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  • Writer's pictureArthur Bruso

Holy Terror

Review of Satanism and Witchcraft by Jules Michelet

Citadel Press, NY, copyright 1939 (hardcover), copyright 1963 (paperback)

When the Catholic Church instituted the Inquisition, it was not to punish witches. Their main concern was to quash heretics. Specifically, the independent Cathars. The Cathars were a religious sect from southern Europe in what is now Northern Italy and Toulouse, Southern France. They were active between the 12th and 14th centuries. Their name, “Cathar,” comes from the Greek and means “the pure ones.” They were part of the Gnostic movement happening at the time (religious groups that emphasized personal spiritual experience over orthodox teaching, traditions, and the authority of the church), their main tenet was the duality of God; the good God of the New Testament, who created the spiritual realm and the bad God of the Old Testament, the creator of the physical world (who eventually became associated with Satan). Not only did this not conform with the Catholic teaching of the one God through the Holy Trinity, but their beliefs also did not accept the power or control of the Catholic Church or the Pope.

Peaceful, Pacifist and Nonconforming

The Cathars had been under papal scrutiny since 1147 during the reign of Pope Eugene III when they became noticed by Rome as being heretical to official doctrine. Pope Eugene III sent a papal legate to negotiate with the Cathars and try to bring them within the fold of the Catholic Church. This attempt at resolution was not successful. Neither were two other direct attempts at arbitration in 1178 and 1180. Two decrees in 1163 and 1179 by Church councils which demanded the Cathars conform to official Church doctrine also had no effect on them. When Pope Innocent III came into power in 1198, his greater mission was to expand the power of the Catholic Church throughout Europe. To that end, one of his objectives was to resolve the heresy of the Cathars once and for all and bring them under the authority of Rome.

A Pope Annoyed

At first Pope Innocent III, as the popes before him, tried peaceful conversion of the Cathars with legates. But, after over 50 years of papal interference with the peaceful and pacifist Cathars, the nobles of Toulouse In Southern France, the regional communities of the area, and even the local bishops of Toulouse were resentful of Rome trying to confer authority in their jurisdiction. In retaliation to these local protests in Toulouse and to emphasize the power of Rome, Innocent III suspended the bishops who were hampering his mission and appointed a new one who upheld the pope’s zeal against heresy. He sent the future St. Dominic, who had a demonstrated talent for proselytizing and conversion, to preach to the Cathars. Dominic’s preaching did not convert the Cathars to Rome’s desires. As a final show of force, he sent a new legate to the Count of Toulouse to convince the nobleman of the area to force the Cathars to align with Catholic doctrine. None of this worked. The Cathars remained staunch in their beliefs and refused to bow to Rome. The legate and the Count viciously argued. The derided legate was murdered while returning to Rome. This incensed Pope Innocent III to such a degree, that he appealed to Phillip II the King of France to call an all-out war on the southern French nobles. Phillip II declined such an outrage. But lured by promises of acquiring new land, some northern French Barons did take up the crusade and attacked the southern French nobles who were protecting the Cathars. In the end the Cathars were massacred.

What is Heresy?

The Cathar resistance and subsequent crusade to silence them gave rise to the Catholic Inquisition under the authority of Pope Innocent III as a means to combat all heresy. At this time, heresy did not include witchcraft. Throughout most of the medieval era, witchcraft was considered pagan superstition and not subject to the Church’s definition or punishment of heretical beliefs. As such, it was tolerated as a minor offense by the Church. It took Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century to turn the Church’s thinking of witchcraft from simply pagan superstition, to a person who had given over his soul to the wishes of the devil for the power of false miracles. When this change in theological thinking took hold, the concept of a heretic expanded to include a person who looked to Satan for power rather than accepting God’s will. This meant those who practiced witchcraft, or any other means of changing God’s will that involved calling on other supernatural powers, were subject to accusations and charges of heresy and stronger punishments.

While Thomas Aquinas was changing the theological thinking regarding witchcraft, it was the publication of Heinrich Kramer’s Malleus Malleficarum in 1487 that brought about the wholesale persecution of witchcraft as heresy. The Malleus Malleficarum not only was a book that defined the practices of witchcraft, but it also explained how to identify a witch, how to best to extract a confession, and how to protect oneself from their wiles. For nearly 200 years the Malleus Malleficarum became the most influential book to justify the persecution of witches.

