Witchcraft in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Society

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Persons who summons spirits of the deceased and does magic utilizing spells may be interpreted as a witch.

Foremost, witches are associated with dark magic that they practice to cast destruction or initiate a predicament in an individual's life.

Different people hold an extensive amount of opinions concerning witches in the old times, how they practiced witchcraft, and why they did it. History holds that witchcraft was widespread in the late medieval and early modern era and that people believed in witches and fell for their occult acts. Arguably, most of the people believed in the witches because of the various factors that predisposed them to the belief as well as the prevalence of witchcraft in during the period.

Reasons Why People Believed in Witches

To begin with, individuals believed in and accepted magic as part and parcel of their lives. They believed that by using magic, witches were able to assist them in performing their daily duties in order to ensure that they survived. Lambert notes that, “…you could use supernatural means to help hunting or to make your crops grow better or to make humans or animals more fertile” (n. p). By saying this, he infers to the fact that individuals had resorted to consulting witches and asking them to perform magic so that they could grow economically. The idea of believing in witches in the medieval and early modern ages cut across various cultures and was widespread amongst communities especially in Europe.

In addition, people believed that witches could heal the sick by use of magic. Under any normal situation, one would be obliged do anything or believe in this case in anything; that may help their loved ones recover from sickness. Therefore, the popularity of witches grew as a result of their ability to heal the sick off their diseases and bring good fortune to the people. This may be attributed to the fact that modern medical care had not been discovered and that witchcraft was one of the best options that the people could count on in as far as health care was concerned.

Moreover, individuals who lived during the modern early era are reported to have had a perception that the witches were able to protect them from the wrath of the devil. Lambert states that, “. . . most people in the 16th century and 17th century believed that God had an enemy called the Devil, who was very powerful. They believed that witches made a pact or agreement with the Devil and agreed to worship and serve him” (n.p). What Lambert is trying to say is that, the popularity of witches is attributed to the fact that people believed in the existence of the devil. Owing to their fear that the devil might unleash his terror on them, majority of the people turned to the witches who they believed were agents of the devil. As such, the witches could act as their intermediaries and channel their pleas to the devil.

Moreover, the people respected and feared the witches because they believed that the witches got their abilities to perform magic and cast spells from a higher power. Given this belief, many people consulted the witches for assistance with various issues in their lives including, winning battles and treatment of diseases. One may therefore conclude that the majority of individuals probably believed in and consulted witches in the medieval and early modern ages. They did so out of their belief that the witches were agents of a higher power and that by consulting them; the witches could protect them from any form of destruction by these higher powers. Moreover, they sort for benefits that came out of believing in the witches such as being held off diseases and economic development.

In addition, Wiesner-Hanks notes that individuals who lived in the medieval and early modern ages believed in the existence of demons and made them part and parcel of their lives (n. p). This means that the institution of religion was prominent and influential in the lives of people during these eras. Arguably, the prevalence of such believes in the existence of demons laid a good foundation for the prevalence of witchcraft. That is in the sense that people sort for spiritual remedies to solve demonic issues as well as protect themselves from being possessed by the demons. Wiesner-Hanks mentions that, “They began to classify demons, give them names, and attempt to count them. Artists portrayed them on everything, and created the standard picture” (n. p). What she means to highlight by mentioning this is that believe in the presence of demons had grown tremendously among the people to the extent that they tried to comprehend how the demons looked like.

In light of the circumstance, a majority preferred to believe in witches to offer solutions to their demon-related issues. This argument may be based on the fact that the witches were known to be well versed with the process of exorcising demons. Therefore, it makes sense that the people opted to consult them and sorted their intervention in as far as demonic possession and protection was concerned. In addition, one may argue that people believed in witches because they could witness their performance and interact with the results. This is unlike other religion which required them to put their faith in higher powers and wait for miracles. Typically, human beings were more inclined to believing what they saw and turned down promises that may or may not come to pass. As such, a majority of the people who lived in the early modern and medieval eras opted to consult the witches because they could witness their actions or rather remedies to their problems.

Belief in witches during the medieval period in Europe may also be attribute to the introduction and spread of Christianity. It did in the sense that individuals perceived the influx of witches in Europe as a result of increased number of demons in the region. As Wiesner-Hanks records, “. . .the reason there were so many more witches in his day than earlier was the coming of European missionaries to the New World, which had forced more of Satan’s demons to return to Europe” (n. p). This means that people related the increase of the number of witches in Europe to the spread of Christianity in the New World thus forcing the demons to return to Europe. Arguably, the influx of witches prove that they indeed depended on the demons for the power to perform magic and cast spells. There is a possibility that the people sort for favors from the witches with the belief that they had the power to perform magic, given the presence of demons at that time.

Another reason that explains why individuals believed in witches is because, they did not believe in one deity. Jasmine reports that unlike in the modern era where most people believe in one deity, individuals in the ancient years put their faiths in several divine forces which they believed watched over the world (n .p). Arguably, this situation made it conducive for many people to consult witches in their daily lives. It is because, most of the deities that they believed in were closely related to the practice of witchcraft. Even if they were not, there are chances that the doctrines of such believes did not restrict them from consulting and seeking the intervention of witches. Owing to that, they were free to choose to believe in and practice whatever they wished without being rebuked by the society. As such, most people sort for the help of the witches bearing in mind that they were powerful and their services were readily available.

Lastly, one may argue that individuals in the ancient times believed in witches because of their ability to make them fall in and out of love with other in the society. Given that the need for emotional attachment is natural in human beings, it makes sense that a majority of people sort out the help of witches with respect to their social problems. The witches would use voodoo and binding spells to enable one to either fall in love or out of love with another (Wiesner-Hanks n. p). This implies that the witches were believed to poses the ability to manipulate emotions of people in the ancient times. As such, individuals who had love-related issues opted to use witchcraft to find solutions to their problems. Thus explaining why people believed in witches.


Majority of the people in the ancient times believed in witches because the situations predisposed them and the prevailing practice of witchcraft during the period. Moreover, the believed in the witches because they gained substantially from them. Also, many people believed in the existence of demons and sort for the help of the witches to protect them from demonic possession. Lastly, they believed in several deities and thus consulted witches freely without being judged.

Work Cited

Jasmine W. "A Brief History of Witchcraft." Mac OS X Server, people.ucls.uchicago.edu/~snekros/The%20Salem%20Sentinel/Other/Entries/2013/11/14_A_Brief_History_of_Witchcraft.html. Accessed 24 Apr. 2017.

Lambert, Tim. "The Witch Trials in Europe." An Encyclopedia of World History, 2017, www.localhistories.org/witchtrials.html. Accessed 24 Apr. 2017.

Wiesner-Hanks, Merry. "Sowers of Discord, Agents of Decline: Demons in World History Academic World History Articles and Essays Middle Ground Journal." Sowers of Discord, Agents of Decline: Demons in World History, 2010, www2.css.edu/app/depts/HIS/historyjournal/index.cfm?cat=5&art=62. Accessed 24 Apr. 2017.

October 25, 2022
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Witchcraft Magic Middle Ages

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