Top 10 Witch Burnings in History

Suggested by SMS

When we say the ‘Top 10 Witch Burning,’ this is not to say that this is somehow a ‘best of,’ ‘world-greatest,’ or ‘most epic.’ These are the witch-hunt, and the burning at the stake as a result of these hunts. Trials were not fair, presided over by fearful leaders who thought they were losing control.

Some of these hunts focused on weeding out the lower class, the impoverished, or anyone the ‘average,’ townsfolk thought to be odd. Thousands upon thousands of people were publicly executed in some fashion during these times of apprehension. The weakness of Christianity was one of the main reasons why such atrocities took place in history.

Though some of those burned at the stake confessed, albeit some due to duress. Most of them were innocent victims of society’s cruel prejudice.

10. The Salem Witch Trial

The Salem Witch Trials have set the standard the term ‘injustice’ in American history.  In the late 1690′s, while most of Europe was still recovering from a nearly 300-year fear of witchcraft, there was economic hardship on the east coast of the United States, caused by their citizen’s displacement, due to King Williams’s war in upstate New York. Much was to blame for the decline in the quality of life for citizens, specifically witchcraft. Between the years of 1692 and 1693, more than 200 people were tried, convicted, and subsequently executed. Some were hanged, stoned, and burned at the state.

The trouble began when Elizabeth, the daughter of the new Reverend, Samuel Parrish, who no one in the Massachusetts town liked because of his strict and often cruel ways of establishment, became ‘fitful,’ throwing items, swearing, and acting strange. The same behavior became apparent in his niece, Abigail a short time later. It was confirmed by two separate physicians that the cause of their ailment was ‘demon possession.’ After a brief investigation, three women were arrested on charges of witchcraft.

Sara Good, a homeless merchant, pleaded innocent to all charges, as did Sarah Osbourne, a poor, elderly woman. Tituba, a slave from the Caribean islands, pleaded guilty, admitting to official of her images of the supernatural, practicing black magic, cavorting with the devil, and agreeing to do ‘his bidding.’ Due to the confession, all three women were found guilty and executed. Several trials took place, where score of women, mostly impoverished, elderly women, were hanged and burned at the stake.

In 1697, the courts in Salem decided to initiate a time of ‘fasting and soul-searching’ in order to examine what happened in the trials, and reflect on the score of people who were murdered mercilessly. In 1702, the trials were declared unlawful, and families were compensated for their losses.

9. Aberdeen, Scotland Witch Burnings

In 1563, a the reformed church, led my ministers and elders of the ruling denomination began a witch-hunt, to weed out those they believed to be causing trouble in the small town of Aberdeen, Scotland. Their primary target. Rumors of the netorious ‘Aberdeen Thirteen,’ spawned tales of women who met in covens, and were responsible for using witchcraft to do everything from leading men into adultery, turning the towns milk supply sour, to hanging out with the devil himself.

It is said that King James I, after experiencing rough seas on a voyage from Oslo, Norway and had heard news of a witch-hunt in Denmark, and decided to start his own investigation. Subsequently, 23 women and 1 man were burned at the stake during the tribunal. Most notably, Agnes Sampson, who was ordered to death by the King himself. Her crime? Using sorcery to create storms. Jane Wishart was accused of using black magic to commit two murders, as well as the crime of stealing body parts from corpses.

8. Joan of Arc

When people think of Joan of Arc, they think about the courageous French teenager who led her resistance armies to numerous victories during the time of the of the Hundred Year War. Now, considered the Patron Saint of France, many forget that she was burned at the stake at the age of 19 for the crime of witchcraft and heresy.

She was brilliant in her battles, but was eventually captured by the east German tribe of Burgundians, who were British allies. While in prison, she was deemed ‘abnormal,’ due to her odd behavior and appearance, which they claimed to be ‘unfeminine,’ and the fact the she claimed to have direct contact with God.

7.The Val Camonica Witch Burnings

One of the most notorious witch-hunts took place in Val Camonica, Italy during the early part of the 16th century. Society had been under the influence of a so-called ‘ban on paganism,’ due to increasing weakness in Christianity. In 1505, Inquisitor Anton de Brescia became suspicious of the practice of witchcraft and sorcery in the Venetian Senate. After a trial, he convicted, and burned at the stake, seven women and one man. Another trial in 1510 resulted in the deaths of 64 presumed witches, who admitted to acts of violence, using the power of Satan.

In 1518, 60 people were convicted and burned at the stake for using powder provided by Satan himself to unleash a wave of sickness, a plague that caused the death of more than 200 people. In the years to follow, Christianity continued to weaken, and to this day, Val Camonica is a hotbed of occult and pagan practices.

6. Fulda Witch Trials

The witch trials of Fulda, Germany between 1603 and 1606 are considered one of the largest mass executions to take place during the time period. In the end, more than 200 people would be burned alive at the stake.

It began when the Prince Bishop, Balthasar von Dernbach began what he called a’re-catholicizing’ of the district in which he oversaw. What he saw did not please him, and he ordered the trials and executions of hundreds, convicting them of sorcery, witchcraft, and anything else he deemed inappropriate. No one questioned the authority of the Prince Bishop, and the trials ended shortly after his death in 1606.

