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"I do not hurt them. I employ no body. I am falsely accused."
[Sarah Good, June 29, 1692]

too many ongoing controversies about witchcraft, yet i will write few of the existed psychological theories about witchcraft that probably will clear up your mind. these text were written in a classic book entitled Depression in Late Life (page 5-6) by Dan G. Blazer II (The C. V. Mosby Company, 1982)

The irrational depression and bizarre behaviors of the severely depressed were the work of the devil. Older persons -especially older women with depressive psychoses- were frequently accused of witchcraft and were burned at the stake (Willmuth, 1979). The fear of emotional disturbance in late life and the resultant accusation of the witchcraft led many women to prefer early death to old age. "It was sufficient to be aged, poor, and ill-tempered to ensure death at the stake or the scaffold" (Mackay, 1841). Although the punishment of witchcraft stemmed originally from the death penalty invoked by Charlemagne, it reached its zenith in the fifteenth century (Veith, 1965). Sprenger and Heinrich Kremar, two German monks who gained both sacred and secular authority, published the Malleus Maleficarum in 1486. this book became the standard for the inquisition of the witches. Many of the theories contained therein were known throughout the civilized world, such as the attribution of powers to witches secondary to their sexual relations with the devil (The History of Depression, 1977). Older persons suffering from a combination of psychotic depressive symptoms and paranoid symptoms in later life frequently hallucinate the intrusion of the body by the forces from without. Such individuals, frequently living alone, were especially at risk for being accused of witchcraft.

Weyer, a German physician, was among a minority of individuals who protested severe punishment for witchcraft. He suggested that older individuals accused as witches were "well on years, naturally melancholy, feeble of intellect, inclined to despondency, and weak in their faith of God" (Zilboorg, 1941). "Witches can harm no one through the most malicious will or the ugliest exorcism, that rather their imagination -are trained by the demons in a way not understandable to us- and the torches of melancholy makes them only fancy that they have caused all sorts of evil." Reginald Scot (1584/1964) proposed that witches were not as powerful as frequently believed: in fact, they were mentally ill.

One sort of such as are said to be witches, are women which be commonly old, lame, and bleary eyed, pale, fowled and full of wrinkles; poor, sullen, superstitious, and tapist; or such as known in religion; in whose drowsy minds the devil have gotten to find seat; so as, what mischief, mischance, calamity, or slaughter is brought to passe, they are easily persuaded the same is done themselves; imprinting in their minds an earnest and constant imagination hereof. They are leaned and deformed, showing melancholy in their faces, to the horror of all who see them (Scot, 1584/1964)

Willmuth's excellent review (1979) further emphasizes the interaction between late life depression and the accusation of witchcraft. So do you still believe in witchcraft? ^ _ ^

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