A History Of Magic

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Chapter 18

A Brief Overview

peoples have feared witchcraft for centuries. In fact, the first time that
witchcraft in any form for any purpose was officially denounced as a sin or
crime in history was in the Hebrew Torah, circa
14th and 12th century
B.C. Small portions of two
books of the Torah (Exodus and Leviticus) were used by Muggle
authorities to promote the idea that witchcraft is evil or dangerous as per the
twisted idea of witchcraft that they presented within the context of their
religion. While this told
Muggles that magic was wrong, it was quite a while before open and frequent
persecution was recorded in history. In fact, there were early church
authorities, including by some accounts St. Augustine, who thought magic no
more than delusion.  This was, of course, of great relief to early witches
and wizards of Europe, where Christianity (a religion based partially on the
laws of the Torah) dominated the minds of men and witches and wizards commonly
lived in communities in which their gifts were seen as sinful.  The words
of these religious leaders, however, did not always ease the minds of the
average Muggles and, for the next several hundred years, witchcraft was
acknowledged by Muggles as wrong, evil, dangerous, or frightening, at times
believed to be possible and at others denounced as impossible. In the thirteenth century, witchcraft trials
in Europe began to gain popularity and by the early fourteenth century burnings
were common.

people (more commonly known as Muggles) were particularly afraid of magic in
medieval times, but not very good at recognising it. On the rare occasion that
they did catch a real witch or wizard, burning had no effect whatsoever. The
witch or wizard would perform a basic Flame Freezing Charm and then pretend to
shriek in pain while enjoying a gentle, tickling sensation. Indeed, Wendelin
the Weird enjoyed being burned so much that she allowed herself to be caught no
less than forty-seven times in various disguises.

Many witches, wizards and even Muggles lost their
lives due to the Muggles’ fear of both the unknown and the so-called
occult.  During the Renaissance, there
was a strong sense of religiousness. A chilling result of this orthodoxy was
the prevalence of witch burnings, which took place in both Catholic and
Protestant countries at the time. It started towards the end of the Middle Ages
and peaked in the seventeenth century, though it lasted until the eighteenth
century before it began to fade.  Almost
all Muggles of the time accepted witches and wizards as a reality. Muggles
strictly defined the terms witch and wizard (mostly witch) to mean a person who
had sold their soul to the devil. Their evil work was thought to influence
aspects of daily life, such as a failed harvest, or if a person fell gravely
ill or died suddenly without warning.

According to Muggles of the day, a witch had the
power to harm her fellow people or Muggles by giving up her soul’s salvation.
Muggles had many outrageous ideas about witches, including that they held
meetings on the witches’ Sabbath where they supposedly had sexual intercourse
with the Devil, who could take the form of a goat or other animals. In Catholic
countries, the Inquisition (run by the church courts) led the witch cases,
while in Protestant countries it fell to the civil courts. The interrogation of
suspected witches was almost always conducted under torture. It was often so
painful that the accused would be more than willing to confess anything, just
to escape the pain. The most common punishment was death, by burning at the
stakes. Most convicted witches were older women, but some younger men and women
were also charged and convicted.

Witch burnings took place throughout Europe. In
1591 in North Berwick in Scotland, 70 people were accused of witchcraft because
of the poor weather on the seas, when King James VI of Scotland travelled to
Denmark to meet his betrothed.  He was
extremely paranoid about witchcraft, and this incident came to be the largest
witch-hunt in Britain.  A man by the name
Matthew Hopkins was a successful witch hunter in England during 1645-1646. He
managed to charge more witches in his career than had been charged combined in
the past 100 years. In England, over 500 witch burnings took place, 200 of
which Hopkins was directly responsible for. 
There were trials and witch burnings held in the American Colonies as
well. The Salem Witch Trials, held in Massachusetts Colony in 1692-1693, is
particularly well known. More than 150 people were charged with witchcraft,
although only 19 people were put on trial and found guilty. Most were hanged
for their misdeeds. In 1682, the last accused witch in England was executed.
Temperance Lloyd, a Muggle woman who had gone senile with age, was executed in
England for witchcraft. We can conclude that people have always been afraid of
what they do not know, beasts and humans both. 
These stories about witchcraft have flourished for hundreds of years,
and the fear of it has made people do horrible things. It is unknown how many
lost their lives to the flames, but it is estimated that between the height of
the witch hunt from 1500-1660, 50,000-80,000 people were killed (most of them

Wizarding Villages Shaped by Witch-Hunts

these witch-hunts became more popular in the 1500s, many witches and wizards
began secluding themselves in small communities inside larger cities and towns.
They did so because their children were particularly prone to having accidental
magic outbursts before being properly trained, and there was a very real danger
of these small children being accused of witchcraft. Magic folk clung to each
other for social support in these troubled times, sharing life updates with
those that it was safe to talk to, and scarcely socialising much with the
Muggles in the wider community.

1689, these communities were unofficial and were created by witches and wizards
who gravitated together for the social and moral support that came with being
surrounded by similar people. However, in 1689, the International Statute of
Secrecy was signed, and it went into effect three years later, in 1692. While
witch-hunts in England had stopped by 1682, witch-hunts in the wider European
continent and even in the British Colonies in the North American continent had
not yet ceased. In 1692, in fact, there was a huge outbreak of witch-hunt
hysteria in the North American city of Salem, Massachusetts.

International Statute of Secrecy aimed to protect witches and wizards globally
from the fear and persecution that they faced at the hands of their Muggle
counterparts. It urged witches and wizards to seclude themselves and live
separately to protect themselves and their children from the misguided ideology
that spurred witch-hunt hysteria. Signed by the International Confederation of
Wizards, the International Statute of Secrecy was widely believed to be the
best possible way to protect both Muggles and witches and wizards from future
persecution. It was this document that led the existing wizarding communities
to be officially recognised as such, though some had existed for over one
hundred years before the Statute was written.

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