Witchcraft or witchery may take many forms depending on cultural context and has been around for thousands of years. The word witchcraft comes from “Wicca,” meaning “the wise one”, witches possess great talents in fortune-telling, face-reading, and medicine even.
But witches have always been considered evil servants of Satan, bringing harm to the world. Throughout history, many people have been accused and burned at the stake for witchcraft.
Old and poor women were most often victims of a witch hunt. Some of them did commit acts of treason and murder, while others were innocent and simply could not defend themselves and were forced to confess the sins they did not commit.
10- Catherine Monvoisin
Catherine Monvoisin or mostly known as La Voisin (the neighbor), was a French fortune teller, poisoner and an alleged sorceress. She was the wife of a French jeweler, who became famous after her husband’s bankruptcy. She embarked in fortune-telling jobs and face-reading, she practiced medicine, especially midwifery, and performed abortions.
Many of her clients were noblemen, countesses, and princesses. In 1680, Catherine Monvoisin and her daughter were accused and arrested for witchcraft and was burned at the stake at Place de Grieve, near Paris.
9- Agnes Sampson
Agnes Sampson was a Scottish midwife and healer who lived at the end of the 16th century. Sampson was accused and found guilty of sorcery in raising storms that menaced Queen Anne’s voyage, and that they had sent devils to climb up the keel of her ship in 1590.
The midwife was believed to have started the first witch hunt craze in Scotland, during the same year, she was garotted then burned at the stake. Sampson was the first victim of the North Berwick Witch Trials, which ran for two years and implicated 70 people.
8- Alice Kyteler
Alice Kyteler was a wealthy Irish moneylender who was the first person accused and condemned for witchery in Ireland. She was accused of witchcraft after her husbands have become ill and eventually died, leaving all their fortunes to her. When her fourth husband came down with an illness, his children began to suspect that their father was being poisoned by their stepmother.
Kyteler and her followers were also accused of blasphemy and sacrificing animals to demons. She was tried for witchcraft in 1324 and was sentenced to death, but she miraculously disappeared the night before the execution, never to be seen again. Many believed she fled the country to the Kingdom of England.
7- Angele de la Barthe
Angele de la Barthe was a wealthy noble woman who lived between 1230 and 1275 in Toulouse, France. She was tried for witchcraft and condemned to death by the Inquisition in 1275. After being severely tortured, she confessed to the sin. She had an affair with the Devil, and produced a monster with a wolf’s head and a serpent’s tail that fed on babies.
She was accused of witchcraft after a series of babies mysteriously disappeared in the area. She was the first person to be put to death for heretical sorcery during the medieval witch hunt.
6- Mother Shipton
Ursula Southeil or better known as Mother Shipton lived between 1488 and 1561 in Yorkshire. She was born to a teenage mother, who was accused of witchcraft. As a child, people looked at her as the devil’s child, she was so ugly and deformed with twisted legs, a large head, and sunken cheeks, just like most stories portray witches.
She lived as an outcast, and people accused her of sorcery. Mother Shipton possessed great talent, she was a fortune teller and a prophetess. She had predicted numerous events, even in the distant future, many of which actually came true.
5- Maret Jonsdotter
Maret Jonsdotter was an alleged Swedish witch, who was executed in Sweden in the 17th century. Her accusations jump-started the “Great Noise” or the witch-hunting that caused death to more than 200 people in 1668–1676. On her trial, one witness claimed that Märet had made him sick and exhausted by using him as a riding horse on her visits to the devil’s meadow.
Maret’s little siblings were interrogated as well and confessed that their big sister Maret had brought them to the devil’s meadow every Christmas and Easter. Maret denied all the accusations, but at the end of her trial, 10 more people were accused. As the witch craze grew bigger, Sweden changed the laws requiring confession, and once again in 1672, she was accused and was sentenced to death by decapitation before being burned at the stake.
4- Marie Catherine Laveau
Marie Catherine Laveau was an infamous voodoo practitioner in Louisiana in the 1800’s. She was also called the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, known to have great magical power and knowledge many personalities came to her seeking advice. Laveau was greatly talented in performing Voodoo rituals and held the rank of Supreme Witch.
She was adept at necromancy, mind control, telekinesis, and pinning. On one voodoo ceremony, she held in 1874, more than 10,000 spectators came to the event. Marie Catherine Laveau died peacefully in her home in 1881, her daughter, Marie Laveau II also practiced Voodoo, as well as Haitian Voudou.
3- Agnes Waterhouse
Agnes Waterhouse was England’s most famous witch and was the first woman executed for witchcraft. Also known as Mother Waterhouse, she was a self-confessed witch and was put on trial in 1566 for the death of William Fynne by sorcery and witchcraft. She was also charged with using black magic to kill livestock and cause illness. Her 18-year-old daughter and another woman was accused of the same crime, but her daughter was found not guilty. Agnes Waterhouse was hanged at Chelmsford in England on 29 July 1566.
2- The Salem Witches
It all started in the winter months of 1692, Betty Parris, age 9, and her cousin Abigail Williams, age 11, the daughter and niece, respectively, of Reverend Parris, began having fits, and started acting strangely. The girls also complained of being pinched and pricked with pins, but village doctors could not find physical evidence of any ailment.
Two more village girls began to exhibit similar behaviors. The girls blamed three women for their behavior. Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba were the three women to be accused of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials, which occurred in 1692.
The confessions made by the three alleged witches put Salem into chaos, believing that Satan was among them. More than 200 villagers were accused of witchcraft, at least 19 of them were executed by hanging, while others died in prison.
1- Merga Bien
Merga Bien was a wealthy German heiress who murdered her second husband and her children with him, and was allegedly an evil worshiper. While being tortured in prison she was forced to confess, that she worship Satan. Prince Balthasar von Dernbach abbot of the city Fulda in Germany was a famous witch hunter who embarked on the Fulda Witch Trials that lasted for 3 years. More than 200 were executed for witchcraft, including Merga Bien who was burned alive.
Bien was the most famous of the victims in the Fulda witch trials, she was pregnant at the time, and many believed that she was carrying the child of the devil.