Witchcraft and children

Witchcraft and children

Children have played several different roles in witchcraft throughout history. Children have been victims of witchcraft, been accusers of witchcraft, been employed as witch-finders and been accused of witchcraft.Bailey, Michael D. Historical Dictionary of Witchcraft (Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies and Movements). Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003.] Golden, Richard M. Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Western Tradition s.v. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006.] In the beginning, infants were targeted by witches and eaten by some at witches' Sabbats. [Bailey, Michael D. Historical Dictionary of Witchcraft (Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies and Movements). Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003. ]


As victims of witchcraft, babies and small children, as well as unborn children were considered victims of infanticide by witches using their powers to bring about their death. An established part of the witches' Sabbath was the sacrifice of babies to Satan, as well as the "cannibalism of babies during riotous orgies".

Witch Finders and Accusers

During the sixteenth century older children were being facilitated as a special category of witch hunters and were many times witch accusers. In 1525 the traveling judge in the Navarrese witch hunt utilized two "girl witches" who he felt would identify others as witches. He hung about forty witches based on the two girls looking them in the eyes and identifying them as witches. After this time, witch hunters start appearing regularly, sometimes accusing their parents, grandmothers, or other people that they had seen at witches' Sabbats. Children would either bring charges of witchcraft themselves or exhibit symptoms of possession or bewitchment that would cause a panic among adults, at which time adult relatives would begin making accusations of witchcraft. The most renowned case of trials started by child accusations is that of Salem, Massachusetts, that occurred in 1692. Children were viewed as having a significant role in convicting witches, due to their being able to identify people, impulsively and without being punished, who had attended witches' Sabbats. Children who contributed false allegations often directed them at adults with whom they had strained relationships, such as teachers, puritanical neighbors or mothers' boyfriends, as was one case in the Salem witch trials. [Cf. John Crewdson. By Silence Betrayed: Sexual Abuse of Children in America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1988), 170.]

Children as Witches

By the start of the seventeenth century many children were being punished and put in prison for taking part in witchcraft, which for many was the participation in Sabbats. It was a common belief that witches' children inherited witchcraft from their parents. Witches were thought to pass on their power and knowledge to their children. It was often the practice when charging a person with witchcraft to charge the whole family. Witches who confessed often claimed that they learned witchcraft from a parent. Pierre de Lancre and Francesco Maria Guazzo believed that it was proof of a witch's guilt for them to have witch parents. They believed witch parents introduced the children to Satan, took the children to Sabbats, married children to demons, inspired the children to have sex with Satan, or had sex with Satan with the child present. Many times the child accused of witchcraft, due to being shunned, threatened community members, thereby enforcing their beliefs that the child was a witch. [Burns, William E.. Witch Hunts in Europe and America: An Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003.]


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