Read the following three documents, and use them to identify reasons for the accusation of witchcraft and the persecution of those accused in Europe from the late fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. For each document, provide answers to the following:
- What is the point of view?
- How does social position affect the point of view evidenced in the document?
- Who is the intended audience of the document?
- What is the intended outcome of the document?
- Offer one reason for Europe’s witch hysteria revealed by the document.
Must be at least 2-3 pages in length.
Walpurga Hausmannin has, upon kindly questioning and also torture … confessed her witchcraft and admitted the following. [When] she had become a widow, she cut corn for Hans Schlumperger … Him she enticed with lewd speeches and gestures and they convened that they should … meet in her … dwelling, there to indulge in lustful intercourse. [ But] it was not the said bondsman who appeared unto her, but the Evil One [the Devil] in the latter’s guise … He made her many promises to help her in her poverty and need, wherefore she surrendered herself to him body and soul … For food she often had a good roast or an innocent child, which was also roasted, or a suckling pig. [The Evil One] also compelled her to do away with and to kill young infants at birth … This she did as follows: A child of the Governor here [that] she had so infected with her salve that he died within three days. Three years ago she had sucked out the blood of [citizen] Kung’s child, a twin, so that it died … She had also rubbed a salve on a beautiful son of the … Chancellor … this child had lovely faire hair and she had given him a hobby horse so that he might ride on it till he lost his senses. He died likewise.
— Testimony against a licensed midwife at Dillingen, Germany, burned 1587.
I suffered terribly from fear of Hell and the devils, whom I thought I saw [everywhere] … and sometimes with great rolling flaming eyes like saucers, having sparkling firebrands in one of their hands, and with the other reaching at me to tear me away to torments. Oh the leaps that I have made, the fright that I have had, the fears that I was in.
— From the diary of a young Protestant boy, late 16th century, from E. Rogers, Some Account of the Life and Opinion of a Fifth-Monarchy Man, 1867.
That childish old hags called witches can do anything to harm men or animals … I fight with natural reason … My object is also medical, in that I have to show that those illnesses, whose origins are attributed to witches, come from natural causes … Since witches are usually old women of melancholic nature and small brains [women who get easily depressed and have little trust in God], there is no doubt that the Devil easily affects and deceives their minds by illusions and apparitions that so bewilder them that they confess to actions that they are very far from having committed … From consideration of their age and sex, Christians should be less ready to throw these poor mindless old women into dark, black, stinking prisons unfit for humans and inhabited by evil spirits that torment the prisoners.
— Johan Wier (a Belgian physician), De Praestigiis Daemonum, 1563.
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