Just a quick note on where I stand on various issues
related to the Witchcraft Craze in Early Modern Europe.
As is pretty obvious from the rest of my site I am
a Pagan, a practioner of a modern Earth-based religious
system. I am also, however, a trained historian.
The Witches' Holocaust?
It is quite popular and often unchallenged within the
Pagan and particularly, the Witch community to see the
Witchhunts as "our" Holocaust. That the entire episode
was a systematic attempt by the increasingly powerful
Christian church and its emerging supporting secular
governments to wipe out the remanents of the Pagan folk
religions of ancient and early modern history.
I do not ascribe to this view, for several reasons.
Firstly, I think that any view that ascribes one causal
factor to such a far reaching, long and dramatic historical
event is simplistic and ignores the often complicated
background to these events.
Secondly, there is little if any evidence to support
this contention. Thirdly, while it may have been the
aim of the witch-hunters to find and destroy Satan and
his witches, were there any witches to find?
Were there Witches?
This brings us to another popular belief about the
time. That in fact many of those who died were in fact
witches. This is another contention that I do not agree
with. Many of those that died, went to their deaths
pleading innocence and begging the aid of the Christian
God to save them. Those who died did not believe themselves
witches, who are we to argue with this? While many undoubtly
practiced forms of folk medicine, and folk beliefs this
doesn't make them witches. There were many Pagan survivals
adopted by the Christian Church and probably many Pagan
survivals amongst the peasent population, but this doesn't
make them members of an underground Pagan religion.
How Many Died?
The other bone of contention in relation to the Witchcraft
Craze of Early Modern Europe, is the number of people
who were killed. A common number bandied about in the
Pagan community is 9 million. I think this number is
way to high. Even considering the number of years, in
deed centuries, over which the craze lasted, I doubt
that anywhere near that number were killed. Personally,
I believe the number more in the 100,000 - 300,000 range.
It is impossible to accurately calculate the numbers
killed. There are incomplete written records, there
were the underlying motives of those who conducted the
hunts (wishing to show their piety and faith by exagerating
the number they killed), there is also the sporadic
nature of the way in which the hunts were conducted
and the important difference between the number tried
and convicted and the actual number executed. It also
seems unlikely that the population of Europe would have
been able to support such a large loss without adverse
My aim in this section of my site is to provide some
of the current academic thinking in relation to this
period and the events that occured. If you would like
to contribute or make a comment, feel free to contact