Lauren Thompson is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Asian Studies. Lauren was a student in Prof. Loewen’s REL101 “The Violent and the Sacred” in Spring 2022. As a senior this year, Lauren will further explore an interest in Religious Studies and Occultism while applying for graduate studies.
The history of Western Europe is punctuated by massacres and individual killings of ‘witches.’ Neighbors turned on neighbors, Church turned on parishioners, and the higher classes turned on the lower: all in attempts to rid the world of “witches”. Sociologist Nachman Ben-Yehuda writes, “From the early decades of the 14th century until 1650, continental Europeans executed between 200,000 and 500,000 witches.” (Ben-Yehuda, 1980). Witch trials waxed and waned between the years 1450 to 1750. Experts and researchers have not been able to determine exactly how many lives were lost during those years. Today, the accusation of “witch” continues to play a role in gender-based violence. And while we know much about post-Reformation Europe and its attitude towards the “other”, there are still questions and theories left unanswered.