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Word Count: 331
The European witch craze is easily understood when placed within the historical context of the seventeenth century At this time there were economic hardships religious rivalries and troubled politics Also during this time most Europeans were looking around for any sort of answer to their most pressing problems Between 1550 and 1660 one of the most common answers to their problems seemed to be witchcraft The idea of witchcraft seems to have taken shape toward the end of the middle ages Peasant cultures seemed to have some sort of base belief in sorcery They believed certain individuals could practice good white magic or evil black magic that may for example destroy crops However in the fifteenth century authorities began to insist on theological grounds Those who made a pact with the devil could only practice black magic So once this belief became accepted judicial authorities felt it urgent to seek out and prosecute all witches This was necessary to combat the devil In the late 1400s Pope Innocent the eighth ordered inquisitions to root out witches In the following decades witch-hunts gained more momentum even in the areas that parted from Rome Alleged witches because of their relationship with the devil were harsher than ordinary criminals were The real panic and hysteria didnt begin until the late 1500s and was most severe where war and poverty was most concentrated Society in these areas would just assume that a witch was responsible and would rush an old defenseless woman to her death If not old almost always a woman This was due partly to the belief that evil was connected with Eve These trials involved horrible sadism against women and children Persecution ended after 1660 most likely because educated authorities began believing that natural disasters were from natural causes rather than supernatural causes
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