evil witches existed. These were thought to be persons, usually
women, who used black magic and destructive sorcery to harm and
kill others. The Catholic Church, not wanting to promote what they
considered the pagan belief system, taught that it was a sin to
accuse someone of being a witch and made it a capital crime to
burn a witch at the stake.
The Church began to feel threatened by the power women and men (pagans and witches) had over local communities, and soon this fear filtered back to Rome. The church needed to keep control over the spirituality of the people. The Church began to look at its policy towards pagans and witches in particular more closely. They wondered why citizens should look up to pagan people and not to
3. Giving honor to the Devil by worshipping him and making sacrifices.
4. Dedication of children to the Devil.
5. Murdering children before they have been baptized.
6. Pledging to Satan children yet in the womb.
7. Spreading propaganda about the cult.
8. Honoring oaths sworn in the name of the Devil.
10. Murdering men and little children to make broth.
11. Disinterring the dead, eating human flesh and drinking blood.
12. Killing by means of poisons and spells.
13. Killing cattle.
14. Causing famine on the land and infertility in the fields.
15. Having sexual intercourse with the Devil.
A number of questionable courtroom procedures were recommended by Bodin:
-A person once accused should never be acquitted, unless the falsity of the accuser is clearer than the sun.”
-Children were to be forced to indict their parents.
-Suspicion alone of witchcraft warranted torture, “for popular rumor is almost never misinformed.”
-The names of informers were never to be told.
In addition, Bodin “urged local authorities to encourage secret accusations by placing a black box in the church for anonymous letters.”
A woman with no witches’ mark was more suspicious than one with such a mark. Bodin was equally as cruel in his views on sentencing. He believed in the most painful and gruesome executions, and still feared that the witches were receiving insufficient punishment. He felt that roasting and cooking witches over a slow fire was not much of a punishment since it would only last an hour or two compared to the eternal agonies witches would receive by the Devil. According to Bodin, any judge who did not order the execution of a witch should himself be executed.
People accused their neighbors, friends, and relatives of Witchcraft. Most of the time this was brought on by
fear (of the unknown, or being accused themselves) or envy (of wealth, property, or a spouse.) When accused, you had very little ability to defend yourself.
In a huge show trial, you would be accused of Witchcraft, sleeping with the Devil, heresy, and other crimes. The punishments, trials, and ultimate sentence that an accused witch was forced to endure was atrocious, and included: being removed from your home, paraded
down the streets to the town square, where your clothing was ripped off and a full body inspection took place. Screaming crowds, spitting, and torture with
tools like a “Witch Pricker” (or bodkin- a long, thin needle about 3 inches long, with a wooden handle) were all very common. You could fail a physical
examination for not bleeding when pricked, not drowning when thrown into water, having blemishes, moles, warts or any other common irregularities. Almost
always the sentence was death, by public burning or hanging.
As the need to punish and kill witches grew, dozens and dozens of torture tools and methods were developed. One such item was the bootikens. These were boots that went from the person’s ankles to knees. Wedges were hammered up the length of the boot into the person’s leg, breaking and crushing bones as it went. Another tool used was called The Pear. It was a pear shaped apparatus that was often inserted into orifices. It was then expanded by way of a screw. It was often expanded enough until it tore and mangled which ever orifice it had been inserted in. Death would follow shortly, from either blood loss or infection. It was usually equipped with sharp spikes at the end so that a person could also be stabbed with it, usually in the neck. Another device known as Turcas was used to tear the fingernails out. This was followed by sticking pins or needles into the raw and exposed skin of the fingers. Using red hot pincers against a witch’s body was also a favorite. Often a pincer was used to tear off pieces of flesh and in some cases inserted into vaginas and rectums. Many times a person would be stripped naked, horse whipped, and then would have the pincers used on them. Women sometimes had their breasts torn off with hot pincers to further humiliate them. Crushing a witch was often used both to kill and force a confession. The accused would be made to lie on the ground or a table and usually a board was placed on top of them. As they lay there being questioned they would slowly place large rocks upon the board. They would add more and more until the person confessed and then, once having a confession, would add more until the person was no longer able to breathe. It was a slow and painful death. A variation on crushing was stoning. Stoning allowed a mob of people to gather around the accused and pelt them with stones until the person was killed. Depending on the situation a person could be battered for minutes or hours before succumbing to death. Stoning were not always organized events, in some communities a mob would develop before the so-called witch could be tried. Another method used to gain a confession was called the Strappado. In this case, the persons wrists were bound behind their back with a rope. The rope was then hoisted over a ceiling beam. The rope was pulled until the person was suspended in the air and then they were viciously dropped. This was repeated until the persons shoulders became dislocated.
