History 2 – The Inquisition

The Inquisition Era begins in the 8th century when the Church rules Witchcraft as heresy. By the early 1200’s the Inquisition is established and the label Witchcraft is born. By the late 1400’s the Witch Trials have begun in Europe and Witchcraft is officially illegal.

The 1st Witchcraft act of England was established in 1542 by King Henry the VIII, making Witchcraft a crime punishable by death. Ten years later, the 2nd Witchcraft Act was signed by Queen Elizabeth. The main changes being that only those who have used Witchcraft to cause harm to another should be put to death, others were only imprisoned. At this time not only was being a witch illegal, but so was consulting with one.

It didn’t take long for this once religiously driven cause to become a vehicle for political and social gain. Soon neighbor was pitted against neighbor with outlandish accusations, merely because they were looked at oddly, livestock became ill or weather wasn’t favorable. Often widows were accused so other family members or landowners could take over her land. This also moved toward accusations of the village midwife who’s practices were becoming increasingly contradictory to the accepted medical practice of the time.

In 1604 King James repealed the previous Witchcraft Act replacing it with one that was more strict. This new act was enforced by Matthew Hopkins, the self appointed “Witch Finder General”. By now burning at the stake was eliminated by the jurisdiction being transferred from the church to the court house. However, repeat offenders were put to death by hanging.

During this time the Inquisition also moved to the America’s, where the first hanging for Witchcraft occurs in Connecticut. Shortly after in 1692, the famous Salem Witch Trials begin in Massachusetts. The Salem Witch Trials begin when a group of young girls suffered from hallucinations causing people to believe they were possessed by demons. Scholars later believed that the hallucinations may have been caused by bread contaminated with ergot, a grain fungus containing LSD-like chemicals that was common in the 17th century.

In 1735 the Witchcraft Act transforms once again when it is repealed by King George II. Where once it was illegal to practice Witchcraft or to consult with a Witch, it was now considered heresy to believe that Witchcraft even existed. This new act declared that any one claiming to practice Witchcraft was charged with acting under false pretenses as a con artist and fraud since Witchcraft was no longer “real”. This act was later replaced with The Fraudulent Mediums Act in 1951.

With the last of the Witchcraft Acts being repealed, enters Gerald Gardner and the Wiccan Movement begins…..

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