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History 229: The Age of the Witch Hunts

The Parlement of Paris

The Parlement of Paris was a powerful, centralized court system located in Paris. It was also the court of appeals for the lower courts of much of the surrounding areas of northern France. Unlike some of the lower courts in more rural areas, the parlement was becoming increasingly regulated and aligning more and more with […]

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Witch Trials of Labourd, France (1609)

The region of Pays de Labourd was the site of the only official, mass witch-hunt in France during the early modern period. The hunt was initiated in 1609 when King Henry IV sent two officials from the Parlement of Bordeaux, Pierre de Lancre and Jean d’Espagnet, to investigate witchcraft in the area. However, de Lancre […]

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Friesland was a province in the Netherlands that did not execute a single witch through out the entirety of the trials. Correlating to Brian Levack’s arguments in “State Building and Witch Hunting,” the highly organized and centralized provincial court in Friesland prevented executions. The court system not only held a strong presence, but also seemed to […]

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The Peelland Witch Trials

(From Google Maps) In 1595 in the Dutch province of Peelland, there was a series of witch trials that resulted in 19 recorded executions – all women burned at the stake. The witch panic swept through the three adjacent towns of Mierlo, Asten, and Lierop. The only executions occurred in Mierlo and Lierop: the first […]

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Before the sixteenth century, there was essentially no consensus in the Low countries about the most proper or effective way to conduct witch trials. It was apparent that a normal judicial procedure would not be suitable for the lese majestatis (exceptional crime) of witchcraft, yet municipal authorities were largely undecided or unaware of how to […]

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Dirrick Wonnen and the Nijkerk Bewitchments

In 1549 in Nijkerk, A woman named Dirrick Wonnen was accused of stealing the umbilical chord from a baby to conduct magical “tricks.” A man named Jacob Lange accused her of this crime, and the people of Nijkerk believed that a witch could conduct a crime just by looking at a victim. Dirrick Wonnen’s “crime” […]

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Trial In Lukh

In Russia, accusations of witchcraft were made by petitioning the local town governor, and in the autumn of 1657, the town of Lukh came up with a number of petitions due to the affliction of the townspeople’s wives. They were apparently afflicted with a form of magical bewitchment called klikushestvo, which is translated as “shrieking” […]

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King James VI

King James the VI played an important role in the legal development of witch trials in Scotland. He did not show a large interest in witch until the early 1590s. When his bride to be, Princess Anne of Denmark, was unable to reach Scotland due to storms and other difficulties on the ship the king […]

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Scottish act of 1563

The Scottish act of 1563 went into effect in 1563, establishing witchcraft as a crime punishable by death. The act did not specify how to handle a witchcraft trial, nor did it establish qualifications for how to identify a witch. It is unclear who exactly drafted the piece of legislation. The act went through a […]

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Sir George Mackenzie

Sir George Mackenzie was born in 1636 and worked as a Scottish lawyer and judge. He was known for expressing skepticism in certain witch trials. However, he believed that the devil had the power to inflict and cure diseases, and he thought the devil could transport witches to the Sabbath. He acquitted several witches during his time as a […]

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