It should not be thought that the Catholic Church alone persecuted their people for witchcraft. The Protestant denominations after the Reformation participated in witch burnings with equal zeal. Protestant Christianity justified witch persecutions because they believed they were associated with Satanic ritual parties, orgies and cannibalistic infanticide. In addition, they pointed to scripture, such as going against the first of the 10 Commandments (You shall have no other Gods before me), the word of God in Exodus 22:18 (thou shalt not suffer a witch to live), as well as ridiculing God’s majesty.

The Book Satanism and Witchcraft

19th century French historian Jules Michelet wrote his book Satanism and Witchcraft in 1862. His major life’s work and greatest achievement was his History of France. Satanism and Witchcraft came out of his research for History of France. When he began to discover the atrocities acted against women during the Inquisition, he was moved to write about them separately in an effort to expose some of the hypocritical practices of Christian religion. He already had a natural aversion to religion and a great dislike of the society of the medieval era, so his scathing exposition of the Church’s Inquisition in Satanism and Witchcraft provided just the pulpit to preach his animosities. The book is considered by scholars to be a minor work by the author. It is also one of his most striking because of his fervent voice, and his unusually sympathetic and progressive (for the time) treatment of its subject. Long out of print and debunked by scholars, the reputation of Satanism and Witchcraft has grown over time. So much so, that it has been translated and reprinted for an American audience. In the magical community, it has become one of the classic texts on the witch persecutions in Europe, and a seminal study into the historical intersection of Medieval women, the Church and witchcraft.

Back cover boiler plate copy of 1963 edition Satanism and Witchcraft
Back cover sell copy of 1963 edition.

Michelet begins Satanism and Witchcraft with an introduction where he forcefully makes his point that the Church (he uses both Catholic and Protestant references) has specifically condemned women as witches and heretics because women were the cause of Original Sin and brought all mankind down to be expelled from Paradise to work for a living, suffer pain and sorrow and know mortality. For this primary act of Eve, the Christian Church held that women deserve whatever justice God saw fit to mete out. He quotes from Bartolommeo Spina (1475 – 1546), Master of the Sacred Palace in the Vatican; “Why does God permit the death of the innocent? He does so justly. For if they do not die by reason of the sins they have committed, yet they are guilty of death by reason of Original Sin.” Michelet finds this reasoning abominable. Through bombastic language, a heavy use of exclamation points and a delivery much like an impassioned and dramatic lawyer making his case, Michelet shouts and fumes through the rest of the book as he rails against the flimsy and misogynist justifications that he records as given for the European witch hunts which lasted from 1300 – 1600.

A Fairy Tale Beginning

Michelet’s book is divided into two parts: Part I is a fiction on how women are drawn into sorcery, Part II is an examination of several true cases of historical witchcraft. After setting out his reasons for the injustice of the witch persecutions by the Church in his Introduction, he begins Part I of Satanism and Witchcraft with a romantic and cloying description of Woman (an Everywoman). This woman is the domestic keeper of the house (a humble hut) and tender of the hearth, who in her few idle hours, or from the tedium of repetitive chores, sees fairies and elves in the shadowy corners of her home. She comes to view these visions as supernatural beings appearing as helpers and diversions from her relentless work. The fictional and nameless heroine also spends time in nature communing with God’s creatures and deciphering which plants will ease the fever or spice the pot. Through these innocent actions, she is branded a pagan and marked as sinful by the priest and is threatened with ostracization and punishment unless she submits to penance and repents.

This portrayal of this symbolic woman as having insight to the other side of the veil or as having an active imagination that conjures up all of these invisible beings is a fantasy devised by the author. Michelet seems to be projecting his own ideas about the feminine mind and romanticizing them. It is true that the Ancient Greeks and other societies saw the world as filled with gods, goddesses and nymphs. They personified nearly everything, and every place had a resident spirit. But this was a culture wide belief system for the Greeks, it was co-opted by their Roman conquerors and reformulated into the Ancient Roman belief system. The Christians emulated the polytheism of the Romans and Greeks, with their martyrs and saints filling in much the same roles as the old gods and nymphs in their attempt to subsume paganism. This fairy tale that Michelet provides as the basis of the persecutions of witchcraft, was created out of his own misunderstandings and fantasies about women.

