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Episode
312

A History of Witches | Misogyny, Magic and Murder

Nov 4, 2022
History
-
24
minutes

For centuries, a woman could be accused of being a witch for the simple crime of being too poor, too rich, or too old.

For those accused, the trials were deeply unfair, and the punishment was often torture and death.

In this episode, we explore the unfair and bloody history of witches.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is part three of our three-part mini-series on the theme of Halloween.

[00:00:29] In case you missed them, in part one we looked at the bloody history of vampires, and in part two, which was one of our member-only ones, it was the hair-raising history of werewolves.

[00:00:41] Today, we are finishing the mini-series with witches.

[00:00:45] It’s a tragic story of superstition, of sexism, and how a misunderstanding of science led to the murder of thousands of innocent women.

[00:00:56] OK then, let’s get started with the wicked story of witches.

[00:01:03] Our story starts in the village of Salem in Massachusetts, in America.

[00:01:08] Between 1692 and 1693, over 200 people out of a population of roughly 500 were accused of witchcraft, the use of magic. 

[00:01:22] 10 years after the last witch would be executed in England, across the pond, in America, witchcraft hysteria was at its peak.

[00:01:32] The event would become known as The Salem Witch Trials, arguably the most famous witch trials in history.

[00:01:41] It all began after two young girls in the village, Betty Parris and her cousin Abigail Williams started experiencing horrible episodes of seizures, screaming, and pain throughout their bodies.

[00:01:56] They even crawled under furniture, threw things around their home, and made strange sounds. 

[00:02:03] Understandably concerned, their family brought a doctor to the girls.

[00:02:08] He could not find anything physically wrong with them and his diagnosis was that they must be cursed by witchcraft.

[00:02:18] And soon, others around the village would slowly start to exhibit the same symptoms.

[00:02:24] It did not take long for rumours of witchcraft to spread around Salem and villagers would accuse each other of using magic to harm one another.

[00:02:36] Soon enough, the trials and executions started.

[00:02:41] The first to be executed was a lady called Bridget Bishop, after it was decided that it was she who had cursed the two young girls and had also attacked various other members of the community.

[00:02:55] As the trials continued, the two young girls began to make other accusations. Fingers were pointed and suspicions continued to grow.

[00:03:06] This cycle continued until hundreds had been accused, imprisoned, tortured and in some cases killed.

[00:03:15] 20 of the accused, 14 of which were women, would face death by hanging. 

[00:03:22] One, an 81-year-old man called Giles Corey, who was accused of witchcraft along with his wife, would escape the hangman’s noose.

[00:03:32] I’m afraid though hanging would have been a blessing for Corey. He was to suffer something much worse.

[00:03:40] Corey was what's called ‘pressed’, that is being slowly crushed to death under a wooden board as weights were added one by one.

[00:03:51] Five others were also accused, including two infant children, who died in prison.

[00:03:57] The village even had two dogs killed on suspicion of witchcraft.

[00:04:03] Yes, even children and dogs could not escape the hysteria of Salem.

[00:04:09] So, what do historians think really happened? 

[00:04:13] If these poor women weren’t actually witches, which, of course, they weren’t, why did they behave in such a strange way?

[00:04:23] In the 1970s, a historian Linnda Caporael had an idea. She proposed that the village had been suffering the effects of a strange fungus, rye ergot, that had grown on the wheat they used to make bread.

[00:04:39] This fungus has been described as nature’s LSD and it causes all of the symptoms the villagers were experiencing.

[00:04:49] Essentially, everyone in the village was on hallucinogenic drugs, causing them to behave erratically.

[00:04:56] But of course, in 1692 there was no way these people had any awareness of this, so it was witchcraft that was to blame.

[00:05:06] So this all begs the question - what exactly were they being accused of? 

[00:05:12] What was a witch? 

[00:05:14] Why was it so bad, and why was being one punishable by death?

[00:05:20] The ideas around witches at Salem had been brought over by European settlers throughout the previous century and were the result of a long history of pagan beliefs.

[00:05:32] And while the idea of witches does exist in cultures across the globe, today we will be discussing European witches.

[00:05:42] A defining feature of these witches was that they could be any ordinary person who practises magic.

[00:05:50] In contrast, many other traditions and beliefs see witches as beings with inherent supernatural powers.

[00:05:59] These European-style witches were usually women but could occasionally be men, children or even animals.

[00:06:08] And fundamentally, their use of magic was believed to make them a follower, or even worse, a lover of the devil. Yes some people were convicted as witches on the basis that they had sex with the devil himself.

