Witchcraft: Crash Course European History #10


Hi I’m John Green and this is Crash Course
European History. So, in the first episode of this series, we
talked about the significance of the year 1431. Remember, that was the year Joan of Arc was
burned to death for heresy and witchcraft because the English were so bewildered that
a teenage peasant girl could lead the French army to victory that they decided she had
to be a witch and a heretic. And, you know, it was pretty bewildering that
a random peasant girl somehow basically became for a time the most important general in the
most important war of the fifteenth century. That said, just to state the obvious: Joan
of Arc was not a witch. But just as she benefited from superstitions
and prophecies about mystically powerful women, she was ultimately destroyed by fears of witchcraft
and dark magic. For the past four episodes, the world has
been turned upside down in the century after Joan’s trial and execution. The Reformation, Commercial and Agricultural
Revolutions, and Counter-Reformation were each in their own way shaking social, and
economic, and political, and religious structures. Perhaps some witches could explain that turmoil. INTRO
So, for most of European history, and indeed for most of world history, people believed
in unseen powers that operated across their world and in their individual lives. Objects from nature could be healing or poisonous,
working in unknown ways. Like, Queen Elizabeth once received a ring
that was supposed to protect her from the plague. Most towns had shamans, a “wise” man or
woman, a wizard, a sorcerer, or another resident who knew about potions, and poultices, and
charms. And look, Queen Elizabeth never got the plague,
so it was easy to conclude that sometimes, at least, this stuff worked! As one bishop wrote in 1552, “When we be
in trouble, or sickness, or lose anything, we run hither and thither to witches or sorcerers,
whom we call wise men, . . . seeking aid and comfort at their hands.” Other wise men could use eclipses, or sunspots,
or comets and various natural phenomena to predict momentous future events. Like, earthquake tremors in Istanbul in 1648
for instance, were said to foretell the murder of the sultan two months later,
All these shamans, and fortune tellers, and special healers were widely depicted in the
many books now streaming from the printing press—with stories that often strayed from
reality. The reading public seemed to revel in tales
of witches: their special witches’ rites, their antics and adventures, their sexual
perversions, and their attacks on (and corruption of) the innocent. Jean Bodin was a famed and influential jurist
who wrote about sovereignty—that is, the nature of state power and authority—in this
age of new monarchy and governmental consolidation. He also famously wrote about witches and demonology
in the vernacular so that a large group would have access to his pieces. And I think it’s important to note Bodin
because his work underscores that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries high-minded political
theory of government and the everyday world of witches co-existed. I think this can be one of the great empathy
barriers in history–it can be hard for some of us to imagine a world where it was almost
universally assumed that the hand of God and the hand of the Devil were constantly shaping
events both large and small. But one of the discomforting things about
humanity is the role luck or fate or however you consider it plays in our lives, and we
all have a desire for life to be a story that makes sense. Saying “Everything happens for a reason”
is one way of doing that; saying, “Witches did it” is another. In some ways, history itself is an attempt
to tell a story that makes sense–we’re trying to find narratives amid an endlessly
complicated web of forces and choices and luck. So I hope thinking about that can help you
empathize a bit. But back to witches: Art is another place
we see a lot of witchcraft. In grand baroque paintings, you can find devils,
serpents, old hags, and other signs of evil filtering across society. Like, in Rubens’ massive painting “Madonna
on the Crescent Moon,” featured at the altar of the Cathedral of Freising, the entire left
third displays devils, and demons, and the serpent of sin for parishioners. And “Council of the Gods,” one of Rubens’
celebratory works on the life of Marie de Medici, depicts a witch-like figure at the
extreme right. And it’s important to note that Rubens was
working from images that had already been around for a long time, in the form of black
and white engravings of the devil and witches in broadsheets and books. So we know ideas about witches were plentiful. But where did they actually originate? The Bible doesn’t say much about them, though
there is this prominent statement in Exodus 22:18: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to
live.” Popular culture, however, drew on pagan mythology,
full of wily sorceresses and enchantresses using love potions and charms to work their
magic. And people saw woodcuts of witches in flight
or they heard about magicians on flying coats or carpets or they went to healers and unexpectedly
