Seeing Witch Hunters in England as Religious Terrorists

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 30, 2005 | Go to article overview

Seeing Witch Hunters in England as Religious Terrorists


Byline: Muriel Dobbin, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The late Sen. Joseph McCarthy's frenzied pursuit of alleged communists in the 1950s put the term "witch hunt" into permanent American political coinage. Witch hunting is now interpreted as a ruthless vendetta against political opponents, but its true horror was beyond even the paranoid mind of the Wisconsin senator who was ultimately censured and disgraced by his peers. It is estimated that between the 14th and 18th century, witch hunts in Europe took from 50,000 to 100,000 lives of those accused - probably most of them unjustly - of dealing with the devil.

Malcolm Gaskill, director of history at Churchill College, Cambridge University, has written a chronicle of evil all the more haunting for his warning that the unreasoning violence spawned by conflicting religious ideologies remains a present and formidable threat in the age of technology. Witch hunters might be compared to to religious terrorists and although the author does not draw that parallel, his account of the medieval reign of terror inflicted by English "witchfinders" is also a reminder that witch hunting warps minds and claims lives in the 21st century.

Mr. Gaskill questions how much difference there is between the mentality of 20th-century zealots and those of the 17th century. Pointing at the continuing outbursts of ferocious bloodletting in Africa and India, he contends that the savagery of the developing world, is "startlingly similar" to that which occurred in England during a time when the nation was torn by civil strife and religious dissent between the forces of Oliver Cromwell and his Puritans and the doomed King Charles I. "Then as now, witch hunts involved not just savage persecutors tormenting innocent scapegoats, but ordinary people who happened to believe in witchcraft powerfully enough to act out their most violent fantasies," he writes.

Within less than two years in 17th-century England, the dark crusade of Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne, "two godly men" led to the interrogation of more than 300 and the deaths of more than 100 by hanging, burning or torture. Mr. Gaskill offers bizarre testimony taken under torture b y the witch finders who were paid handsomely by local authority to brutally extract from terrified women admissions about "imps" with such names as Vineger Tome, a cat, and a black rabbit called "Sacke and Sugar" as well as revelations about sexual relations with Satan.

Physical deformities or problems like hemorrhoids were frequently interpreted as "teats" for suckling "impes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Seeing Witch Hunters in England as Religious Terrorists
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.