The Holy Family of the Church

Michelet interrupts his feminine fantasy with a digression into the Catholic Church’s ideas on the nuclear family. The author accuses the Church of destroying the basic role functions within the family, by annulling the role of father to an impotent Joseph, while deifying the immaculate purity of the Mary. Through this elevation of Mary and her purity, at the expense of the masculine role of the patriarch, Catholicism, according to the author, embraced the lonely road of celibacy. This cult of celibacy caused an enormous void in nature’s plan, which the Devil was only too happy to fill.

Since Michelet was anti-ecclesiastic, he does not have a true insight into the Catholic Church’s concept of the Holy Family and the theological roles each member played. Joseph’s role in Catholic dogma was to project faith, patience and obedience. His faith is centered on trusting God’s plan in the safety and protection of the unborn Son of God. His obedience was to accept his role as husband to Mary and corporal father to Jesus in order to provide social acceptance and family stability. His patience was for the forbearance to be subservient to God’s command to act as protector and servant to a pregnant wife and a subsequent child that he did not father. In his part as provider and parent, he forms the second pillar of the family trinity and anchors the supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit to the earthly plane and grounds the earthy incarnation of the family to mundane daily life.

Mary’s role was initially conceived by the Gospels to be the corporal vessel that would deliver the Son of God into the physical world. After the nativity in the New Testament, she becomes a shadow figure. However, the Mediterranean countries could not understand a patriarchal based spiritual trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They needed a feminine entity of procreative energy in order for the religion to make sense. In searching for a Mother goddess, they elevated the role of Mary to a height equal to (some say greater than) that of Jesus. Since the Church could not quell the need for the cult of Mary, it had to make her pure, and her pregnancy virgin in order to have a pristine vessel that was acceptable for the sanctity of Jesus who the Church understands to be the incarnation of God on Earth. Mary’s impregnation was not only an Immaculate Conception, conceived without sin, but she herself was also conceived without original sin as preparation for her part as the Mother of God.

Michelet superficially understands and is reacting to how Catholic acts of purity, roles of sacrifice, and duty to God’s will, create and continue the idea that celibacy is the favored state for receiving God’s grace. In Christianity, it created an entire sect of virginity for both men and women. Michelet’s statement on celibacy infers that the sanctifying of virginity is against man’s natural instinct. To artificially deny and make sinful the true nature of man’s natural desire and drive for sex and procreation, is to create a host of other ills and problems that will be expressed in other destructive behaviors. He interprets this unnatural way of existence as one major way to invite sin through temptation. With Satan as the tempter and leader into sin, he becomes the enticer to witchcraft. For Michelet, it was the Church’s emphasis on purity, celibacy and their impossible objectives that caused witchcraft’s profound spread among most of the Medieval European population.

A New Fantasy of Oppression

After this digression into celibacy as the germ of witchcraft, beginning with Chapter 4 and ending with Chapter 12, Michelet begins to craft a new fantasy that follows the fate of an imaginary female serf. We follow her from her wedding day, through to her nadir of her complete acceptance of Satan. In this tragic romance, Michelet causes his heroine to suffer all manner of insults and calamities that he believes would be common for a woman serf of the Medieval era. Each abuse is guided with Michelet’s narration, so that the reader absolutely understands that the poor girl’s fall into witchcraft is a consequence of her desperation to find self-respect and empowerment against the unfair social forces of the day. She is a victim of her circumstances and of political and social forces beyond her control.

Starting on the woman’s wedding night, the first of her many indignities is suffered when, the nobleman of the domain exerts his droit du seigneur with the new bride. Droit du seigneur is the right of the nobleman to claim from within his domain, a girl’s virginity before any other man. This has a long history in fable, but the historical truth of it is inconclusive. The groom’s objections to the nobleman’s right are ridiculed and dismissed. He is threatened that his interference with the proceedings will result in expulsion from the kingdom to become an outcast and beggar. After the bride’s humiliation and sexual subjugation, the girl is driven to despondency by the circumstances, and in her misery, she is visited by the “Demon of Hidden Treasure.” This demonic entity offers to assist her in improving her and her husband’s lot. The demon’s proposition grudgingly appeals to the woman, who believes there is no other way. This begins her decent into witchcraft.