died. But again, we look for stories that make sense,
and it makes sense that a healer with their medicinal potions, might also have access
to poisonous or other dangerous potions. So there were a few lines from the Bible,
a growing collection of scary stories through the Middle Ages, and then came Heinrich Kramer’s
Witches’ Hammer (Malleus Malificarum) in 1487. Kramer was a Dominican monk whose book was
amazingly popular–for over a century, it was the second bestselling book in Europe
behind only the Bible, and the book argues that Satan, due to the fact the Apocalypse
is coming, has “caused a certain unusual heretical perversity to grow up in the land
of the Lord–a heresy, I say, of Sorceresses, since it is to be designated by the particular
gender of which he [Satan] is known to have power.” The book goes on to describe in detail the
many evils of these mostly female practitioners of witchcraft, and to advocate all-out war
against them. These days, Kramer’s book reads like aggressively
misogynistic fantasy fiction–he writes that women are “defective in all the powers of
both soul and body” and claims that witches were, among many other things, practicing
cannibalism and causing male impotence. Because of course if you have magical powers,
that’s how you’re going to use them. But at the time, Witches’ Hammer was tremendously
influential. The book was first approved, then disapproved
by religious authorities. But as Europeans engaged with pagan practices,
Kramer’s witchcraft manifesto gave them a new context. Amid the religious, economic, and social challenges
of these stressful centuries, the hunt for witches accelerated and became lethal. It’s really important to understand that
the idea of witchcraft felt to many Christians in the sixteenth century like a real threat. Did the center of the world just open? Is there a black cat in there? Oh, it must be time for a PSA. Hi! I’m John Green. This is not an evil cat! It’s just a regular nice cat that happens
to have one color of fur. Don’t be mean to these cats. These are great cats! This one happens to be fake because Stan said
I couldn’t put a real cat inside the globe. Stan! But that’s not the point. The point is that this cat is not bad luck. It is not involved in witchcraft. It is a great cat. Or, it would have been a great cat if Stan
had let me use a real cat. So, beginning in 1560 in villages and cities
across Europe, a stream of supposedly demonic incidents took place and a raft of persecutions
followed. Between 1560 and 1800, between 50,000 to 100,000
people were tried for witchcraft in the European world. Unlike Joan of Arc, most purported witches
had little to do with the grand and tumultuous events of those years. Like Joan, the vast majority—approximately
80 percent–were women. And like Joan, many were executed. Almost all major works of demonology during
these years were published in German or in Latin with a German publisher—the Holy Roman
Empire therefore was one major center of the hunt for witches. In 1564, judges for the town council of Augsberg,
a city in the south of the German empire, questioned the healer Anna Megerler when a
boy she had cared for died of a wound. While being intensely grilled, Megerler said
that she had taught secret knowledge to the mighty Anton Fugger, who was headquartered
in Augsberg. Fugger was financier to the Habsburgs and
others. Megerler said her supernatural knowledge had
helped him prosper in finance, and that he in turn had taught her about crystal ball-gazing. The judges determined that it would create
“complications” should they proceed further with the inquiry, and her life was spared. But many women were executed after being tortured
into confessing–and Witches’ Hammer strenuously argued that torture was an appropriate interrogation
technique for potential witches. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. 1. In around 1624, for instance, the slave and
healer Paula de Eguiluz was tried in Spanish Cuba for witchcraft. 2. It was reported that she had killed a child
by sucking on her navel; 3. she had also used other skills to devise
a potion to help cure her master’s illness. 4. Simultaneously Paula de Eguiluz knew the Lord’s
Prayer and Ten Commandments, 5. went regularly to Sunday mass, 6. and faithfully made her confession even
as she gained popularity for her shamanistic healing of people. 7. The lines between Christianity and paganism
have never been bright or clear. 8. The inquisitors in her first hearing condemned
her to 200 lashes and ordered her to perform charitable work. 9. In her third hearing, she fully confessed
to being in league with the devil and a witch even as she continued to frame the use of
her African healing knowledge as a Christian act. 10. By that time she had been convicted and ordered
to be sent to government officials for execution in a move that was cancelled only because
she had popular support. 11. But most women accused of witchcraft didn’t
have the public on their side. 12. Famously, nineteen convicted witches were
hanged in the English colony of Salem, Massachusetts, having initially been accused by young girls
of causing their “fits.” 13. Others died of torture and imprisonment in
