About this sample
About this sample
Words: 2537 |
13 min read
Published: Aug 31, 2023
Words: 2537|Pages: 6|13 min read
The Late Middle Ages was a contentious period in European history characterized by plague, famine, war, the expansion of Christianity, and the Inquisition by the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Inquisition aimed at eradicating heresy and religious dissent within the society in order to ensure a Catholic doctrine. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Church persecuted those who ascribed to different doctrines, encouraging the masses away from paganism. In the Late Middle Ages, however, the methods by which the Church dealt with heresy became increasingly more violent, and the Church concentrated on persecuting individuals who practiced witchcraft. The Crucible with its difference between the movie and play is a prime example of how this historical context has been explored in different forms of media.
During the 1470s, around the European Medieval era, witch hunts were known to have played a significant role during the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity was a prominent religion at this period and the popes found the practice of witchcraft sinful and an act of treason against the church. Catholics believed that the practice of this ritual was a sign of pagan superstition. The accusations of these crimes were mainly directed toward women, as they represented a majority of the population of witches and there was only a small percentage of men that convicted because the qualified in this category. Around this time period, witches are persecuted at the spot and on burnt on a stake if they are identified. Through this process, I will be analyzing the role that Spanish women played in the witch hunts by touching upon the Basque witch trials during the Spanish Inquisition. Furthermore, I will be inspecting bell hooks feminist theories with the role women played and the women’s suffrage they endured during the witch trials as they were subjected to many forms of torture.
For the longest time, witchcraft was considered as an impure practice due to the fact that it was deemed to be a social rebellion by the commoners against the resistance of authority of the Catholic Church and it’s religious teachings. The Basque community is known to have been religiously practicing Catholicism, since the time their town had been converted to Christianity earlier on (Echeverria,117). This misinterpretation of witches being descendants of evil has caused extreme allegations to be placed against the witches and reasoning behind the unforgiving punishments used against these women, which the Church deemed to be fit for the crime committee. False confessions of women admitting that they were witches was a hugely popular scenario that took place after them being subjected to these torture techniques. The reasoning behind was because of the brainwashing of the interrogation held by the church officials because after several attempts at questionings individuals would end up believing that they were in fact that culprit (Gifford, 16) . The Catholic Church, which is an institution that practices Christianity, a religion which supposedly preaches peaceful teachings and promises to provide protection to everyone, invalidates its acts by endorsing fear through the torture implementations used against these women. This an example of how the church is shown to have abused their power by instilling terror within their women specifically, by accusing them because of beliefs that are based on hearsay. The statements published in Basque folklore and media that women practiced witchcraft and black magic were known consumed dead children have no shred of evidence or proof and without this can be considered as baseless creation of story or an idea.
Due to the fact that the medieval era was such a tense time period, every action of every person was measured closely due to the paranoia of the witchcraft superstition. The. Catholic Church took complete power in order to take control and to restore order within the Spanish community. Power within the churches was based mainly on hearsay and through teachings of biblical texts and other forms of propaganda. Moreover, the communities obeyed the church’s philosophies and followed the Catholic Church’s stringent rules unequivocally, due to the church’s reign of terror during the Medieval Europe time period. Witches were condemned around this time as their acts were found to corruptible to the society and they were to be straying from standard social norms.
In the European community, Basque witches were specifically represented in their town through cultural song lyrics and other forms of media as sexually deviant, poison procuring, and as servants of the Devil who have forsaken their duty of respecting and treasuring sacred Christian laws (Echeverria, 111). Artistically, if this type of imagery were described of a witch’s daily lifestyle in others forms of media, then this is bound to evoke a sense of fearful emotion about the presence of witchcraft as a whole. According to Echevarria's article, witches were sanctioned to admit to facts that they were feasting on human children and dead witches because they were in contact with the Devil, and renouncing God by offering young children to Satan (Echeverria, 110). Truthfully, I am unable to understand these alleged statements of confessions and the correlation that it has to the practices of witchcraft, which is still a mystery. In some situations, some women were falsely accused and put on a witch trial and unjustly exposed to torture tactics for no apparent reason. Due to this subjected harm, they would eventually subsist and to admit to crimes they were not even involved in rather than enduring the pain. Accusations against people that were believed of practice this ritual were known ostracized within their society. Situations like these are reasons behind the divide in communities, specifically between women accused and other women in the society. This is discussed in the article, Mythologies of Witchcraft in the Fifteenth Century, which expands on an example of a confession of Jordana de Baulmes, one of the accused individuals tried in the early 1400’s for the witchcraft trials. According to this article, where the author explains that the patient is interrogated after eight days into this trial; the judges decide to interrogate Jordana by not asking her directly whether “she was guilty of practicing witchcraft but rather if she knew the deeds of the heretics” of which Jordana was then able to provide information that she had heard about the heretics from other sources years ago (Kieckhefer, 2006). This is a clear example of how unreliable t interrogators methods of extracting information were, as they twisted the questions in order to confuse and capture their victims. Due to the open-endedness of their questioning and method tactics, individuals may tend to be wrongfully accused as they are essentially forced provide evidence. Due to excessive pressure to maintain truthful under oath many individuals clearly mention information that they are aware of about the witch trials, based on hearsay, like the previous example, rather than an actual experience they went through. This is just one example of how manipulated the confession process was during the witch trials and how it caused Jordana to face consequences based on the exploitation of the church officials questioning techniques.
