Echo Zoe Radio with Andy Olson

Hosted ByAndy Olson

Monthly interviews with knowledgable guests on a variety of topics dealing with theology, apologetics, errant teaching, and cultural issues.

Gene Clyatt: The Witch Trials

Gene Clyatt returns for a fourth installment of English Reformation history {at least in regard to the time-period.) Gene was first on with me in August of 2021, where he talked about the early days of the English Reformation under Henry the 8th and Bishop Thomas Cranmer. In the May, 2022 episode, Gene returned to talk about England under Queen Elizabeth I. Last November, he talked about England under King James I.

For this episode, we get into the Witch Trials. Gene gives some history on how they began, talks about how King James brought them to Scotland and England, and how they ended up in the American Colonies, with Salem being the best-known.

Outline of the Discussion
  • King James I was the single most responsible person for bringing Witch Hunts into Scotland and England. They had been going on in Europe for around a century, having begun just prior to the Reformation.
  • Witch trials began with Heinrich Kramer, a German Dominican monk and inquisitor in the late 15th century.
  • Kramer wrote “Malleus Maleficarum” (The Hammer of Witches) in 1486.
  • Kramer was a lot like Alfred Kinsey; a sexual deviant and pervert.
  • In August of 1589, at the age of 23, King James of Scotland married Princess Anne of Denmark, who was 14. The wedding was held by proxy.
  • In September of 1589, Anne set sail for Scotland from Denmark. They had to turn back because of storms. She blamed witches, whom she accused of wanting to prevent the powerful union that would benefit Protestantism.
  • At the time, witch trials had been common in Northern Germany and Denmark.
  • In October of 1589, James set sail for Denmark. They were hit by storms too, but he made it.
  • While in Denmark, James becomes fascinated with witches and witch trials.
  • Upon his return to Scotland, he strengthened the Scottish Witchcraft Act of 1563; imposing the death penalty upon convicted witches. He would later do the same in England after becoming King of England.
  • A series of witch trials resulted from the storms inhibiting James and Anne from uniting. In Denmark, the Kronborg witch trials resulted in six women being accused and convicted, and two being executed. In Scotland, the North Burwick witch trials ran for over two years, and implicated over 300 people; both noble and commoner alike.
  • Agnes Sampson was accused of being the ringleader of the witches in Scotland. John Fian, a schoolmaster, was implicated as well. Both were executed by burning.
  • In 1597, James publishes a book “Daemonologie.”
  • Witch hunting was mostly carried over by the Reformers from Medieval Catholicism, and not addressed in a meaningful way.
  • Witch hunting in England reached its peak during the English Civil War. Each side accused supporters of the other side of witchcraft. It was much more political than religious, pitting Parliament against the Crown rather than Puritan against Anglican.
  • Matthew Hopkins was the most famous person regarding witch trials to come out of the English Civil War. He gave himself the title “Witch-finder General,” and claimed to have Parliamentary authority (he did not.) He would get a town’s approval for a witch hunt, then get people to accuse each other.
  • Hopkins wrote a book called “The Discovery of Witches.”
  • In the Colonies, Salem was among the last of places to undergo witch trials.
  • By the late 17th Century, the excesses of witch trials became apparent. Much of it due to the smaller populations in New England.
Scriptures Referenced
  • Exodus 22:18
Additional Resources
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