witches will be destroyed, the happier mankind will live.
And if in XII-XIII centuries the execution of witches was still a rare event, since XIV century, the reprisals became massive. It is known that more than 400 witches were burned in squares at the same time. The situation worsened after the publication of the bull on witches by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484. Witches were burned everywhere - in France, Belgium, Italy, but Germany especially distinguished itself
Some of the judges even competed in the number of victims. Anyone who was even slightly different from the rest of the inhabitants could go to the bonfire. The most beautiful, the fattest, the blindest, and the crippled from birth were burned. All differences were considered evidence of collusion with the devil. A small denunciation from a neighbor who thought his pig had died because of an unkind look from a woman living nearby was enough to get into the clutches of the Inquisition.
But it was not only the Inquisition that was rampant. Witches were sent to their deaths and ordinary citizens. So in the Duchy of Hesse one of the tribunals headed by a common soldier. And together with his jurors (simple peasants) he condemned people to burn on the slightest occasion. Often with accusations of witchcraft and denunciations people found a way to get rid of their rivals: doctors eliminated their rivals - more successful village healers, girls denounced their prettier housemates, etc. Both Catholics and Protestants participated in witch hunts. The ideological leaders of the latter - Calvin and Martin Luther - often personally participated in the executions and even invented new ways to prolong the agony of burning witches. For example, Calvin suggested making bonfires of raw wood, which made the execution last longer.
Even more terrifying were the instruments of torture invented by the inquisitors to force witches to confess their evil intentions. The "witch's chair" with its sharp spikes, the rack, and boiling water in the boots were all used to force a confession. The discovery of the "devil's mark" on the witch's body was one of the clearest proofs of guilt. This is the reason why it is now said that the Inquisition fought leprosy under the pretext of witch-hunting.
However, some mediaevalists are inclined to believe that the Inquisition thus tried to destroy nascent feminism. And how not to recall in this regard the most famous execution of May 30, 1431 in Rouen, when Joan of Arc, accused of witchcraft, was burned.
It wasn't until the mid-18th century that the witch trials came to an end. Why did this happen? Gradually the level of education grew, the conditions of human life improved. In certain social circles, belief in witchcraft began to be considered bad taste. Knowledge of medicine was increasing, which meant that many of the oddities of the human body were now explained scientifically rather than being thrown into the fire for them. Gradually witch trials were outlawed. But individual lynchings and lynchings continued for more than a hundred years. The last known witch was burned in Mexico in 1860. Historians have estimated that since the Middle Ages, about 80,000 people have been executed for witchcraft