Ponderin' the Past...in the witch-hunts!

For today's history post, I thought to take Ginger Garrett's recently released book, Wolves Among Us. The overwhelming subject that the reader learns about is the witch accusations and trials. I know we've posted about the Salem Witch Trial before, so I won't mention that time. This is more of the overall outbreak of witchcraft around the time of Wolves Among Us.

Wolves Among Us: A Novel (Chronicles of the Scribe)

The subject of witchcraft erupted in Europe around the mid 1400s. With the start of the reformation years(which is around when Wolves Among Us takes place) the outbreak of witchcraft hysteria with mass executions began to appear and the killing rate for witches increased considerably. Authorities in Geneva, Switzerland burned 500 accused witches at the stake in 1515. In Italy nine years later, a vast number of witchcraft charges led to as many as 1,000 executions.

The story of Scotland's witch-hunting was rather interesting, I thought. It began after the marriage of King James to Princess Anne of Denmark. Her ship that was carrying her to Scotland for the wedding got caught in a bad storm and she ended up having to take refuge in Norway. James traveled to her and the wedding ended up taking place in Denmark. After the royal newlyweds ended their honeymoon, they encountered another terrible storm and rough seas on their return home. The ship's captain blamed the storms on witches. When six Danish women confessed to "bedeviling" King James, he began to take witchcraft seriously. Back in Scotland the paranoid king authorized torture of suspected witches. Dozens of condemned witches in the North Berwick area were burned at the stake in what would be the largest witch-hunt in British history.

Over the 160 years from 1500 to 1660, Europe saw between 50,000 and 80,000 suspected witches executed. About 80% of those killed were women. execution rates varied greatly by country, from a high of about 26,000 in Germany to about 10,000 in France, 1,000 in England, and only 4 in Ireland. The lower death tolls in England and Ireland owed in part to better procedural safeguards in those countries for defendants.

I knew that the witch-hunts in the 1500s were vast and many people lost their lives innocently, but looking at the statistics is staggering. Wow. And if you pick up Wolves Among Us, you'll get a detailed story of one town in Germany that had to deal with witch-hunts and unjust executions. I encourage you to get a copy soon!
Category: 2 comments


Carol N Wong said...

I am very interested in the history of witch hunts. I visited Salem, Massachuettes. They have huge information center there with lots of books about the witchcraft trials and witchhunts. So if you are ever in the vacinity of Salem, be sure to go there. We also saw a play about one of the trials there.


Katie Marie said...

Carol - Really? That would be something to visit Salem, Massachuettes! The witch hunts interest me as well. Such a crazy time in history!

Watching a play of a trail would be really neat!!

~ Katy

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