They eat babies!
They fly around on broomsticks, they kidnap and eat babies, they transform into sexy seductresses, and they worship the devil. The Witch! It sounds ridiculous to us and most people in modern society wouldn’t consider these claims for more than an instant. 16th century Europe and 17th century America were different though. But what could have driven people to hunt down and burn women based on outlandish claims?
Witch? More like nurse!
For starters, The women who were accused of being witches didn’t worship the Devil, they also didn’t spend their days brewing magic potions from frog legs and rats tails. These women were healers. Both physically and mentally. They were the ones you would go to for marriage therapy, ailments of all kinds, and childbirth. And it’s exactly that which made them into a target.
Just before the inquisition began their holy war on witches, the church had begun to show interest in medicine. More specifically, germ theory was first introduced around the same time that the witch-hunt really peaked.
Let me just show you two lines of text that speak volumes.
- It is often wrongly asserted that the papacy banned dissection during the period, though in fact the directive of Pope Sixtus IV of 1482 to the University of Tübingen said that the Church had no objection to anatomy studies.
- The Malleus Maleficarum, meaning “Hammer of Witches,” was written in 1484 by two reverends: Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger.
So, just before the Hammer of Witches was published, the green light was given by the Pope for cutting up corpses to advance medical research.
Eliminate the competition!
Imagine living in a small town in 16th century Europe. You have Ingrid, the town nurse, to take care of you and your whole family. She’s been your personal doctor for everything you can think of ever since you met your wife and had your first child. Ingrid knows you and your whole family extremely well, and always has a diplomatic answer for all of your problems.
Then, suddenly, you hear about some new technology where they heal humans with something called operations and blood lettings. They cut and carve you up and remove parts that don’t function properly. Often, it ends badly for the patient. Doesn’t sound that attractive to be honest, especially not when Ingrid has been doing just fine so far.
This is a problem for the church and the medical institutions. Their new found goldmine isn’t attracting too many new people. Those damned midwives are keeping us from getting rich. I’m sure they have the devil on their side. Maybe they eat children. Maybe they charm men to do their bidding. Hmm, good idea.
A lot of things have happened in our history that has been changed by biased authors. During the whole renaissance the church ruled basically every aspect of life. That meant history was what they said it was. I’m pretty sure a whole lot more has happened that is completely unjust. And most of it will never be revealed. Imagine what people will uncover about our time, 5 centuries from now.