The witch-trials emerged in the 16th century out of the practices surrounding the persecution of heresy in the medieval period, although they reached their peak during the Wars of Religion and on the heels of the Protestant Reformation.
Dating with witch female
No longer were they viewed as sorcerers who had been deceived by the Devil into practicing magic that went against the powers of God, as earlier Church leaders like Saint Augustine of Hippo had stated.
Instead they became the all-out malevolent Devil-worshiper, who had made a pact with him in which they had to renounce Christianity and devote themselves to Satanism.
Those accused of witchcraft were portrayed as being worshipers of the Devil, who engaged in such acts as malevolent sorcery at meetings known as Witches' Sabbaths.
Many people were subsequently accused of being witches, and were put on trial for the crime, with varying punishments being applicable in different regions and at different times.
Historians like Carlo Ginzburg and Éva Pócs have suggested that various beliefs pertaining to magic and witchcraft in Early Modern Europe represented a survival of shamanistic pre-Christian beliefs about visionary journeys.
It was also during the Medieval period that the concept of Satan, the Biblical Devil, began to develop into a more threatening form in the minds of people than earlier.
Witches had appeared both in literature – most prominently with the character of Circe in Homer's Odyssey – and in reality, with many individuals writing curses on leaden tablets across the Roman Empire.
In parts of Early Medieval Europe there was a widespread and long-lasting belief in witches who rode out with a goddess, varyingly known as Diana, Herodias, Holda, or Perchta; in the Canon Episcopi, the Roman Catholic Church maintained that cavalcade did not really happen, and that instead it was an erroneous superstition caused by the Devil.
Though some of the earliest trials are from the Late Medieval period following Pope Innocent VIII's issue of the Summis desiderantes affectibus, which recognized the existence of witches and gave full papal approval for the inquisition to move against witches, the peak of witch hunting was during the European wars of religion, climaxing from 1580 to 1630.