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Were any prosecuted "witches" actually guilty of practicing witchcraft back in the middle ages?

I’m not even talking about the Salem Witch Trials — we know all those women and men were innocent and that was all the result of mass hysteria. What I’m talking about is back in like medieval England/France, countless people were accused of witchcraft and executed/burned at the stake for it. Most if not all were undoubtedly innocent, but were any actually guilty of practicing witchcraft? I guess what I’m asking is, was witchcraft actually practiced by anyone back then?

3 COMMENTS

  1. well im pretty sure some people practise it today(whether it is real or not) im sure some people truly believed it and tried to practise it back then too. so i say yes, some poeple could have been caught “red handed”. lol, i think that stuff was reciculous thoguh, burning people at the stake, and drowning them and if they got away they actually were witches lol, the minds of the ancient people amuse me 🙂

  2. Medieval Europe had plenty of burnings for Heresy and Witchcraft. Some were motivated by politics such as the Templar burnings or religious intolerance such as the persecution of the Cathars, Lollards and victims of the Inquisitions. Many of these had accusations of witchcraft and devil worship thrown in for good measure. Cases of witchcraft trials occurred such as ‘Mother Shipton’ but many were just old women or local hermits accused by jealous or hysterical peasantry. High profile cases such as Jeanne D’Arc were definitely politically motivated. 17th Century witch trials such as those carried out by Matthew Hopkins, the self acclaimed Witch finder General in the eastern counties of England were a mix of Puritan zeal and cynical greed on the part of Hopkins. Simple minded individuals, outsiders and local ‘Wise women’ were perfect victims for the jealous, hysterical zealots of the church and the simple greed of others.

  3. Almost certainly some of the people arrested actually did practice various forms of folk magic, or if they were educated, high ceremonial magic. The question is, what do you mean by witchcraft. The stereotype of the witch as it existed from the 14th to the 17th centuries, was of someone who didn’t merely practice magic, but also worshipped the devil, attended sabbats which they flew through the air to, and sacrificed children and took part in other depraved rites. It’s virtually certain that none of these things ever happened, and that the people prosecuted for them were tortured into confessing. Since European witches were prosecuted for heresy, not just for practicing magic, in that sense it can be said that they were innocent.
    Source: Norman Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons.

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