Witches aren’t cute. They’re a reminder of everything that is wrong with ignorance and superstition. Primitive people demand scapegoats—someone to blame, someone to punish—for whatever goes wrong. It’s never their own fault. Witches are still persecuted in backward areas of the world today. It’s only a few hundred years since European and American society outgrew witch hunts. Our forbearers tortured and executed witches on a scale comparable to the holocaust.
The treatment of witches is an obscene tale. The accused witch was guilty until proven innocent. Most witches were menopausal women. Strip the witch naked so the village elders can probe every inch of her body searching for the mark of the Devil. Dirty old men relished this religious duty. Hand her over to the torturer. Pain and perversion would make her talk. She’d confess to casting evil spells and cavorting naked with the Devil. After torture broke her, the witch was brought to trial. Providence would tell.
Thrust her hand into the sacred fire. If God protected her, the fire would not burn her. She was innocent. If the fire did burn her, she was a witch possessed by the Devil. The world had to be protected from her evil. God demanded her execution.
Tie her up and throw her in the river. If she sank to the bottom, the holy water had accepted her. She was innocent, but she drowned. If she floated, the holy water had rejected her. She was possessed by the Devil. Only her execution would sanctify the community.
Witch executions were barbaric. A fortunate few were hanged. Most got a prolonged and public sampling of Hell. Whip them. Stone them. Hack their breasts off. Burn their faces off. Finally, burn them alive—slowly. Grind up their remains and scatter them to prevent their use as relics in Devil worship.
Afterwards the judges held a feast—billed to the witch’s family. The judges divided the witch’s estate. The informer who turned her in got a share, the Church got a share and the state got a share.
Far fewer witches were discovered once the informant’s bounty was discontinued. It would have been nice if rational thought or humanity had been responsible, but greed will do in a pinch.
When a four-foot tall witch rings your doorbell this Halloween, give her candy, an apple or a quarter. Urge her to come back next year as a princess, a nurse, or a doctor.