the Americas, 14. but the majority of trials and executions
took place in Europe, 15. where, historians believe, tens of thousands
of women were executed for witchcraft in the 16th and 17th centuries. Thanks, Thought Bubble. [[TV: Midwife]] So, A lying-in-nurse–who
took care of mothers and children in the post-pardum period–was a common target for the accusation,
because she dealt with especially vulnerable people: a mother who had just given birth
and her newborn infant. Both had high mortality rates. And the accused were often older women, those
who had gone through menopause and who were sometimes marginalized because they could
no longer give birth to new community members. Many were also widowed, perhaps isolated and
without a strong network of support. Once a person was seen as a viable suspect,
she was turned over for torture, which was usually carried out by the local hangman,
who would also hang the suspect if she were ultimately found guilty. The suspect was stripped of clothing, shaved
of bodily hair, so that the torturer could minutely examine the body for all the diabolical
signs that had come down in lore and then been codified in various manuals and books
of demonology. Warts, moles, skin tags, hardened nipples,
sagging breasts, and any purportedly diabolical deformations were seen as important evidence. And I just want to note that these are all
things that happen to human bodies naturally over time, so everyone who was older and female
could be construed as a witch. The hangman then applied torture at the direction
of a council of examiners. Knowing the accused person’s body intimately,
he came to know it better by observing and noting the kinds of torture and the victim’s
reaction to each type. Then as now, many tortured people would make
false confessions, which in turn often led to execution. The widespread torture and execution are horrifying,
and they speak to how profoundly afraid people were of the devil and his influence. In 1587, the story of Faust, a scholar who
sells his soul to the devil, was first published. And its themes were relevant to popular and
high culture. Because if a /scholar/ would sell his soul
to the devil, who could be immune? It was common knowledge that the devil was
a trickster and a supreme illusionist, cloaked in all kinds of magic that was difficult to
detect or to separate from the normal, good magic of the unseen world. So in towns and cities, councils examined
suspects often over a period of years, with interrogations interspersed with torture and
deliberations. They would examine a suspect’s words, the
stories she told, and the contradictions within those stories. They tried to discern who was in league with
the devil and who was simply mentally disturbed or a helpful healer or, you know, a victim
of torture. And these councils of notable men always had
the last word, leading some historians to believe that in times of difficulty and disorder,
like the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, men asserted control. Other historians point to the concentrated
focus on women and conclude that the accused were the most vulnerable and often the most
disrespected in society. Moreover, women such as lying-in-nurses dealt
with the most intimate matters of human existence, especially new life, which was then fraught
with danger–around half of all infants born died before their fifth birthday, many in
the first few days of life, and childbirth was among the greatest threats to women’s
lives. Finally, others point out that women were
the main victims because religious scripture referred to the female body as the most impure
and most vulnerable to evil. Being seen as the most unclean, they were
also seen as the most like the devil–tricksters and agents of disorder. The Witches’ Hammer makes this comparison
explicit many, many times. But no matter what conclusions you draw, it’s
important to understand that sexism isn’t just, like, bad in the abstract. It is a system of power that oppresses people,
and in these cases, many times kills them. Between 1700 and 1750, the persecution of
witches diminished, as the tide started to turn against the practice. French courts ordered the arrest of witch-hunters
and the release of suspected witches. In 1682, a French royal decree treated witchcraft
as a fraud. Perhaps the state had taken seriously Michel
de Montaigne’s pronouncement from a century earlier—almost unique at the time, by the
way: “it is taking one’s conjectures rather seriously to roast someone alive for them.” By 1700, people had a more positive view of
the divine and had relaxed their view that the Devil’s hand was at work in everyday
life or in natural disasters. Although some religious authorities might
still see misfortune as the work of the Devil, others had a better understanding that there
were scientific laws behind the operations of nature. More than that, the worst of the multifaceted
religious and political turmoil was over and questions of political order seemed less menacing. We’ll discuss how these new understandings
came about in the next few episodes. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you then.

