A long time ago and for centuries after, there was nothing more threatening to Christianity than Witchcraft. At the time, church officials became the witch hunters of the past and believed their #1 enemy was the witch. Their main objective was to seek out and execute all witches. They devised different methods for determining if the accused was a witch or not. As you may have already guessed, it was not a good time to be a witch!
One such method was called, "Witch Swimming," where the accused was bound, left hand to right foot and right hand to left foot then thrown into deep water. If by some lucky chance they floated, (if you can call it lucky) which was very unlikely to happen but some people did float, only because the air was trapped under their clothing. What I mean by lucky is, they didn't drown, but unlucky by the powers of King James I who rationalized that water would not accept those that had "shaken off the sacred water of baptism. If a person had the good fortune to be unlucky and drowned, like I said, good fortune then the witch was innocent and entitled to a proper Christian burial. Children were not immune to this practice.
Sometimes, depending on the executioner, he'd let a family member tie a rope around the waist of the accused witch and if they sank, which would mean they were innocent, they could be pulled out of the water to safety, hopefully before they drowned.
Before putting a witch through the process they were stripped naked and shaved from head to toe to look for the witch's mark, the Mark of the Devil; a blemish, a mole, a birthmark, a wart anything to prove that the witch was in fact following Satan.
Witch hunting became a lucrative business. Not only did the accused lose their lives but they lost all their possessions as well. The executioner had to be paid. The church expropriated all the witches belongings, to pay for the food they ate while in prison, to pay for the torturer's and executioner's time, the rope that bound them, the whip that slashed their backs, their bones to be reset and having salves applied to wounds. It cost them dearly.
If one person were accused of being a witch in a village, the whole village suffered upon the arrival of a professional witch hunter. Under torture, countless others were turned in by relatives expecting to save their own souls. Whole towns disappeared.
By the end of the 1600's, religious and government officials became alarmed at the large numbers of people being executed for being witches and soon started to realize they had made a mistake. Over all, these witch hunts, though bringing in lots of money for the church were eventually stopped, it wasn't good for the economy. Credit ceased. The loss of trade threatened the economic stability of the region. The Duke of Burgundy finally intervened and released all accused witches from prison.
So, just when the whole witch-hunt craze was starting to die down over in Europe, after Christopher Columbus anchored off the shores of the American colonies, did the infamous witch-hunt in Salem, Massachusetts begin.
It's estimated that a total of between 100,000 and 2 million witches were killed during the "Burning Times" 80% of them women and children.
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