We follow our heroine as she rises in status under the influence of Satan, from lowly serf, to successful wife, as her husband is promoted by the Baron to tithe collector. From this seeming good fortune, jealousy ensues, until the wife of the Baron decides that our heroine is acting and dressing above her station and needs to be reprimanded and reminded of her place. The peasant woman is beaten and again humiliated. After her punishment, she flees to her husband for sanctuary. The husband ignores her pleas and abandons her to her fate to protect his own position. She finds solace in the forest and strengthens her bond with the demon. She eventually finds her revenge by learning from Satan which plants are deadly and uses this knowledge to poison the Baroness. Ultimately, she flees her pursuers by riding off on a magical horse. Michelet has the reader assume that she disappears with the demon to his netherworld.

What comes through in reading this crude romance is the realization that Michelet not only believes in Satan and in witchcraft, but he is also sympathetic to the powerlessness of peasant woman in Medieval society and to the social horrors they faced daily. He conveys and assumes that if a woman turns to witchcraft and finds strength and solace with the Devil, it is because she is trying to gain some power for herself in a system that enforces her impotence. Unlike the Church that preaches obsequiousness to God’s will, the Devil offers real solutions and assistance in the corporal world. However, Michelet does not dwell or expand on the consequences of courting a relationship with evil. His attitude is not to construct a moral judgement on the woman, but to develop a narrative that offers a social reason for the phenomena of witchcraft and to condemn Medieval society and the Church for its actions against the impossible situations they create.

Michelet’s acceptance of the validity of Satan and witchcraft is interesting. Other writers on this period and subject of history, dwell on the injustice perpetrated on the victims. The possibility of witchcraft and the Devil being in any way a reality seems ludicrous to them and believing Satan to be unreal, the false confessions extracted from the victims are obviously sham reasons for the Church to hang its grotesque punishments of heresy on. These authors assume that the witchcraft trials and tortures were a horrific way for the Church to enforce its power over the people and gain submission to its doctrine. Since the dawn of Christianity, there has been the problem of how religion explains how a benevolent God would allow wickedness between people, random natural disasters that claim innocent lives, the misery of the innocent, child abuse, child murder, and bad things happening to the pious. If God is compassionate, there must be an equivalent evil entity. The concept of a duality of behavior, of good and evil, is part of most cultures. Christianity inherited their duality of good and evil from three sources: Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Abrahamic cultures. It was refined through the teachings of Jesus and interpreted and refined through time by various Church theologians. By the time of the Medieval witchcraft persecutions, the duality of the Demon as evil and God as good was strong. The Devil was an entity that explained much of the perplexing randomness of evil. This explains why the Church and the populace were willing to find a scapegoat to evil in the creation of Satan. What is confusing about Michelet, is that while he is anti-clerical in his ideology, he clings to the Christian concept of Satan and the fantastic imaginations of the witches Sabbath.

The Book that Started it All

Part II of Satanism and Witchcraft is first a discussion of the Malleus Malleficarum. It can be argued that the publication and popularization of this book caused the most widespread destruction of human life during the Medieval period outside of the Black Plague. It became the justification for thousands of tortures and executions of the innocent. This insidious book was written by Heinrich Kramer, a priest appointed by Pope Innocent VIII around 1474 as an inquisitor to the provinces of Tyrol, Salzburg, Bohemia and Moravia in Germany. His zeal in pursuing the dictates of his appointment ran him afoul of the local Bishop, who failing to get him to curb his accusations of witchcraft, eventually asked him to leave the district. While Kramer acquiesced to the bishops demands to leave, his alacrity for routing out and persecuting witches continued. He eventually wrote, the Malleus Malleficarum as a manual for the detection, capture and torture of heretics accused as witches.

Michelet somehow ignores Heinrich Kramer’s authorship and attributes the Malleus Malleficarum to another clergyman, Jacob Sprenger. Jacob Sprenger is a name that has been associated as co-author of the Malleus Malleficarum in all editions since 1519. He had nothing at all to do with the writing of the book, or even the idea of it. During his lifetime, he held acrimonious feelings toward Kramer. The two clergymen often came into contact and friction with one another, as both were serving the same areas of Germany. Sprenger had a differing, more tolerant ideology on witchcraft than Kramer. He often expressed his dislike of Kramer and Kramer’s devotion to routing out witchcraft and made Kramer’s life and work as difficult as possible. Sprenger held a high position and had great respect in the Catholic Church. This provided him with far more influence and power than Kramer. Yet, their acrimonious rivalry and intertwined and overlapping careers managed to connect the two after their deaths. So much so, that by 1519 it became the assumption by learned men that Sprenger had partnered with Kramer on the writing of the Malleus Malleficarum. Much to the ruin of Jacob Sprenger’s good reputation, both names now appear as authors and both have acquired the negative reputation of being the primary persecutors of witches.