100 Replies to “Witchcraft: Crash Course European History #10

  1. If it isn't the Lord and satan creating these scenarios, then it is you. Careful there boy.

    Matthew 10:34 King James Version (KJV)

    34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword

  2. ‘As it was with the witches: before rationality, science, technology and modern economics could be established, all wild, untamed, magic and backward-looking thinking had to be violently eliminated. Today it is no different: violence is needed to “civilize”, “improve” the “underdeveloped world” and “wild nature”. Violence is therefor still the secret of modern capitalist-patriarchal civilization.’
    — Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, 1986

  3. I'm a little disappointed that this video doesn't connect the witch burnings to enclosure. They served to bring down powerful women, specifically powerful women not doing christianity right, but they were also about fracturing the communities in which those people resided and taking social power for the church.

  4. Much kudos for respecting the victims. The thing I don't like is that you don't explain Jhon's death is political and witch fear was used to cover that they killed her to advance their agenda not to kill a witch. Actually, you don't mention it as the main reason women were convicted or accused.

  5. Are there any references for Anna Megerler's case that I can read more about? I'm working on this topic right now but couldn't find her name by searching online:(

  6. That Paula De Eguiluz reminds me of a episode on Netflix where she was slave/witch and they was gonna burn her but she and her master fell in love but within the time she was sent to jail some old man gave her a bottle to drink and she ended up in da future

  7. You know, I've always wanted to go back in time and say to these people, "Look, if she was really a witch, do you think she'd be letting you do these things to her, or don't you think she would have magicked her way out of this mess by now? You claim she can do all of these things— fly, curse, cause deaths, control the actions of others, yet she's not using her abilities to fly away or kill her persecutors?" 🙄

  8. Which was a generic term for asking and also changing and deciding. Ese Witch is that witch and also b is the phrase for switch.

    Imagine the women who are tired of the araki of the Catholic church and then the Reformation comes and are told of freedoms only to find out set these freedoms are the same as a Catholic church but on the smaller level still holding them at a lower level, without any rights. So they change again and are called witches. Also they new levels of science sometimes more advanced than the males who exported them in that manner as well. hence the lethality and also the taking of property from former wives. As some Protestants were faithful others or just explaining it to kill their way to wealth but by murder. Which even back then was a crime. It was the Medieval version calling someone a spy , but the reality was that it was more on Broad so as to eventually be able to control a gender population. Not all Protestants were bad but unfortunately some of were naively conned. For all the faults of the old church now you know why we couldn't change but we changed enough and we change enough. We called them sisters and they were of the old Olympic fé… then Roman… all the while protecting passionate gypsies…. as well as the Gentiles Fréy… and mighty Judean into India and Africa and back…

    Anyways, this is what we get trapped princesses from Queens Kings and Princess having to be rescued by Brave Heroes. You notice I separate the distinction between princes and heroes. Some Were Heroes, some were princes, some were both, most were none. most princes we're lazy and or greedy or both… and again Catholic women had property. Would you call love they called acquisition. Love be damned. Do you understand how Western Civilization is different from an Asiatic practitioner now?

  9. Iny town there is a palace (i.e. big house) built by a Fugger, and there is a legend about how he tricked the Devil into building it

  10. Repent and be quick about it! Witchcraft is not a game, but a covenant with evil that makes you a part of Lucifer's rebellion against the Most High God. Your reward from Satan for your service to him is 1000+ years in Hell while he laughs at you, and then afterwards you will be cast into the Lake of Fire with Satan, by God. There is MUCH more power in Jesus Christ than in Satan, but it requires a little patience.

    The evil spirits have no authority except for whatever authority they can trick you into yielding to them through the consent of your free will, but there is POWER in the name of JESUS, before whom EVERY knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that HE is LORD! Yes, at the name of Jesus, demons, Satan, and all the host of Satan tremble with fear!

