About the Witchhunts
The period of the 'Great European Witch-hunt's' started around 1450. There are many theories as to why the witch-hunts started in the first place (which are neatly outlined at this website - which, should be noted, belongs to a Catholic College); but the flames were certainly fed by Pope Innocent VIII's 1484 papal bull, in which he condemned an alleged outbreak of witchcraft and heresy in the Rhine River valley and deputized the authors of Malleus Maleficarum (a judicial case-book for the detection and persecution of witches that translates as The Hammer of Witches) to root out all witchcraft in Germany.
Persecution died out in the early 1700s with the Age of Enlightenment. The last execution in England was in 1716, in Germany in 1738 and in Switzerland in 1782. Estimates vary greatly as to the numbers who were killed, but the current best estimates appear to be around 30-50,000, predominantly women, but in some areas such as Scandinavia, men and women were targeted more or less equally.
According to the extensive author's note at the back of The Witch's Trinity, the idea that midwives and healers formed the bulk of the accused has now been disproved - it seems that the elderly, the poor and those living on the fringes of society were the main targets.
Erika Mailman grew up in Vermont and now lives in Oakland, California. She is a graduate of Colby College and the University of Arizona, Tucson. She writes a local history column for the Montclarion newspaper and is the author of two novels, A Woman of Ill Fame and The Witch's Trinity.
This article was originally published in October 2007, and has been updated for the
October 2008 paperback release.
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