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Burn the Witch: 5 Notorious Witch Trials in History

Burn the Witch: 5 Notorious Witch Trials in History

Term “witch hunt” in the modern sense refers to one person’s attempt to humiliate the other person without clear reason. These are generally the false accusations to satisfy the ego of one person. Though we can easily discredit such cases of witch hunt these days, it was a serious thing in the past. There were 5 infamous witch trials that attempted to hunt down those who were allegedly witches.

Basque Witch Trials

The Basque witch trials took place in the 17th century by the Spanish Inquisition. By far, this has become the biggest witch hunt in history. Up to 7,000 individuals were examined after all.

Witch trials in Basque
7000 cases recorded were related to the accusation of practicing witchcraft

There were no clear reasons why the trial began. And there was no reports of the witchcraft in the area. But insightful scholars believed that it was the church trying to suppress old customs and bring the new ones to the regions. These witch hunts continue up to 2,000 cases. Many of them were the children who confessed to beingĀ  witches. Up to 5,000 cases were also involved. But years later, those who had confessed recanted by saying those confessions were the result of the torture.

Matthew Hopkins the Witch Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an English witch hunter during the 17th century. He had the unofficial office of WitchFinder General. Though his career as a witch hunter lasted roughly four years, he was responsible for up to 300 executions of alleged witches.

Though England didn’t allow torture in its community, Hopkins applied some kinds of torture on the accused. But Hopkins never saw his way of identifying the witches as a way of torture. For example, he would use the sleep deprivation to take out the confessions from the accused. Or he would prickle the accused with the knife. If they didn’t bleed, they were witches according to Hopkins’s belief.

Witch trials by Matthew Hopkins
A way of torturing by Matthew Hopkins to find out who was the witch. He used the floating technique. If any of the accused was afloat, they were the witches


Another way to identify witch by Hopkins was the devil mark. This was the mole or the birthmark of the accused. If none of them were evident, he would tend to believe that the marks were invisible.

Pendle Witch Hunt

More than 400 years ago, Pendle Hill hangings started the trend of hunting witches across England. The story began when a man named Alison Device asked John Law a peddler for a pin. But Law refused to give Device, and quickly he became paralyzed on one side. Law attributed this incident to the witchcraft of Alison Device.

Eventually, Device confessed to making a pact with the devil force. He also accused other man to practice witchcraft. The accusations went on and finally 19 men were arrested for practicing witchcraft. All of them received the death sentence by hangings. (Image above)

The Pendle Hill became the Salem of England.

Salem and Witch Trials

Happening around the 17th century, Salem Witch Trials were the most famous cases of hunting witches in the list. This has become a reminder of how the mass hysteria ran wild. The situation began when two girls who had been normal were deemed to be epileptic.

Witch trials in Salem are the reminder of the result when the public excitement went wrong
A group of epileptic girls accused three women of torturing them with prickling their skin with knife

The doctors at that time could find no physical ailments. They quickly realized the strange behavior of other girls in the neighborhood. The sick girls then accused three women of tormenting them with knife prickling. Then the accusation started to flew around out of control leading to the execution of 20 individuals

North Berwick Witches

The North Berwick Witch trials took place around the 16th century. It ended with the execution of 70% of the accused who were believed to make pact with devil.

The story began when King James VI traveled back from Denmark and met a storm. His servants attributed the storm to the deed of witchcraft. Witch hunt then started in Denmark and quickly happened in Scotland when things pointed to the Scottish women. And it became the repeated trend in the society at the time. One person would to tortured to admit their commitment to the devil. Then they said out the names of the conspirators.

witch trials in North Berwick

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