    I hereby command the evil spirits to depart from as many as read these words, in the name and authority of Jesus Christ!

    Demons, you are hereby under arrest! Right now, depart from the reader to the abyss, you cursed of God, in Jesus name!

    FYI: That's how you "banish evil spirits and unwanted energies"!!!

    Reader, this is your opportunity to cry out to Jesus for mercy, before the demons return with reinforcements. Get filled with the Holy Ghost, because greater is He (Jesus) that is within me (and you if you surrender to Jesus) than he that is in the world (Satan).

  11. It's wrong I think to view the witch trials in terms of sexism. In my country, twice as many men were burnt at the stake for bestiality as women for witchcraft. Society punished those who appeared to transgress against biblical laws, regardless the gender of the offender.

  12. this is so heartbreaking.. christianity has such a dark history of torture and genocide.. I can't believe this isn't talked about more. it's just brushed under the rug. it's justified because these women 'weren't christian?' is that really justification to being tortured and murdered? horrible..

  13. Also! The witch stereotype of “riding on brooms” originated from Lucid Dreams and astra plane travel. In a sense, of you could ride a broom in a dream, you can do the same in a lucid dream.

  14. Interesting side note about black cats…when the movie Black Panther came out, animal shelters experienced a spike in the adoption of black cats, with some of them being named Killmonger. 🙂

  15. I remember being taught in college that while the women were more likely to be witches, the concern for men was that they could be necromancers. What I don't understand/remember is 1. how this conclusion was reached, and 2. why witches were perceived as the more important threat. Does anyone have any information about this?

  16. I think it's important to mention in all these accusations of sexism (I'm not gonna lie most witch trials were obviously massively sexist) That in places like Iceland the vast majority of those killed for witchcraft were male.

  17. This is first time a watching John Green doing a crash course besides world history and I just can't wrap my head around him talking slowly.

  18. You forgot to mention actuall witches only liked to consume belladona cuz it makes you feel like flying. So witches where actually just drug users

  19. 1487: "We need a war on witchcraft!"
    1947: "We need a war on communism!"
    2001: "We need a war on terror!"
    Scapegoats for sheeple.

  20. Hey, love this episode, but I'm a little surprised that this examination of witchcraft in Europe didnt put too much time into the political dimension of this issue. Looking at Joan of Arc, she was indeed executed by the English, but was later vindicated by the French. Both trials were highly political and tied up in the factionalism around the Hundred Years War. And that's just one example – most witch trials focused on marginalizing and taking away power from a percieved threat to the reigning political order.

  21. Considering that "The Burning Times" as some Neopagan call it today, raged for over two hundred years, the fact that it was more seen in Europe as opposed to the Americas, is almost a given…

  22. Alongside the Witch craze, there also occurred a similar 'werewolf craze' which more often males were the victim of…in essence, few were immune from being put to death for any kind of difference from the mainstream….

  23. No mention of Anna Göldi, "the last witch"?
    Found guilty of witchcraft, tortured and executed in 1782(!). Someone was late to the party…

  24. It does seem odd to persecute someone who has supernatural powers. If they could do what you allege then why would you want to piss them off?

  25. Wait a minute, did Stan said medieval people used sunspots to predict phenomena? If someone is into sun information and correlated magnetism with earth this is mindblowing!!!!

  26. Never forget the black legend guys. In the Spanish inquisition, we know of about around 5000 deaths. In the witch trials, at least 50.000 (10 times more for Christ's sake) people were burnt. Check the numbers on Wikipedia if you don't believe me. So next time someone tells you about the inquisition, please lecture them accordingly.

  27. I loved how you didn't fail to mention John of arc and Malleus Maleficarum, but I have to say that I got pissed off when you read it in English not latin.

  28. Joan of Arc was executed for the same reason Napoleon was sent to Elba and the governor of canton was sent to India in 1842. Because they were the enemy.

