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Jun 19, 2017

Many of the witch hunters at the head of the worst trials were convinced of the existence of the Witches' Sabbat, a blasphemous gathering of sorcerers that met with the Devil, took part in demonic orgies, and planned their terrible crimes. Suspected witches were tortured into admitting they attended these sabbats, and then were tortured into naming the people they had seen there. The idea of the sabbat gave inquisitors a reason to expect that their witches knew each other, and their torture confirmed it.

But the fact is the Witches' Sabbat did not exist. The events described at the sabbat were identical to claims levelled at Muslims, heretics, and the Jews, and in many cases the term 'Synagogue of Satan' was used to link the crimes of the Jews to the crimes of the witches.

We also take a look at two methods, other than torture, of discovering whether someone was truly guilty of witchcraft; the trial by water, and the pricking.

This episode primarily made use of the following texts, among others:

Ankerloo, Bengt and Clark, Stuart (eds.) Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Period of the Witch Trials, Philadelphia, 2002

Oldridge, Darren, (ed.) The Witchcraft Reader, London, 2002

Erik Midelfort, H. C. Witch Hunting in Southwestern Germany 1562-1684, Stanford, 1972

MacFarlane, Alan, Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England, London, 1970