The classical period in North America and Europe involved a great deal of witch hunts. Witch hunt refers to the hunting down of witches or any proof of witch craft practices and at that time as it is today involved mass hysteria as well as moral panic and often leading to public lynching of those involved or suspected to. This was the period of 1480 to around 1760 where there was a large man hunt for people suspected and often believed to be practicing sorcery.
During this period of ‘cleansing’ referred to as the 30 years’ war as many as 45000 to 100000 executions are believed to have occurred. In Scotland the king of that time King James VI of Scotland had been having a weather crisis on his kingdom, had a very hard time to understand or even explain why that had been happening. Thus in desperate and very dramatic turn of events 70 people were accused of being the cause of the bad weather due to their practice of witchcraft. Another important thing is that he himself took part in interrogation of a suspected witch. This in fact led to many witch trials in scot land for it’s a fact that the king himself practiced witchery and was willing to use it for political reason as well as success.
What actually led to this is that during this hard period, majority of the local people never turned to spiritual guidance (Lyndal, 169) . To add insult to injury there was a very sever religious strife between the protestants and Catholics, ever rising inflation and living costs coupled with political arguments that would lead to civil wars not forgetting the increasing gap that separated the poor from the rich (William, 271). Due to the loss of faith in the church and lack of a solid gathering, there was word going around that the devil’s minions were out to fork people from this world to his wrong ways. The minions in this case referred to the witches but things went from bad to worse when the Pope of that period, Pope Innocent VIII openly said it to be the truth and to that effect many of the then rulers followed suit and to that effect the witch craze began.
The mainly affected areas were the German speaking areas of Scotland in addition to France and so during his trip from Denmark back to Scotland, King James VI discovered that some withes had been casting spells so that he could drown at sea during his trip. This led him to fight over the areas of Scotland to stamp out pagans as well as stop witch craft. He did this with the help of the church.
This practice span for over two decades and the biggest problem is that it was often abused by the high and mighty and lead to death of probably thousands of innocent people. Things started to change toward the end o the 18th century where fewer people were sentenced to death. This is because by then laws had been formulated to sentence those found practicing and worst of all suspected of practicing to death. This many a times led to death by hanging or lynching without a fair trial to ascertain the allegations of the practice. This was mainly due to the fear portrayed as well as the church spearheading the campaign no to lose its grip of influence on the common people.
The gradual process of the decline in witch hunt was motivated by several influences that include Political factors mainly due to stabilization of authority and order leading to decrease in the number of witch hunts. Socially, people became more stable and tolerant to accept what was out of the ordinary in terms of beliefs as well as ideas resulting to decrease in witch hunts. Another crucial factor was the philosophical and intellectual factors, where people began to question the churches as authority actions. After failure to prove almost all the allegations due to lack of concrete evidence, people were more relaxed about the perception and belief of Lucifer’s powers.