The article starts off with a modern day interpretation of how the term is used today, but as you read further it goes into great depth of how witch hunts actually came about. Very Interesting and I thought I would share with our readers... Blessed Be.
The phrase “witch hunt” is so widely used that is to my mind something of an irony that the actual origin of the phrase is somewhat forgotten, or where any thought is given to it is in the context of the well known and very funny parody in the Monty Python’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
However, the phenomenon was real, and quite appalling. While early trials fall still within the Late Medieval period, the peak of the witch hunt was during the period of the European wars of religion, peaking between about 1580 and 1630. The witch hunts declined in the early 18th century. In Great Britain, their end was marked by the Witchcraft Act of 1735. But sporadic witch-trials continued to be held during the second half of the 18th century, the last known dating to 1782, though a prosecution was commenced in Tennessee as recently as 1833.
Over the entire duration of the phenomenon of some three centuries, an estimated total of between 40,000 to 100,000 people were executed in Europe, many more tortured, and probably about 75 per cent of these were women. Victims were typically strangled or hanged, but not uncommonly burned alive, usually after torture.
It had not been unusual for allegations of witchcraft to be made in early Medieval Europe, and no doubt various forms of shamanic ritual were carried out and had been since time immemorial, but despite the chastisements of the Catholic Church, there seems to have been a certain resigned tolerance. Even if the matter was taken up, punishments varied, and might amount to no more than a day in the stocks.
One of the key factors in both the increased ferocity of witch hunts and the focus on women as the accused was a book entitled in Latin “Malleus Malificarum”, meaning “The Hammer of the Witches.” It was known in German by the catchy title “Der Hexenhammer”. It followed in the footsteps of such charming best sellers as “The Hammer of the Heretics” and “The Hammer of the Jews"