Michelet erases Kramer entirely as an author, discussing only Sprenger and soundly berating him and condemning him for his part in the injustices toward witches. He tells a story that has no basis in reality regarding Sprenger’s inception of the Malleus Malleficarum. It includes a young priest that came to Rome to visit the shrines of the saints and martyrs in an effort to break a spell that has been cast upon him by two witches. This information is totally fabricated. Then Michelet berates the Church for accepting the book as the manual for the inquisition. The historical truth is that the Church condemned Kramer’s book on its first publication for advocating unethical procedures against the innocent and contradicting Catholic theology. Still, the Malleus Malleficarum managed to catch the interest of the general public. At the time of its publication in the 15th century, the population was unshakably convinced of the reality of witches and the power of the Devil. The consuming fear that was aroused by these beliefs had the people searching and open to any ammunition to battle against this believed rampant evil. The book became popular outside of the Church and despite its official condemnation by the Catholic Church, by the late 1500’s, the Malleus Malleficarum had become the defacto manual of persecutors for both Protestant, Catholic and secular authorities. Either Michelet doesn’t know this information, had bad information or needed to present his story in as sensational a fashion as possible. Whatever the reason, he presents false information here that has been perpetuated in other writing.

The Case Histories on Witchcraft

After contorting the history of the Malleus Malleficarum into something unrecognizable, Michelet turns his imaginative attentions to a few classic cases of historical witchcraft trials: the Basque Witches, Father Louis Gauffridi, the Loudun possessions, the possession of Madeline Bavant, and the case of Catherine Cadiere. I will consider only the first two of these cases.

The first historical case of witchcraft the author examines is the case of the Basque Witches. “The Basque women were always sorceresses,” declares Michelet right at the beginning. He contends that, “They were born into witchcraft.” This is largely true. The Basque country straddles the Spanish-French border at the Pyrenees on the Atlantic. The people have a long tradition of belief in the supernatural; that may have begun in the Paleolithic Age as the area is famous for its stone circles and dolmans. These ancient beliefs were enriched by Greek and Roman mythology under Roman rule, and later Christianized by the Church in an effort to subsume them. The beliefs were so ingrained and open that in 1609, the local lord complained to French King Henry IV that he was being accused of witchcraft and asked that those who were accusing him be silenced. This started an investigation into the Basque witchcraft beliefs that eventually ballooned to encompass and effect thousands of people. Michelet mainly considers the French Basque trials, but the Inquisition also investigated the Spanish Basque towns as well.

In the end, around 600 people (French Basque) were examined and questioned for signs of witchcraft. 70 were burned at the stake. The judge was convinced that at least 3,000 further witches were still at large, but the King’s parliament, deciding that the horrid business had gone on long enough, dismissed the judge and ended the trials.

Michelet spends most of the chapter on the Basque witches describing the vile goings on at the witches Sabbaths and Black Mass (he mentions several times, the cooking and eating of children), and dwells on a 17-year-old Basque girl who was appointed the task of finding Satan’s Mark on the accused. Satan’s Mark was believed to be a teat on the body that was used by witches to suckle demons. It could take the form of any kind of eruption or blemish; its main feature being that the spot was insensitive to pain. This was tested by driving a needle into the mark in question. Michelet is obviously going for sensationalism here. He is indignant that a 17-year-old girl was given the authority to inflict pain on the accused, and of deciding who is innocent and who goes to trial. Michelet’s indignation reads as ingenuine. While 17 is young, it is not childhood. In many European cultures before the 20th Century, this was marriageable age. The girl apparently does have knowledge of the local beliefs and who is practicing them. This is an indication of why she was chosen. She may have also been protecting herself from being accused as a witch by putting herself forward for the task. The person administering the test would most likely not be looked upon as guilty. She may have been overzealous in her accusations since so many were passed on to stand trial. There does not seem to be any evidence that she derived pleasure from sticking pins into her neighbors as the author suggests.

