Via The End of Capitalism, Alex Knight offers a fascinating take on the powerful meaning of witches in European history:
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For Silvia Federici, it’s no accident that “the witch-hunt occurred simultaneously with the colonization and extermination of the populations of the New World, the English enclosures, [or] the beginning of the slave trade”. She instructs that all of these seemingly unrelated tragedies were initiated by the same European ruling elite at the very moment that capitalism was in formation.”
During the late 15th through 17th centuries the fear of witches was ever-present in Europe and Colonial America. The author recounts, “for more than two centuries, in several European countries, hundreds of thousands of women were tried, tortured, burned alive or hanged, accused of having [given themselves] to the devil and, by magical means, murdered scores of children, made potions with their flesh, caused the death of their neighbors, and performed many other abominations.”
So where did this tidal wave of hysteria come from that took the lives so many poor women?