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Would You Be Burned At The Stake?

Illustration for article titled Would You Be Burned At The Stake?

You may think women have it rough today, but back in 16th century Europe, it was much worse. We're talking witch hunts, the paranoid, misguided and often fatal episodes that are part of Western History. A rare book written by Reginald Scott in 1584 called The Discoverie Of Witchcraft was recently found in an attic, reports The Times of London, and it details many women who met a horrible fate in the name of the occult. In one case, a dog barked at the vicar's son, who drew a knife and chased it home. The next day, the boy fell ill, and his father suspected the dog's owner of possessing evil powers. He had Mrs. Simons tried for witchcraft, but the jury could not agree on her guilt, and she escaped death. Many other women were not so lucky:

Unexplained deaths of infants, which would now be called cot deaths, were enough for the mother to be burnt as a witch. Even a prominent birthmark was often taken as a sure sign of witchcraft. Most confessions of witchcraft were extracted by torture, Scott argued.

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This got us thinking: What would we be burned at the stake for? Our pseduoreliance on astrology? Our love of tarot cards? The time we were pissed at our frenemy and then she, ahem, coincidentally had a bad experience with her colorist?

The Ancient Witch Guide Way Ahead Of Its Time [The Times]

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DISCUSSION

CumaeanSibyl
CumaeanSibyl

Pro: married, stay-at-home wife, no physical oddities

Con: kitchen witch, non-churchgoer, literate

In many cases, the women targeted by witch-hunters were those who had inspired grudges in other members of the community for some reason. Hopefully, my boringness would keep me out of the fire long enough to make relocation plans.

Also: Scott didn't need to "argue" that most confessions of witchcraft were extracted through torture. Medieval courts were based on the confessional model, rarely (if ever) considering physical evidence or other staples of modern criminal trials. The suspect's confession was all that was required, and torture was the standard procedure for obtaining it. Witch trials are not exceptional in that respect.