Witchtrials Galore Essay, Research Paper
November 13, 1997
Witchcraft Trials Galore
The three witchcraft trials I found most interesting were the persecutions in Scotland, the persecutions in Trier, and the persecutions in Bamberg. All three offered the best explanation for my final conclusion in comparing a group of witch trials.
The period in which the persecutions of Trier took place was from 1581-1593. This was a long chain of persecutions that included even the leaders of the city. No one was safe from getting a finger or two pointed their way. Great numbers of accusers, inquisitors, judges, jurors, constables, and notaries were brought in to the town to proclaim justice on the masses of people who were all being accused of witchcraft, heresy and the like. After a good decade of this, the city of Trier?s financial situation grew dire. When the money died so did the enthusiasm of the persecutors. At least they have their priorities strait.
One man?s trail, a professor at the university in Trier, is particularly noteworthy in the article. His name was Cornelius Losaeus Callidius, and he attempted to publish a book on the falsehood of the everlasting trails that were occurring in the city. This book, On True and False Witchcraft, was not published but it contained his thoughts on the stupidity of the inquisition. For instance, he did not believe that Satan could transform into a body, there was no sexual intercourse between Satan and human beings, all things written about the bodily transformation of witches have no merit and are just dreams, that witches or devils cannot summon storms, hail, tempests, or other things of that matter, and magicians are different from witches. This guy was obviously wrong as far as the witch hunters were involved and was forced to sign a document stating such. His body was then thrown upon the mercy of the church or court, pretty much the same thing on this occasion. He was then imprisoned for a long period of time, and was released only to be accused again of heritical talk. He escaped a third indictment by dying during the procedure.
The persecutions in Scotland all started with a lass named Geillis Duncane in the town of Trenent. Duncane made it a habit to go out every other night and perform healing miracles for the local townsfolk. Of course it does not look good for a woman to go about healing people during the night in the sixteenth century. In turn, she was accused by her master of miraculously healing these people under the power of Satan. First, came the thumbscrews which offered no effect. Then her master and several others held her down and wrenched her neck with a rope. This also had no effect. Finally they stripped her and found a mark on her neck, and she lastly admitted that Satan was telling her how to heal these people. Just think, they could have avoided all that torture if they would have spotted that hickey on her neck.
Duncane then started pointing fingers at the other “witches” in the town. This included a school master named Dr. Fian. The article doesn?t really point out any great acts of witchcraft or heresy, just the fact that he was pointed out by Duncane. Of course that doesn?t matter. First they strung up his head which had no effect. Then he was fitted with instruments called booties. These horrible torture devices were strapped to his legs between the ankles and the knees. Then a hammer was applied, thus resulting in squishing the legs little by little. How gruesome it may sound, he did not confess, so the witches that were already proven guilty found two pins under his tongue. This was seen as the reason for his lack of confessions.
Dr. Fian was then locked up in the jail from which he soon escaped, only to be captured again. He was then put into torture again. This time they started by pulling off his fingernails, no confession. Next they drove nails into the skin where the nails used to be, no confession. They then put the booties on him again, and pounded on those legs until great amount of blood and marrow spurted forth, still no confession. The persecutors were running out of torturing devices and parts of his body to torture, so they simply proclaimed that the devil had corrupted him so much that he was not capable of confessing. Dr. Fian was then strangled and purified by fire.
The persecutions in Bamberg go along the same lines as the other two before hand. A man named Johannes Junius, who was the Burgomaster of Bamberg, was charged with witchcraft in the year 1628. He was apparently seen at a witch gathering, of which he fully denied, and he challenged anybody who had seen him at these gatherings to come forward. Well they did, and even though Junius denied being there, they still put him to torture. Once again, the first form of torture was the thumbscrews(it always starts off with the fingers). Next came the leg screws, this results in no confession and he insists on never renouncing god. After the leg screws came the strappado. This neck wrenching device came to no effect as well.
Five days later he went under heavy “persuasion”, and started to confess(this is where it starts to get funny). He starts off with a tale of a grassmaid who approached him in an orchard. He was seduced by the grassmaid and she told him to take a load off and to tell her of his troubles. He did and upon which the grassmaid transformed into a goat and bleated that if did not renounce god then the goat would break his neck. You know, on a personal note, I don?t think I would go about renouncing my god if a delusional billy goat came up to me in an orchard and threatened to break my neck. After his telling of being baptized in the unholy name of Satan(by the billy goat), Junius then retold of his preferred method of transportation to the witch gatherings. Apparently whenever he needed to attend a meeting, a giant talking black dog would appear before his bed and in the name of Satan and gallop away to the local witches’ union hall. Sounds like loads of fun.
Junius somehow got a letter to his daughter during his trial proceedings. In the letter he claims that anyone who ends up in the witches’ prison must come up with a story or bear unmeasurable torture until they do. He also claims to be innocent of all charges and the confessions the torturers got out of him were all false and made up for the sake of pain. Darn, I was starting to get my hopes up about a giant talking dog of my very own. Oh well!
I think this letter is very interesting in that it ties together the collusion that I have made about all three of these trials, and that is that each one is just a giant load of crud. The persons in question in these trials had no alternative but to come up with some radical convincing story or point the finger at someone else to help take the blame. I also believe the witch trials were just a convenient way to calm down public tension and superstition, or to get an undesirable someone who happens to be in a desirable political position out of the picture. I?m glad I read these trails; not only for the great amount of amusement I got out of them, but also because it shows the falsehood behind such a supposedly grand empire such as Christendom and the imperfectness of humanity.