Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Time for a new Witch Hunt? The Pandemic Could Change More Things Than than you Would Have Expected.

Philosophy News image
Witch burning in Germany in 1550 (image source) Could these times be returning? We can't really say, but history tends to go in cycles and some recent trends are at least worrisome.  Which historical period saw the largest number of witch hunts? If you answered "the Middle Ages," you were wrong. Surprised? After all, we all know that the Middle Ages, were the "Dark Ages," a time of barbarism and superstition, surely it was at that time that witches were hunted and burned. Who didn't see the "Burn the Witch" clip by the Monthy Python? It takes place in a typical Middle Age-ish setting.  But, no. Burning witches is NOT a Middle Ages thing. Look at the data. Trials and executions for witchcraft picked up well after that the Middle Ages were officially over, at some moment around the end of the 15th century.   At the highest moment of this homicidal frenzy, about 2500 people per year were burned in Europe for a total estimated as about 50,000-100,000. Not a very large number in comparison to the population of the time, but a significant number, nevertheless. Why did that happen? Why were Europeans obsessed with killing people, mostly poor women, who were doing little or no harm to anyone? And who were these witches, anyhow? There is a long story to tell here, so let's try to condense the main points of it.The idea of evil women using poisons and magical spells to kill people is very ancient and it appears in many human cultures. The first report on this subject that has numbers in it comes from the Roman historian Titus Livius (59 BC - 17 AD) who tells us about two episodes of witch-hunting that took place in 331 BC and 180 BC. In both cases, a spate of executions (perhaps a few thousand) occurred after that a mysterious sickness had swept the land, killed a significant number of people. Most of the executed people were women, although not necessarily all of them.Apart from Livius' report, witches (sometimes termed striga‎e) exist in. . .

Continue reading . . .

News source: Cassandra's Legacy

blog comments powered by Disqus