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9 Mostly Untrue Myths About Witch Hunts

by Staff
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Photo: Zharinova Marina (Shutterstock)

Witches were women, persecuted for sexist reasons or even “gendercide,” right? Well, it’s complicated.

Witches executed in France were about half men and half women. Scandinavian witches were more often men. In most other parts of Europe, though, women were predominantly the victims of witch hunts. One source estimates that about 80% of people executed for witchcraft were women. In Salem, 4 out of the 19 convicted witches were men.

It’s also a myth (mostly, probably) that midwives and female healers were targeted; historians say that midwives were more likely to be involved in witch hunts as expert witnesses—searching the accused’s body for the mark of the devil, for example—than to be accused of witchcraft themselves.

That said, there was definitely plenty of sexism in play. The Malleus Maleficarum spends several pages explaining that women are more likely than men to be seduced by the devil because “women are intellectually like children” and because “[a woman] is more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carnal abominations.”

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