Witchcraft in Elizabethan time period is during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Prior to the Elizabethan time period witches were thought of as socially acceptable and honored. The midwife, soothsayer, herb/earth practitioner, and psychic were legitimate resources the community used. When Queen Elizabeth I became powerful she relied on the advise from the clergy that sought power which was the Christian church.
The philosophy during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I relied on the belief of the supernatural. The higher power, messages from the spirit world and daily contact with the divine were all popular themes. The irony is that Elizabethan witchcraft followed these same philosophies, but the powers in charge used their supernatural beliefs against them.
Bibles were readily available due to the ability of mass production and the nobility as well as the commoner held it at their fingertips. The interpretations from the bible were directed against any practice that was not a Christian one.
The printing press also allowed for the production of non-Christian books, articles and pamphlets. Books on spells, rituals and general knowledge of the Elizabethan witch became easily available. This caused more conflict with the proponents of the Christian religion who viewed these materials as evil.
When only decades before the witch was revered they now were reviled. Persecution began against the witches to explain unexplainable events.
The Black Death went rampant and its cause was blamed on witches. The bible could not explain that bacteria caused the plague, so it led followers to believe that the supernatural force of witches did. If a child was born with a birthmark or another birth defect it was assumed that the mother was a witch. Famine, fire or unexplainable weather were acts of witchcraft and the witch must be discovered and removed from the community.
Queen Elizabeth even went so far as to pass the Elizabethan Witch Act that prohibited witchcraft, conjurations and/or enchantments. Anyone found practicing witchcraft was committing a criminal offense and could be put to death.
This open persecution caused real witches to hide their craft. They no longer practiced socially and a great number of witches became solitary. They held their workings in complete secrecy. This secrecy was even more threatening to the clergy as they then accused the witch of secretly consorting with the devil. While real witches continued to practice in secrecy, the persecution of witches increased, but the persecuted were not actual witches.
Single women were the largest targets of persecuted witches. In Elizabethan times an unmarried woman was socially unacceptable. Logic dictated that now witches practiced in secrecy and these women were alone, therefore they were witches. No other proof was necessary. No spell books, notions, or any witch paraphernalia was needed to torture these women into confessing that they were witches.
Witchcraft in Elizabethan time period underwent a transition for the legitimate witch. The Elizabethan witch was held by social convention that viewed them as evil, when in fact, they were no different than the accepted witches of decades before, only societies opinion of them had changed.
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