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  • Hi I'm John Green and this is Crash Course European History.

  • So, in the first episode of this series, we talked about the significance of the year

  • 1431.

  • Remember, that was the year Joan of Arc was burned to death for heresy and witchcraft

  • because the English were so bewildered that a teenage peasant girl could lead the French

  • army to victory that they decided she had to be a witch and a heretic.

  • And, you know, it was pretty bewildering that a random peasant girl somehow basically became

  • for a time the most important general in the most important war of the fifteenth century.

  • That said, just to state the obvious: Joan of Arc was not a witch.

  • But just as she benefited from superstitions and prophecies about mystically powerful women,

  • she was ultimately destroyed by fears of witchcraft and dark magic.

  • For the past four episodes, the world has been turned upside down in the century after

  • Joan's trial and execution.

  • The Reformation, Commercial and Agricultural Revolutions, and Counter-Reformation were

  • each in their own way shaking social, and economic, and political, and religious structures.

  • Perhaps some witches could explain that turmoil.

  • INTRO So, for most of European history, and indeed

  • for most of world history, people believed in unseen powers that operated across their

  • world and in their individual lives.

  • Objects from nature could be healing or poisonous, working in unknown ways.

  • Like, Queen Elizabeth once received a ring that was supposed to protect her from the

  • plague.

  • Most towns had shamans, a “wiseman or woman, a wizard, a sorcerer, or another resident

  • who knew about potions, and poultices, and charms.

  • And look, Queen Elizabeth never got the plague, so it was easy to conclude that sometimes,

  • at least, this stuff worked!

  • As one bishop wrote in 1552, “When we be in trouble, or sickness, or lose anything,

  • we run hither and thither to witches or sorcerers, whom we call wise men, . . . seeking aid and

  • comfort at their hands.”

  • Other wise men could use eclipses, or sunspots, or comets and various natural phenomena to

  • predict momentous future events.

  • Like, earthquake tremors in Istanbul in 1648 for instance, were said to foretell the murder

  • of the sultan two months later, All these shamans, and fortune tellers, and

  • special healers were widely depicted in the many books now streaming from the printing

  • presswith stories that often strayed from reality.

  • The reading public seemed to revel in tales of witches: their special witches' rites,

  • their antics and adventures, their sexual perversions, and their attacks on (and corruption

  • of) the innocent.

  • Jean Bodin was a famed and influential jurist who wrote about sovereigntythat is, the

  • nature of state power and authorityin this age of new monarchy and governmental consolidation.

  • He also famously wrote about witches and demonology in the vernacular so that a large group would

  • have access to his pieces.

  • And I think it's important to note Bodin because his work underscores that in the sixteenth

  • and seventeenth centuries high-minded political theory of government and the everyday world

  • of witches co-existed.

  • I think this can be one of the great empathy barriers in history--it can be hard for some

  • of us to imagine a world where it was almost universally assumed that the hand of God and

  • the hand of the Devil were constantly shaping events both large and small.

  • But one of the discomforting things about humanity is the role luck or fate or however

  • you consider it plays in our lives, and we all have a desire for life to be a story that

  • makes sense.

  • SayingEverything happens for a reasonis one way of doing that; saying, “Witches

  • did itis another.

  • In some ways, history itself is an attempt to tell a story that makes sense--we're

  • trying to find narratives amid an endlessly complicated web of forces and choices and

  • luck.

  • So I hope thinking about that can help you empathize a bit.

  • But back to witches: Art is another place we see a lot of witchcraft.

  • In grand baroque paintings, you can find devils, serpents, old hags, and other signs of evil

  • filtering across society.

  • Like, in Rubens' massive painting "Madonna on the Crescent Moon," featured at the altar

  • of the Cathedral of Freising, the entire left third displays devils, and demons, and the

  • serpent of sin for parishioners.

  • And "Council of the Gods," one of Rubens' celebratory works on the life of Marie de

  • Medici, depicts a witch-like figure at the extreme right.

  • And it's important to note that Rubens was working from images that had already been

  • around for a long time, in the form of black and white engravings of the devil and witches

  • in broadsheets and books.

  • So we know ideas about witches were plentiful.

  • But where did they actually originate?

  • The Bible doesn't say much about them, though there is this prominent statement in Exodus

  • 22:18: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

  • Popular culture, however, drew on pagan mythology, full of wily sorceresses and enchantresses

  • using love potions and charms to work their magic.

  • And people saw woodcuts of witches in flight or they heard about magicians on flying coats

  • or carpets or they went to healers and unexpectedly died.

  • But again, we look for stories that make sense, and it makes sense that a healer with their

  • medicinal potions, might also have access to poisonous or other dangerous potions.

