Witchcraft and crime
Young children, teenagers, adults, the elderly, men and women, simple folk and members of the elite, magistrates, Catholic priests and Protestant ministers, were all accused, charged, and executed as witches. Usually, a witch was imagined as the enemy within a community, although witches could also be the enemy from outside (a vagrant, beggar, or gypsy). Self-interest, insubordination, revenge, hatred, envy, greed, belligerence, and fornication were thought to drive these “witches’”—literally into the arms of Satan, from a demonologist’s point of view.
Depending on the political, religious, social, and particularly the juridical context, the relevant indictments listed an assortment of suspected evil doings. These included such atrocities as committing malevolent witchcraft against people and livestock, suckling a demon in the shape of a pet, creating tempests and hailstorms by evil spells, shape shifting, night riding through the air, and gathering at sabbats to feast on human flesh and copulate with devils. Michael Heer and Matthäus Merian’s copper engraving Zauberey (above) depicts the witches’ sabbat and witches’ crimes.
Image credit: “Zauberey 1626” by Michael Herr. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.