The Prevalence Of Female Witches Essay

The Prevalence Of Female Witches Essay

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The prevalence of female witches across Europe between 1570 and 1630 has received significant attention from historians. In order to determine the reasons for the high number of women tried for the crime of witchcraft it is important to discuss the key areas. One theory argues that women were specifically targeted by systems of power in communities and courts. Another theory is the idea that typically female traits were more readily aligned with the devil, and the practice of harmful magic. The ways in which instances of male witchcraft are explained by both of these theories will also be discussed. Further, several socioeconomic factors may have contributed the high number of women accused of witchcraft during the ‘witch-hunt era’.

One theory, that is common amongst the general public, is the idea that women accounted for the vast majority of those accused of witchcraft because systems of power in communities and courts were actively and purposely prosecuting, and working against women, rather than men. This theory had been present in the mindset of society for centuries after the era of witch-hunting had ended, with works in the 1800s explaining similar ideas. However, the theory evolved and came to fruition as it is known today, in the 1970s. Radical feminists, and feminist historians argue that the witch-hunts were essentially ‘woman-hunts’, whereby men attempted to exert control over seemingly powerful women that may have threatened the patriarchal society. This theory also argues that the legalities of witchcraft cases at the time, specifically the torturous punishments used against prosecuted witches, as evidence of the systems of power actively ‘hunting’ women to fuel their own misogynistic agenda of control. This theory...


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...s important because it was not only women who were tried; between the period of 1450 and 1750, 20 percent to 25 percent of those executed for the crime of witchcraft across Europe were men. Further, men made up 90 percent of those accused of witchcraft in Iceland, 50 percent in Finland and 60 percent in Estonia. In Male Witches in Early Modern Europe Lara Apps and Andrew Gow argue that society and demonologists at the time of witch trials associated witches with women. However, through counting instances of female and male terms when referring to witches, Apps and Gow revealed that most did not think of witches as being exclusively female, that men could also be tempted by evil. Similarly, in The Gendering of Witchcraft: Defense Strategies of Men and Women in German Witchcraft Trials Laura Kounine argues that ideas of good and evil, and masculine and feminine was

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