“Red leaves, gift from earth, Birth to death and death to birth, Keep all evil far away, Day to night and night to day.”
You have to say it three times. This is a magic spell against nightmares or unwelcoming thoughts in your mind when you’re falling asleep. Splendid,doesn’t it? But what we know about this mysterious source of practices, these spells and malevolent rituals? As a matter of fact, according to some historians Elizabeth Woodville’s mother and herself practiced some form of magic in order Elizabeth to marry king Edward IV (1464-1483),weather is true or not she eventually married him and became queen of England. He was so genuinely captivated by her beauty that his passion led to secret marriage, which fueled the speculations even more . But that’s beside the point, as the history remains silent and does not let us revealing its secrets or distant speculations. Nevertheless, if we follow the mysterious path of the so-called witchcraft, it could turn us back into Roman times, when the first black magic practice appeared for the very first time. Everyone having the luck to be suspected of dark magic, for instance involving unexpected disease among cattle or flocks, was judged by the Law of the Twelve Tables and sentenced to death. But, this was not the time when the witchcraft was in its highest peak, so we need to point another direction again to the mediaeval century Europe veiled in mysterious uncertainty.
What was Witchcraft?
The definition of the witchcraft itself was vague and unsuitable in the most case,but one man put it excitedly well, his name was James Obelkevich – ‘It was a large, loose, pluralistic affair without any clear unifying principle. It encompassed superhuman beings and forces, witches and wise men and a mass of low-grade magical and superstitious practices. The whole was less than the sum of its parts, for it was not cosmos to be contemplated or worshipped but a treasury of separate and specific resources to be used or applied in concrete situations.’
Witchcraft in England
The main reasons why the witchcraft appeared in Europe were many,but one of them was both social and faithful insecurity by many people,mainly from the common people (peasants,farmers or craftsmen). In such a turbulent times, when the Black Death was howling around Europe, fear and confusion was taken place in people’s minds. They needed urgent evidence of security and solace, so they did find it. As a mother of fact, the witchcraft in England arrived as form of business rather than something else, since the witches (both women and men ,as they were called ‘witches’ and ‘cunning men’ ) possessed sufficient knowledge in the herbs’ usage and they provided alternative medicine to some disease or could indicate with certainty whether your horse is bewitched and so on.Regarding the use of various herbs their effect was intensified by spells that increased the psychological impact even more.
However, the witchcraft itself was never regarded as a heresy in England,but rather as illegal action, as in other places such as Scotland,France or Spain. Moreover, in England the use of torture with the aim of extracting confession from someone to be related with magic was never performed, very often the judges did not believe that the person possessed magic powers even if she or he claimed the opposite. Of course, the widespread belief was that they worshipped the Devil instead the God, but in England the fanatic scale of influence was not so high as it was in other places.Moreover, the church utterly rejected the claims that someone might possess super power over what God create, so there was nothing like ‘witch hunts’ in England,not at least by any authority. Quite controversially, the accusations came from people who knew the ‘witch’, usually her neighbours.
The classical circumstances under which allegation could be pressed were as follows : after quarrel between a woman and her neighbours, that woman might turn away and utter angry words in her rage, she was consequently regarded as a witch that told her curses. After that ,only one unexpected or bizarre event(like death of someone without reasonable explanation or even whether crisis) had to occur before the trail to take place in decent order and time. The case in which women were accused even falsely revealed much more of the social impact and pressure they received under these accusations. The people putted on trails were mainly women,since the Church viewed them as weaker and more predisposed to crush the boundaries between the good and evil. They were also women in destitute condition, often old and segregated from the rest of the society by the fact that they lead a solitary way of life. Another supposition in which many people willingly believe is the fact that the witches were not burned,but hanged in England. For example, many of them were put into prison if their crime didn’t involve the act of killing of someone, they had to wait for another much more serious accusation in order to be executed.
Finally, the witches apparently emerged in different locations in England in sporadic way , as in some place the episodes of magic’s performance were more commonplace thing rather in other parts of the country. For instance, in Hertfordshire which is north of London the prosecutions were 24 witchcraft cases, in Cheshire they were 34, but in Essex they were 270.
Witchcraft in Spain
In Spain the things were in quite different colours as the victimization of the witchcraft hurled up with unstoppable speed. In 1613 in Logrono in northern Spain during the summer it happened the biggest witch –hunt in its marvelous scale. The processions there took place from 1609 to 1614 covering around 7,000 cases, and in 1610 eleven of the witches were burned to death. Moreover, the judges received around 1,803 witchcraft confessions, from which 1,384 came from children between seven and fourteen. In addition to this ,another 5,000 accusations took place,but without being reported or confessed. Those 5,000 cases were brought to Madrid where the suprema court was taking place, fortunately enough they were announced as illegal due to lack of confessions and ample evidences to back them up.
Interestingly ,one of the judges who worked over those cases was Alonso de Salazaar who shone genuine interest what attributed to that paranoia of persecution. One of his most outstanding discoveries was that before the persecution the ” witch “work was unknown to many people. Moreover, during 1610-11 he observed many atrocities under the suspected witches were put though: that they were under the public scrutiny of the village people, often many often were tortured by being tied to trees in the cold winter nights or wave of stones were thrown at them when they were seen.
However , in 1610 mas-epidemic of highly influenced and stereotyped dreams took place in many villages in Spain. Many people , young ones and even children were swallowed by hysterical panic and shock by their dreams. The dreams mainly illustrated how they were taken to the witch Sabbath at night, being wrested out from their own beds. This could indicate the profound and negative impact of the witchcraft-hunt and how plaint were people at that time. Fortunately, an accusations against the children were not raised, in that case, but they blamed someone else for their devil dreams and so woman after woman were forced to shoulder the blame for that disturbing behavior.