Many chose to not be associated with women under suspicion, as they believed this would bring shame since they were perceived as a suspected witch by the Catholic Church. Moreover, families tended to ignore allegedly accused witches in society, because they probably felt that by associating them, their children or more specifically the girls could be influenced by their practices and rituals, and so in general they felt it was best to stay away from them. This also ties into the desperation of the Catholic Church felt as they attempted to restore order and maintain power through their investigative measures to classify women and eliminate the witches in the community.
There have been several writers and researchers that have delved into the argument of whether the superstition versus the reality of witchcraft, and its relation to paganism. Introspectively, it was about whether this theory of existence of witches could have been accurate or whether it was a completely painted fabrication. According to Gifford’s article, a majority of these writers have denied the existence of witchcraft and the nature of pagan religion cults, though it is still up for debate (15). Several forms of propaganda, such as media platforms have examined the influence paganism had on families and individuals in societies. Examples of this are showcased in portrayals of media on screen, such as the film Goya’s Ghosts, the main character was a woman suspected of practicing Judaism, it shows how she is easily able to crack under pressure because of the torture methods and falsely admit to being a witch than take the punishment. The similarity with this movie was that the women that were under suspicion of practicing witchcraft and paganism reacted in a similar manner as the main character did in her situation. The choices that Ines, the accused character made during the film to imprison herself and falsely confess, was because the agony of the punishments seemed so brutal, that she decided she would rather testify than take further pain for no wrongdoing. The depictions of the torture in this movie seemed fairly accurate to the punishments actual Spanish women accused of practicing witchcraft faced during this era.
Women who were identified as witches were exposed to brutally harsh treatments which caused them to confess. An example of this torture sentencing is shown in the article by Echeverria, Basque women that were declared as being witches were immediately burned at the stake or in an effigy in Navarre, meanwhile the men suspected, a Catholic priest and a monk faced a less strenuous punishment as they were exiled and subjected to banished (1). Historically known, during the medieval period, gender roles played a huge impact because there was significant division between males and females. Due to gender inequality within this century, women were aware of their lower social standing in society and the lack of position and power that they held in comparison to men. Overall, they were not given the liberty, like men, to live their lives freely and at ease. Mainly, because the Catholic Church would incessantly conduct a close inspection of women’s behavior and their daily routines in order to exterminate the witches that roamed in the society. Furthermore, this era was huge on the positioning of promote segregation between both genders and insinuated behaviors that damage individual's psyche. In Cory’s article, A Nineteenth-Century Women's Rights Historian Looks at Witchcraft, she explains how European colonies adopted religion as huge influence when making government rules, furthermore the Puritans believed that a woman were inferior and those who disobeyed these stringent religious laws were considered to be shameful and wicked (53). Majority of the types of socially acceptable gender roles for women were when they behaved a compliant individual in society, and opted to maintained a gentle and respectful demeanour. Furthermore, during this period women acknowledged their inferiority and played the act of an obedient wife to their that stood behind their husbands. According to feminist theorist bells hooks, women used to acknowledge the evils and issues of sexism and the wounds it would cause however they would themselves so they resisted because of hesitance to make a change (266-267). This is why I presume that women were in acceptance of their roles due to the fact that it fit with that structure of social norms back in the days. Moreover, females usually never questioned their gender roles or revolted against authorities that discriminated by gender, because this would have caused them to face serious consequences.
As a minority black woman, Hooks explains how she was subjected to severe forms of suppression having lived in a patriarchal society, similar to that of the women during the European witch trials, and she realized that the best way to maneuver within it was to accept and acknowledge that the current day society is dominated with sexist and racist individuals (271). Women that followed this tactic recognized their inferiority during the ages of the Spanish Inquisition and accepted that in order to stay safe they would need to act according to the rules of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, women that tended to blindly obey the orders of the church did so in fear with the hope to not be accused of being a witch. When looking at the portrayal of the times of witchcraft paranoia in current forms of media, a film such as The Crucible shows an accurate representation of suspicion that all women were under during this time regarding whether they were witches or not. In comparison to the hooks outlined of philosophies, one of the main character of the movie, The Crucible, named Tituba was also a black women that faced severe racist and misogynistic outcomes due to the ideology that the community members believed she was practicing black magic. In the film, she was one of the first people to be accused of witchcraft. She was considered a suspect when a few of the Puritan Ministers found her singing and dancing which they deemed to be a pagan ritual, however naturally it was claimed that these acts were actually a traditional practice descended from her African roots. With this scenario, hooks expands upon this reasoning behind the theory of misogyny and prejudiced against Tituba, a black woman, by explaining how assertion and authority can place an impact on society since it is determined by many factors, such as politics of race sex and class domination (81). Using the scenario of Tituba as an example that many of minority women during the time period faced, it can be understood that she was faced with such prejudice, based on her minority race and gender status as black woman during the mid 16th and 17th century.
The European witch trials was an era of chaos and controversy, as historians believed that the reason for the massacre of women was because of the control of Catholic Church’s and unreliable interrogative techniques. The environment during the witch trial period was very hostile and an aggressive time period for women. Females were under severe scrutiny by being constantly type-casted under the public eye, either as guilty of practicing witchcraft or not. Women that refused to follow Catholic Church’s stringent influence of Christian religious practices were put under severe cross-examination and if exposed as witches then immediately endured to severe treatments adopted by the Catholic Church officials. Nonetheless, it can be shown that Spanish women during this age were acting as compliant to Christian laws and the church’s regulations. Through the use of bell hooks feminist theories, she analyzes that Spanish women adopted a subservient attitude to remain cautious as they were under constant pressure of suspicion during the witch trials.
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