The Thumbscrew torture was used during the Middle Ages, most notoriously during the inquisition. When a victim refused to reveal sensitive information, he or she would be subject to the thumbscrew. The victim’s hands were placed in the device and the torturer would crush the victim’s fingers slowly. Another common application of the thumbscrew was to crush a victim’s toes. A (bigger) variant of this torture was used to crush knees, arms and even heads. Tean Zu is an ancient Chinese torture device originally designed for women, though it quickly appealed torturers for male victims. It’s a relatively simple and yet painful torture, where a person’s fingers were placed on a flat surface. Wooden sticks were placed between the fingers connected by strings. When a victim refused to talk or deliver information to the torturer, he would tighten the string a bit more causing the tables to crush the fingers.
This torture was sometimes used in the West, for it did not damage the skin nor kill the victim.
Designed in Ancient Turkey (Greece), the Heat Torture was extremely painful and humiliating. After a person was “convicted”, he or she would be locked inside a coffin made of brass (sometimes called the Brazen Bull).
The victim’s feet were creatively fixed to the ground. Sometimes with ropes, sometimes with nails and sometimes they were not fixed at all. The coffin was placed vertically on top of a fire where it was left for many hours until the brass turned “red hot”.
According to some historians including Herodotus, the Heat Torture was the most common torture in Greece. As years passed, the Brazen Bull became more painful and amusing for those outside. At one point, the most sophisticated device had a complex set of tubes so the victim’s screams could be heard as an “infuriated ox”. Apparently, this amused certain rulers such as the Roman Emperor Hadrian who, according to legend, burnt entire families with the device.
Mostly in early Medieval Times, heretics and witches were condemned to be fixed to the ground with iron nails. Spreading arms and legs while being naked under the sun resulted in having very strong sunburns all around a person’s body. If this wasn’t enough, wild animals used to eat the victim alive; the pain of having an animal eating burnt flesh is comparable to the wheel and other more recent torture devices. The victim was lucky if the closest animal was a bear; for there were smaller animals, such as mice; who would eat them slowly.
The iron maiden is in fact a sarcophagus. The only two main differences are that it has tips all over the front door and that people died after getting in–and not before.
The Iron Maiden was introduced in Germany. Even though it is commonly believed that it was used in the Middle Ages, the truth is that it was invented a few centuries later. Very few people had the misfortune of experiencing what it feels like to be trapped in this sarcophagus. Normally, the big door would be shut slowly; the tips crushing a person in agonizing pain. There was a tube in the bottom that made the victim see his own blood as it poured out of his body. The few people that did make it to this device, lasted more than 2 days before death finally struck them.
Depending on the crime, a person could be sentenced to many days, or even weeks of staying confined by the stocks. Generally placed near a town, the victim was subject to the public’s harm. In a mild case, the sentenced person would leave with just a few punches in the face and a lot of urine in his or her body.
In a more severe case, townspeople acted very harsh and stoning was very common. Some people died and others were left severely injured. Cutting was very common, and some very offensive villagers would cut off parts of the victim (such as a hand) to later be burned; stopping him from dying.
Sometimes, death penalty was sentenced by this device. The victim was to be left confined to the stocks somewhere while the public, sun and animals did their job to kill them. Even though in movies they portrayed the stocks harmless, the reality was quite different. People suffered a lot and sometimes those who wanted to save the victim were also tortured by this method.
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