The Witch-Craze In Europe

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The "Witch-Craze"� in Europe A strange picture of witchcraft was drawn by writers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries during the witch-craze: The sun has gone down, and while the honest people lay asleep, the witches of the world quietly slip out of bed so as not to disturb their house. The cult meets, where the new member being initiated swears to keep secrets and seals his or her faith with a kiss to the devil. When the initiation has been completed, the assembly takes part in feasting and drinking. The witches enact a parody of Eucharist feast and bring in the bodies of the children and infants they have previously murdered. After the feast, the orgy commences. Cries of "mix it up"� are heard, and each person takes the one next to him. The encounters are indiscriminate: men with men, women with women, brothers with sisters, mothers with sons.

When the orgy finally concludes, the witches all take ritual leave of their devil master, and return home to their sleeping spouse.

Such a scene never occurred, but this is what was almost universally believed to happen at a witch's sabbat. Jeffrey B. Russell stated, "What people believe to be true influences their actions more than what is objectively true, and the conviction that this picture was accurate brought about the execution of hundreds of thousands of people. The charges on which these people were put to death were at best distorted and exaggerated; at worst they were an invention and an imposture."� Modern ideas of the witch have been simplified to the point of caricature. The crude woodcuts which accompanied early witchcraft pamphlets are very similar, although contemporaries would have seen nothing odd about the dress or the hat, which were the normal attire of older women.