If my ancestors had settled in a predominantly Christian/Puritan area in the late 16th century — and in the Western side of the world — I'd probably never have been born. Because they were mostly healers (and women), they'd likely have been accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake after correctly diagnosing that the neighbor's kid went insane because of a rabies-infected dog; or the neighbor's milk spoiled because they totally forgot they had milk in the first place.
In honor of the Sundance-winning debut masterpiece of Robert Eggers, The Witch, in theaters since Feb. 19, here are 9 outrageous (and ridiculous) reasons you'd probably be accused of witchcraft in the sad days of history.
Take a look at the movie trailer below:
1. If You Were A Woman
First and foremost, the gender you were born with was a primary factor for being considered a practitioner of witchcraft. Although there were men accused of witchcraft too, women usually got the short end of the stick.
As if that weren't enough, girls as young as 5 and women as old as 80 could have been accused and persecuted for witchcraft, too. Though, mostly middle-aged women were sent to trial.
2. If You Were Too Rich Or Poor
Societal status didn't matter, apparently. If you were a beggar, you could have been accused of witchcraft if someone who refused to help you met an unfortunate end.
And, if you were too rich, you were thought to have probably sold your soul... or bewitched your string of husbands and lovers to leave their fortunes to you.
3. If You Had Wisdom, Or Lack Thereof
Women who spoke their minds were at risk of being burned at the stake. Girls have a natural affinity for healing, but if you knew a lot about herbs and medicine in those days, you'd likely get accused of bewitching instead of curing (especially by envious neighbors).
Meanwhile, if you were illiterate or just a dreadful public speaker and could not read biblical scriptures aloud, that was a sure sign you were a witch. Totally not a sign of the limited opportunities us girls had.
4. If You Had Pets
Dogs, cats, chickens, goats, any domestic animal you owned. They were a no no if you were a girl. This would have been a sure sign that you used these 'familiars' to assist you in undermining the good people of your town.
5. PMS? More Like PDP (Pre-Demonic Possession)
So, if you were an adolescent girl about to have her period, thus depending on your bodily functions, you suffered from mood swings and sudden hysterical fits, that's not PMS, girl. You totally had an evil spirit in you.
6. If You Lived Alone
Midwives, healers, spinsters, old maidens, wise women, and even widows — anyone could be accused, but mainly marginalized women. 'Single Blessedness' shouldn't have been a part of your vocabulary.
7. If You Had Marks Of Any Sort
Extra nipples like Chandler Bing's and Harry Styles's, moles, birthmarks, etc. Once you were accused and brought to trial, your body would have been scrutinized for a sign of the 'devil's mark.'
8. If A Vague Threat You Made Came True
It was important to be nice to neighbors — and everyone else, for that matter. If you couldn't, you had to be wary not to say ill wishes aloud. Such was the case of Agnes Finnie in 1644. She was a shopkeeper in Edinburgh and she was charged with 20 counts of witchcraft. Agnes was accused of "having fallen in a controversy with Margaret Williamson [and] most outrageously wished the Devil to blow her blind." According to witnesses, Margaret allegedly fell ill and lost her sight after this threat.
9. If You Had Red Hair/Were A Ginger
Strawberry blonde and red hair are my favorite hair colors. However, in Christian Europe, having red hair was a sign of witchcraft. The color of your hair was also a dead giveaway of your temperament.
‘Redheaded women are either violent or false, and usually are both.’
This was probably one of the reasons why the term 'gingers have no souls' became so popular.
Nowadays, there's nothing really wrong if we possess most of these traits, but back then we could have gotten ourselves in serious trouble. These aren't even half of the reasons we would have been accused of witchcraft. The real question though: