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witch hunting in human history

by Pauline Zmiro

Puritanism took place during the 17th century in Massachussetts in the United States. It's a time caracteristed by the dominance of religion in the every-day life and the rise of witch-hunting, whitch led to a lot of deaths and persecutions.

witches during puritanism


How to recognise a witch ?


Moral values during puritanism

In reality, whitch witch is whitch ?

It can be:

- jail

- execution

- public punishment

- sabbatarianism

- being burn alive

Signs that someone is a witch :

- that person is a woman

- that person has a crooked nose and a wart

- that person is powerful

- that person enjoys dancing (especially in the forest)

- that person enjoys night-time

- that person practices witchcraft

- that person can't drown

witchcraft consists of:

- gathering plants and herbs in the forest

- preparing brews

- casting spells

- forming magic circles and doing incantations

- worthshipping the devil

- using a magic wand

- they can obtain salvation trought preaching

- predestination

- pleasure is bad, they reject popular idolatry

- religion is important

- adultery and being part of the Anglican Church is bad

- clothes must be covering all the skin

In reality, during most of the prosecutions, the women were misjudged because of the general paranoia toward witches. Indeed, the Salem witches trials took more innocents' lives and were more harmful than witchcraft itself.

"Martha Corey : I am innocent. I am not a witch. I don't know what is a witch.

Judge Hathorne : How do you know, then, that you are not a witch ?"

Arthur Miller, The Crucible ,1956


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context: the Cold War

date: between 1950 and 1953

mccarthysm or the "red scare"

McCarthysm is a witch hunt toward communists in the United States. People accused of communism were blacklisted and fired.

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The Hollywood Ten

Albert Maltz

After the Second World War, during the 20th century there is an opposition between two ideologies : communism, represented by the Soviet Union and the capitalism/liberalism of the United States.

Without commiting any crime, people were questionned about their political views and were forced to denonceand expose other communists because they risked jail and blacklisting.

The victims were mostly people of influence but it could be anyone : people who were communist or associated with them, people who liked modern art or had multi-cultural friends. It could also be the persons who had subversive opinions such as agreeing with the LGBT's ideology.

The persecutors were leaders and politicians, especially Joseph McCarthy, but also journalists, business men, judges. People were fired, blacklisted and harassed by everyone.

There were also lists of communists published.

The fear was bigger than the danger, and this witch-hunt (the biggest political repression of all time in the US) was the actual threat to the democracy.

He was a writter and scenarist in Hollywood; he was engaged in leftist politic and was accused of communism because of that. Albert Maltz and the other Hollywood Ten refused to answer to the comitee's question "Are you or have you been part of the American Communist Party ?". He was punished with one year of jail and he had ton pay 1000$, then he was blacklisted till 1970.

American thought that the spread of communism was a threat to their nation's security, and the movie industry is a source of propaganda. The House Un-American Activities Comitee (HUAC) questionned 40 persons from Hollywood in 1947, 10 of them refused because it was a violation of their liberty; indeed the 5th Amendment is the right against self-discrimination, and the 1st Amendment is the right to belong to any political organisation.

While in prison, Edward Dmytryk denonced 20 of his colleague, he was not blacklisted.

Their blacklisting ended in the 1960's, but some of them used pseudonyms to continue their careers.

1945 : "Pride of the Marines"

THe persecution of Eastern christians, a modern witch-hunt

Witch-hunts are not events of the past, they still exist: indeed in Irak and in Syria, christians are hunted by the Islamic State.

History of Christians in Irak and Syria

Violence and repression toward christians

How can you help ?

Christianism first appeared in the East, around the 4th century. It was the official religion of the Roman Empire since 391. Because of that, in the Persian Empire, the christians' repression began; indeed they were considered potential traitor.

In the East, Christians are victims of attacks and executions because of their religion. In Irak, 85% of the Christian population disappeared in only 30 years. The few christians that are still alive in those regions lives in constant fear and are discriminated : most of them have to hide their religion.