  • So there were a few lines from the Bible, a growing collection of scary stories through

  • the Middle Ages, and then came Heinrich Kramer's Witches' Hammer (Malleus Malificarum) in

  • 1487.

  • Kramer was a Dominican monk whose book was amazingly popular--for over a century, it

  • was the second bestselling book in Europe behind only the Bible, and the book argues

  • that Satan, due to the fact the Apocalypse is coming, hascaused a certain unusual

  • heretical perversity to grow up in the land of the Lord--a heresy, I say, of Sorceresses,

  • since it is to be designated by the particular gender of which he [Satan] is known to have

  • power.”

  • The book goes on to describe in detail the many evils of these mostly female practitioners

  • of witchcraft, and to advocate all-out war against them.

  • These days, Kramer's book reads like aggressively misogynistic fantasy fiction--he writes that

  • women aredefective in all the powers of both soul and bodyand claims that witches

  • were, among many other things, practicing cannibalism and causing male impotence.

  • Because of course if you have magical powers, that's how you're going to use them.

  • But at the time, Witches' Hammer was tremendously influential.

  • The book was first approved, then disapproved by religious authorities.

  • But as Europeans engaged with pagan practices, Kramer's witchcraft manifesto gave them

  • a new context.

  • Amid the religious, economic, and social challenges of these stressful centuries, the hunt for

  • witches accelerated and became lethal.

  • It's really important to understand that the idea of witchcraft felt to many Christians

  • in the sixteenth century like a real threat.

  • Did the center of the world just open?

  • Is there a black cat in there?

  • Oh, it must be time for a PSA.

  • Hi!

  • I'm John Green.

  • This is not an evil cat!

  • It's just a regular nice cat that happens to have one color of fur.

  • Don't be mean to these cats.

  • These are great cats!

  • This one happens to be fake because Stan said I couldn't put a real cat inside the globe.

  • Stan!

  • But that's not the point.

  • The point is that this cat is not bad luck.

  • It is not involved in witchcraft.

  • It is a great cat.

  • Or, it would have been a great cat if Stan had let me use a real cat.

  • So, beginning in 1560 in villages and cities across Europe, a stream of supposedly demonic

  • incidents took place and a raft of persecutions followed.

  • Between 1560 and 1800, between 50,000 to 100,000 people were tried for witchcraft in the European

  • world.

  • Unlike Joan of Arc, most purported witches had little to do with the grand and tumultuous

  • events of those years.

  • Like Joan, the vast majorityapproximately 80 percent--were women.

  • And like Joan, many were executed.

  • Almost all major works of demonology during these years were published in German or in

  • Latin with a German publisherthe Holy Roman Empire therefore was one major center of the

  • hunt for witches.

  • In 1564, judges for the town council of Augsberg, a city in the south of the German empire,

  • questioned the healer Anna Megerler when a boy she had cared for died of a wound.

  • While being intensely grilled, Megerler said that she had taught secret knowledge to the

  • mighty Anton Fugger, who was headquartered in Augsberg.

  • Fugger was financier to the Habsburgs and others.

  • Megerler said her supernatural knowledge had helped him prosper in finance, and that he

  • in turn had taught her about crystal ball-gazing.

  • The judges determined that it would createcomplicationsshould they proceed further

  • with the inquiry, and her life was spared.

  • But many women were executed after being tortured into confessing--and Witches' Hammer strenuously

  • argued that torture was an appropriate interrogation technique for potential witches.

  • Let's go to the Thought Bubble.

  • 1.

  • In around 1624, for instance, the slave and healer Paula de Eguiluz was tried in Spanish

  • Cuba for witchcraft.

  • 2.

  • It was reported that she had killed a child by sucking on her navel;

  • 3. she had also used other skills to devise a potion to help cure her master's illness.

  • 4.

  • Simultaneously Paula de Eguiluz knew the Lord's Prayer and Ten Commandments,

  • 5. went regularly to Sunday mass,

  • 6. and faithfully made her confession even as she gained popularity for her shamanistic

  • healing of people.

  • 7.

  • The lines between Christianity and paganism have never been bright or clear.

  • 8.

  • The inquisitors in her first hearing condemned her to 200 lashes and ordered her to perform

  • charitable work.

  • 9.

  • In her third hearing, she fully confessed to being in league with the devil and a witch

  • even as she continued to frame the use of her African healing knowledge as a Christian

  • act.

  • 10.

  • By that time she had been convicted and ordered to be sent to government officials for execution

  • in a move that was cancelled only because she had popular support.

  • 11.

  • But most women accused of witchcraft didn't have the public on their side.

  • 12.