no edit summary
[[File:Witches one.jpg|200px|thumbnail|left|An drawing of witches from the 16th century]]
At the time of the witch-craze, Europe was a deeply divided continent, and it was experiencing something of a socio-economic crisis. The population of Europe had grown, and this was putting pressure on scarce agricultural resources. Religious wars had wracked Europe from at least the mid-sixteenth century, and much of the continent had been devastated by the 30 years war and the Huguenot Wars.<ref> Bailey, Michael D. Magic and Superstition in Europe: A Concise History from Antiquity to the Present. (London, Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), p. 5</ref>
-trials emerged in the 16th century out of an effort to persecute heretics deemed a threat to Christendom. This fear was eventually projected onto those regarded as witches. It was widely believed that groups of people served the devil and were engaged in black magic. Before the late fifteenth century, there had been no real interest in witchcraft. Still, after the publication of Malleus Malefic arum, the 1485 treatise by Henricus Institoris, there was a growth of interest in the area.<ref> Bailey, p. 12</ref> [[File: Witches 3.png| 300px|thumbnail|left|A popular image of the devil in the early modern era]]There had been a widespread belief in the existence of witches and the power of black magic in much of Europe as the Church's beliefs had failed to change the folk-beliefs of the country-people, who often remained half-pagan. It seems that countless people practiced folk -medicine that often involved cures and charms. These had long been tolerated by the authorities and were not considered a danger. There was a change in sorcery's legal definition during the 15th century, and sorcery was deemed to be heretical.<ref> Cohn, Norman. Europe's Inner Demons: An Enquiry Inspired by the Great Witch-Hunt. Sussex and London: Sussex University Press and Heinemann Educational Books, 1975), p. 6</ref>
At this time, the Christian community began to formulate a definite sense of witchcraft, and this involved Black Sabbaths, demonic worships, and black magic that harmed people and their property. This led to the uneducated rural population's folk religion and practices, becoming regarded as sorcery and associated with the Devil. This doctrinal shift meant that the people's folk religion was criminalized and considered to be demonic<ref> Cohn, p. 14</ref> It should be noted that some of the popular magical practices in rural areas were often malicious and involved cursing victims. This form of malignant magic was used as evidence for the existence of malevolent witches.
There have been very many attempts to explain the causes of the witchcraft trials and craze. Anthropologists have argued that these witchcraft trials served an important function in early modern society. This era was one that was plagued by a series of disasters. Many societies were unstable, and they were regularly devastated by famine, war, and pestilence. This was also a time when the old certainties were challenged.
Many agricultural communities were destabilized by capitalism's growth and the ‘price revolution’ caused by the massive inflows of gold and silver from the Americas. This influx of precious metals led to high inflation.<ref> Thomas, p. 111</ref> To compound the economic problems, beginning from the later sixteenth
-century Europe experienced climatic changes, a mini Ice age. Climate change led to hardship and poor harvests. It is widely believed that the standard of living in many countries fell and famines became more common.
The Witchcraft Craze in Europe lasted from 1500-1700. The period because of religious changes
, became more interested in the devil and heresy. This led the elite in the Church to construct an idea of witches who were the devil's servants and who plotted to kill and harm Christians. By 1500 sorcery was deemed to be heresy, and the Church had become much more concerned about any deviant practices. Increasingly the customs and the practices of the semi-pagan rural dwellers were interpreted as witchcraft. This meant that they were extremely vulnerable to accusations of sorcery.
The factors that promoted the Witch Craze included the growing Catholic and Protestant rivalry and the need to ensure the population's religious conformity. Then there were the genuine social tensions because of the endemic warfare, inflation, economic changes, and social change. This created a situation where there was a need to control the population, and witches were used to venting popular discontent and warn the poor not to become rebellious. Women were the chief victims of the Witchcraft Craze, and this was due to social change where single women increased in numbers, which led to tensions, and these were released in widespread charge of witchcraft against unmarried females. There was no one reason for the hysteria that cost so many their lives. Rather it was often the interplay of all the above factors.