5. The Wurzberg Witch Trial

The trials in Germany are a notable event during the 17th century. Hysteria had run rampant through the towns of Eichstatt, Mainz, and Bambia in south Germany. The trials in Wurzburg, commanded by Prince Bishop Wurzberg himself, commenced in 1626. It is said that more than 900 woman, men and children were burned at the stake, up until the end of the trials in 1631.

It was paranoia, as well as the influence of other European districts, that drove the Prince Bishop to arrest, convict and execute so many people. The difference between the Wurzberg trials and that of the rest of Europe is that here, they was no class discrimination. Rich, poor, old, young, it didn’t matter here, as a simple accusation would lead to arrest and execution of someone as a witch. Even council leaders were not immune to allegations and arrest. Many of those who were charged and executed were vagrants passing through town.

Charges ranged from using witchcraft for murder to humming a tune with the devil. When the King of Sweden took over power in 1631, the trials ended. Around the same time period, similar trials took place in nearby Bramburg, resulting in more than 300 people burnt at the stake.

4. The Witch Hunts of Africa

The frightening reality is the witch-hunts and burnings are still common among some sub-Saharan regions of Africa. The modern practice is said to have begun again in 1935 with a group of people known as the Bamucupi, who dressed in European garb, who identified witches using a mirror. This led to the slaughter of scores of people, as the group blamed these ‘witches’ for famines and plagues that have wreaked havoc on the area.

Unfortunately, the trend still continues today. In the last decade, thousands of people in Africa have been ‘arrested,’ tried and executed by public burning at the stake for practicing black magic and sorcery. Some of the countries still experiencing these phenomena are the African country of Kenya, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Ghana, Zambia and others.

While peacekeeping effort is mostly focused on the bloodshed caused by civil, and have turned a blind eye to the witch-hunts, which are killing and displacing thousands. Convictions for the use of black magic still exist in such areas as parts of the Middle East and Papua New Guinea, though the punishment due is not death, but merely imprisonment.

3. Catherine Monvoisin

In history she is known simply as ‘La Voisin.‘ An unrecognizable French woman initially, though she would go down in the records as a notable witch burned at the stake. In the mid-1600′s, Monvoisin was a jewelers wife, who had practiced the art of fortune telling since the age of nine. When her husband’s business folded, she began again practicing full-time. It was during this period also that she began practicing medicine, specifically midwifery, often times performing abortion procedures.

As time went on, she began to tap more and more into the sense that she claimed was a ‘gift from God.’ She concocted ‘love potions’, which were made from the bones of toads, iron fillings, teeth of moles, Spanish flies and human blood. It was also at this time that she began concocting poisons, which was becoming a valuable trade during this time of the century.

After an inquisition into supernatural affairs in the area, an inquisition was made where three confessed, and provided information into the activities of ‘La Voisin’ She was arrested and charged with witchcraft, along with her daughter. Marguerite. She was burned at the stake in Place de Grieve, near Paris.

2. Maggie Wall

During the 16th and 17th century, more than 4,000 women were executed for witchcraft in Scotland. Maggie Wall is of interest, due to the stone monument that stands over, in memorial of a fallen witch, and the mystery that surrounds her death. Though some have tried to piece together the history involving the witch burning in Scotland, specifically the one regarding Maggie Wall. One of the biggest mysteries is the Christian cross that sits on top of the 20′ high monument. Such symbols are not traditional on monuments and memorials for convicted and executed witches.

Some say it was during this time, there was an uprising in the church from female members of the congregation. Women who were fed up with the tight regulations formed an uprising, and in some cases brutally beat the ministers. Also during this time in Dunning, there was a known warlock, who was known for sorcery and performing black mass rituals. Some say, it was one of these occurrence in 1679, that Maggie Wall was burned at the stake. Was she an accomplice to the warlock? Or was she one of the female retaliatory mobs, set on the destruction of the Christian establishment? Locals and historians have different version, but the monument on the side of the road in Dunning, Scotland knows the truth.

1. Angela de la Berthe

Angelea de la Berthe was a rich woman who lived on the outskirts of a small town in France called Toulouse. For undocumented reasons (the town has no records of the conviction or execution), she become one of the very first women to be burned at the stake during Europe’s infamous witch hunts and persecutions.

In 1275, she faced a judge, and was condemned for having sexual relations with the Devil, and for giving birth to his son, a flesh-eating monster who ate babies. Local townspeople were horrified at the accusations and she was publicly burned at the stake.

Next to the Holocaust, witch-hunts are responsible for some of the most senseless murders in the history of crime and punishment. Fear of losing control led people to commit horrendous crimes all over Europe, and even today in some areas of Africa.

The Salem Witch trial is a dark reminder from European history of the intolerance that has raged through society for hundreds of years. To say we are immune from it now is irresponsible. Hate and fear still cause more problems in today’s society that any behavior, only in some areas it is confined to the home, resulting in domestic complications.

Confronting fear has helped to shape our world, whether for the good or the bad. Accepting differences between individuals and groups can resolve a lot of the aggression in our world. What we have learned from witch burnings is what we should all carry with us today. Imperfection is standard, and everyone lives and practices differently. One posting on a discussion board simply read, ‘nothing has been accomplished by burning people.” Food for thought.