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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Historical Wednesdays Halloween Countdown - Witch Hunts

For the last Wednesday of the month, we remember the scariest incidents in history for women and the men who loved them: witch hunts.

Although some men were also persecuted from about 1450 to 1700, when witch hunts were at their height, the overwhelming majority of people accused, prosecuted, and executed were female. "Witch hunt" has become a general term for any mass hysteria resulting in metaphorical and literal lynching of perceived enemies, because now we recognize the original 250-year craze as a last gasp of panic in the face of the unknown and uncontrolled before a (supposed) Enlightenment through reason. Whenever something went wrong during this time, women, especially women with certain knowledge or abilities, became the scapegoat through which misguided people attempted to expiate society. The possibility that anyone might accuse you at any time and put you through a legal system in which it was nearly impossible to prove your innocence is a much scarier prospect than meeting a green-faced lady with a conical hat and a broomstick.

The witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 -- a legacy that now brings the town most of its tourism revenue -- made up the last big witch scare in the Western world. Even scarier is the thought that this kind of thing still happens in some parts of the world.

This concludes our scary countdown. Happy Halloween, everybody!