The second case Michelet considers is Father Louis Gauffridi, who was a charismatic and well-respected priest in the Catholic faith in the early 17th century. In 1610 he became confessor to a twelve-year old girl of noble birth. After acting as the girl’s confessor for a number of years, the girl grew infatuated and eventually obsessed with the good Father. As she grew into a young woman, she became convinced that Gauffridi had bewitched her and began to believe that he was “The Prince of Magicians” in league with Satan. She was convinced of this bewitchment because of the uncontrollable passionate thoughts and feelings she had about him. She placed herself in an Ursuline convent to remove herself from the power she believed he had over her. However, she soon invited the priest the convent to assume his role as her confessor. All of the other nuns in the community were also taken by Gauffridi’s personality and power. One nun especially became the original woman’s rival for the priest’s attentions. Escalated by jealousy, their rivalry rose to a public scandal. Since their desires were not returned by Father Gauffridi, the duel between the two women became bitter and contemptuous. They made public accusations to the authorities that they had been bewitched by the hapless priest and that he had brought them to heresy with the Devil. As a result of their insistent accusations and the publicity of the scandal, the priest was placed on trial for sorcery and heresy. Gauffridi bewildered and confused and believing he had somehow led the women astray, allowed the trial to proceed without objection. He was found guilty and burned at the stake as a heretic.

Michelet, predictably takes the side of the women. He goes so far as to state without evidence that Gauffridi had “ruined” the girl of noble birth at the tender age of twelve. He also insinuates that Gauffridi was indeed in league with the devil, by posing this question: “Did he take her with him to the Witches’ Sabbath, or did he merely make her think she had been there, clouding her mind with magic potions and magnetic spells?” I cannot say if the good priest had truly taken advantage of the tender girl and her youthful infatuations, or if the girl had allowed her childish longing to run wild and seeing no encouragement from her confessor fell into a fit of depression and unrequited passion. What is clear, is that the girl when she had grown to womanhood, realized that her desires for Gauffridi were misplaced and sought to remove herself from the source. Once in the safety of the convent, the girl decided that perhaps it was safe again to see the priest as her confessor. The priest’s fatal mistake was to agree to this arrangement. Michelet does not give any reason for the priest’s decision to return to his former penitent. Without this information, the reader cannot know what Gauffridi’s motives were. Perhaps it was a sense of spiritual duty, or a request by the Director of the convent. It could have been any number of ordinary reasons. Michelet prefers to believe that it was for the Father to continue his empowerment over the young woman and complete his stealing of her soul for Satan. Either way, it was a fatal mistake for the priest and consummated in his death.

Michelet believes the women without reservation. His disdain for the Church, the clergy, those in power and men’s baseness in general is evident. I have no problem with defending women against the patriarchal powers that threaten to subsume them. The fact that Michelet is doing this in the mid-19th century is all the more remarkable considering the historical position of women at this time. The Catholic Church also has had a very disreputable reputation through the centuries when it comes to following its own tenets. Once the Church realized that it could use its doctrine to exert power over not only the populace, but also over kings, it became nearly unstoppable as a political power. As all power, the Church’s power became corrupted and self-perpetuating. A woman’s position through world history has not often been in a place of command. As a youth she is exploited, as an elder she is often ignored or expendable. If Michelet tries to allow some positive empowerment to women, by heightening their intuitive capabilities it is all to the good. Unfortunately, while reading this book, I was constantly troubled by the sense that I was reading a fiction. The assumptions and inferences seem outlandish. Much of the history he provides is erroneous which undermines his authority as a historian. The author’s stereotyping of women as dreamy, fanciful, prone to hysteria and easily persuaded seems dated and offensive, but perhaps in keeping with the mid-19th century when he wrote it. The Witch Trials were a blight on human history and deserved to be examined in a light that is positive to the female victims. To imply that they were in fact in league with Satan or any other diabolic, supernatural entity is unfair to their capabilities, their respectability as humans, and patently untrue. By reading the historical accounts of the witchcraft trials, it becomes clear that, all of the women persecuted during the Witch Trials were innocent of the charges they were accused of. All of their testimony was obtained under torture in answer to leading questions. They provided answers to their accusers believing that they were providing information that the accusers wanted, in the hope and belief they would then be freed. Their confusion and despair about the monstrous situation they found themselves in was acute. As victims, they deserve to be accessed in the light of the innocence of their actions, not in the virtue of their minds.

Arthur Bruso © 2021

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