  29. I have a black cat called Tammy! She's gorgeous and I actually picked her BECAUSE she was black (I was three and liked witches)

  30. I love how half of these comments are actual historical comments and additives but the other is just Monty Python jokes. HQ humor, my friends 🙂

  31. The EU flag shouldn't be used as a symbol for Europe. The EU is a recent political construct, Europe is an ancient continent and culture. It would be like using the Stars and Stripes to represent Native American history. Yeah, I voted Brexit.

  32. Honestly i'm not it was worth it to do a full episode on witchcrat in europe when this crash course serie is skipping a lot of really important event in european history (italian wars ??). I mean not that trials and execution of witches was not a thing but it was still really rare. it's still realy prevalant in popular (inquisition, burning at the stake, torture…) culture but when you look at what modern historians says about the scale wasn't that important. Between 1450 and 1750 the 80 000 to 100 000 trials resulted in more than 50% aquitals and only 30 000 to 40 000 executed, if compare to other events than appened in a shorter timespan like the 30 years war (minimun 4 millions death)… I understand why they made this episode because they took the angle to talk about the life and position of women in europe througout this serie and explore the roots of the sexism and patrichachy of our society. But i think they should have picked another histiorical event ( less ingrained collective psyche) to expose that, in order to have a more accurate crash course.

  33. That poor Joan of Arc! I wish I could go back in time and save her somehow 😭 she did not deserve one of the worst punishments imaginable! Just for being a war genius.

  34. YOUR NIPPLES ARE HARD! Omg! She be Witch she's a witch for having hard nipples after being stripped! NO not witch just cold you idiots! 😂
    No but seriously it's not funny that they did this to people. What they did to these women and some men was very messed up and I wish that wouldn't have happened to these accused witches. It's sad 😢😭

  35. Regarding the narrative of the witch hunts being primarily about suppressing women:

    The history of witchcraft persecution is actually tied closely to the history of the western conception of the devil. Until about the 12th/13th century, the devil was not the big bad antagonist to God himself, but the master of the material world. If God is all powerful, then He causes both the good and the evil, the devil just has some tricks up his sleeve to help you get what you want. It was not uncommon for God fearing people to leave offerings to the devil when they wanted something taken care of. Witchcraft/cunning man practices were not evil, but it was seen as kind of silly, bumpkin superstition to those in power. The real high-occult magical work was being done by priests, who could read and had better access to grimoires.

    The church began cracking down on magic through inquisition towards the end of the 12th century. However, this was mostly aimed at the elite practitioners of magic within the church itself, not people leaving offerings at the crossroads so that their granddaughter would break up with that no good smith's apprentice.

    It wasn't until the plague hit that everything changed. The church had difficulty maintaining control as many people believed God had abandoned them, and those that still believed doubled down in their devoutness, assuming that the plague was a punishment for their sins. This is when the devil/Satan becomes the pure evil to God's pure goodness. And if the devil is explicitly evil, anyone dealing with him is evil by default — including those practicing previously harmless non-literary forms of magic.

    Before 1350, 70% of those tried and executed for magic were male and actual obstacles to the church. During the 15th century, however, 60/70% were female, as the witch hunt had expanded to include "lower" forms of magic and superstition. While the witch hunts were always used as tools for social cleansing, it is important to note that the idea of witches/magicians was not invented by the church for this purpose. There is a long, long history of occult practice that the church was actively fighting against for control. That you could take out some social undesirables along the way was a bonus feature that later became the prime motivator.

    That was a novel of a comment, but I think it's important to keep in mind the larger historical context of magical persecution. It wasn't just misogyny (but it was also misogyny).

  36. Correction Joan of arc was killed by Burgundian's because both the french and english refused to pay her ransom and she was then killed for being a heretic without the input of England or the church.

  37. Dude don't know what he is talking about, saying the Bible vaguely speaks about the Witchcraft. It all in the Old Testament!

  38. I’ve had my black cat (Onyx) for 13 years and he brings me nothing but love, cuddles, and a whole bunch of serotonin.

  39. 13:44
    In the original story Adam ate/took the apple first and then blamed Eve.
    Then the Christian god punisheded Eve.
    No wonder they changed that part :/

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