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Under Torture, Accused Witches Would Confess to Almost Anything

Getting Accused Witches to Confess

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Confessing Witches: Under Torture, Accused Witches Would Confess to Almost Anything

Confessing Witches: Under Torture, Accused Witches Would Confess to Almost Anything

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Confessions of witchcraft, extracted under torture or threat of torture, commonly came attached to denouncements of other possible witches, keeping the Inquisitors in business. In Spain, church records tell the story of Maria of Ituren admitting under torture that she and sister witches turned themselves into horses and galloped through the sky. In a district of France, 600 women admitted to copulating with demons. Some entire villages in Europe were may have been exterminated.

Although the children of heretics and Jews had never experienced much in the way of mercy from Inquisitors, the children of convicted witches suffered even more horribly. These kids were themselves prosecuted for witchcraft -- girls after the age of nine and a half, boys after the age of ten and a half. Even younger children could be tortured to elicit testimony against parents.

A French judge is reported to have regretted being so lenient when he sentenced young kids to be flogged while they watched their parents burn instead of sentencing them to burn as well. Children may not be easily culpable for heresy or their parents' heresy, but they could certainly be influenced by or even possessed by Satan. The only hope of saving their souls was to torture their bodies to drive out the satanic influences.

Voluntary testimony from someone as young as two could be admitted despite it not being treated as valid in other cases. This was a sign of just how serious the threat of witches was perceived to be. Witches and witchcraft, both of which were in the service of Satan, threatened the very existence of Christian society, the Christian church, and Christians themselves. Normal standards of justice, evidence, and trials were abandoned because no one wanted to take the chance that respecting traditional rights and standards would allow the guilty to escape punishment.

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