The Elizabethan Belief in Witches



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The Elizabethan Belief in Witches
During the Elizabethan era, people labeled unexplainable events as the work of witches. There were frequent outbreaks of the deadly Bubonic Plague for which there was no cure at that time. The terror and fury about this terrible disease had to be directed at someone, and witches were an obvious target. When people or animals died from horrible diseases, when there was a poor harvest, when houses or properties were burnt down in fires, and even when food spoiled, witches were blamed. During this time period, there was limited medical knowledge or facilities and there was no form of insurance. Such events as those described above were devastating and there was no means of minimizing their terrible effects on the lives of Elizabethans. Someone had to be blamed, and witches were the popular scapegoat.

Who were the people accused of being Elizabethan Witches?
Women were those most often accused of being witches. There were approximately 270 Elizabethan witch trials, and only 23 were men! Those accused of witchcraft were generally old, poor, unprotected, single women or widows (many kept pets for company - their 'familiars').

Queen Elizabeth and the Punishment of Elizabethan Witches
The hysteria and paranoia regarding witches which was experienced in Europe did not fully extend to England during the Elizabethan era. Queen Elizabeth I passed a new and harsher witchcraft law in 1562, but it did not define sorcery as heresy. Witches convicted of “murder by witchcraft” were executed by hanging. Lesser crimes relating to witchcraft resulted in the convicted witch being humiliated. Torture was not allowed as part of the investigatory or punishment procedure for witches.

The Elizabethan Belief in Witches
During the Elizabethan era, people labeled unexplainable events as the work of witches. There were frequent outbreaks of the deadly Bubonic Plague for which there was no cure at that time. The terror and fury about this terrible disease had to be directed at someone, and witches were an obvious target. When people or animals died from horrible diseases, when there was a poor harvest, when houses or properties were burnt down in fires, and even when food spoiled, witches were blamed. During this time period, there was limited medical knowledge or facilities and there was no form of insurance. Such events as those described above were devastating and there was no means of minimizing their terrible effects on the lives of Elizabethans. Someone had to be blamed, and witches were the popular scapegoat.

Who were the people accused of being Elizabethan Witches?
Women were those most often accused of being witches. There were approximately 270 Elizabethan witch trials, and only 23 were men! Those accused of witchcraft were generally old, poor, unprotected, single women or widows (many kept pets for company - their 'familiars').

Queen Elizabeth and the Punishment of Elizabethan Witches
The hysteria and paranoia regarding witches which was experienced in Europe did not fully extend to England during the Elizabethan era. Queen Elizabeth I passed a new and harsher witchcraft law in 1562, but it did not define sorcery as heresy. Witches convicted of “murder by witchcraft” were executed by hanging. Lesser crimes relating to witchcraft resulted in the convicted witch being humiliated. Torture was not allowed as part of the investigatory or punishment procedure for witches.


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