[00:06:26] Clearly this was difficult, impossible, to prove, but there were plenty of signs that people came to believe indicated that someone, typically a woman, was a witch.

[00:06:38] Women who were old, women who had no children, women who had too many children, women who talked to themselves, who had pets, who did not attend church, who were too sexual, who were too intelligent, too ugly, too unfashionable, too rich or too poor.

[00:06:58] Any of these things could lead to suspicions you were a witch. 

[00:07:02] And I’m sure many of you are thinking that you too could have faced accusations of being a witch – these are not exactly a set of rare criteria.

[00:07:13] And although being a witch, and follower of the devil was clearly a bad thing to be accused of, ideas of women with positive supernatural powers have existed almost since the dawn of time.

[00:07:27] In ancient Greek mythology, for instance, there were figures such as the goddess of magic Hecate, or her daughter the enchantress Circe.

[00:07:38] These mythical women were known to use magic both for good and evil. And for thousands of years there was this distinction between black and white magic, good and bad magic.

[00:07:52] Pagan beliefs involved the use of both black and white magic, with white magic associated with healing and a legitimate and celebrated practice often carried out by women.

[00:08:05] In contrast, black magic was typically thought to be spells that were intended to do harm, to damage someone.

[00:08:14] But by the 1200s, such beliefs were being stamped out in Europe by the Catholic church, which declared that all magic was heretical, against Christianity.

[00:08:26] It might have been declared heretical, but it didn’t disappear altogether.

[00:08:32] Instead, what happened was the categories of black and white magic became increasingly blurred and before long, white magic was also viewed with suspicion.

[00:08:44] This was only made worse by misunderstandings about the spread of diseases, most notably the plague, the Black Death.

[00:08:53] As the plague raged on and spread rapidly throughout the 14th century, people looked for someone or something to blame.

[00:09:02] Perhaps unsurprisingly, in many instances it was those women who had been involved in magical healing that were believed to be responsible for the outbreaks of disease.

[00:09:14] And this was only made worse whenever there were poor harvests or diseases that also affected cattle.

[00:09:21] So, as a result of the church’s new views on magic and years of suffering due to plagues, frustrations had reached an all time high by the 15th century.

[00:09:33] And as there was minimal evidence required for someone to be proven to be a witch, it was a useful accusation for anyone you wanted to get rid of.

[00:09:44] Joan of Arc, now a patron saint of France, claimed she was acting under divine guidance, which led her to being tried for witchcraft and burned at the stake in 1431.

[00:09:57] And this rising anti-witch feeling even led the Pope to announce measures to be taken against witches, in the form of something called the Malleus Maleficarum, or The Hammer of Witches, which was written in 1487.

[00:10:13] The book was written by a Catholic church official and it respresented the church’s official views on witches and how to capture, torture and execute them.

[00:10:25] Basically, it was a guidebook for witch hunters, and it led to many witch hunts and the deaths of thousands of people for centuries.

[00:10:35] It is estimated that over 16,000 people in Europe were executed as witches between the years of 1300 and 1850.

[00:10:44] Many thousands more were accused and tortured and likely died during torture or in prison.

[00:10:52] And it was the Malleus Maleficarum, this book that laid out the basis for these accusations, and it was also this text that firmly established the identification of women with witches.

[00:11:06] The book is an incredible piece of misogyny, sexism towards women, and included many of those ridiculous witch warning signs we mentioned earlier such as intelligence, fashion sense and age.

[00:11:21] Another characteristic the book highlighted was disfigurement, and this was believed to be a sign of the devil’s touch which is where the image of witches with warts on their noses or hands comes from.

[00:11:36] However, it wasn’t only old women with warts that had to be afraid of being accused of witchcraft.

[00:11:42] Young and old, beautiful or covered in warts, anyone could be accused of being a witch.

[00:11:49] And looking through this guidebook, it’s clear that many of the signs of being a witch were simply signs of a woman not conforming to the expectations of the patriarchal, or male-dominated, society.

[00:12:04] For example, a woman who was too intelligent or too rich would not be as easy to control by her husband.

[00:12:12] But a woman who was too poor was not worthy of a husband and would either grow old alone and childless, therefore arousing suspicion, or enter into the typical female roles of midwifery or weaving, which might also lead to suspicion.

[00:12:30] So, given the book’s extremely general witch criteria, it's not surprising that it led to countless accusations of witchcraft, which led to hundreds of trials and countless executions, far worse than those seen at Salem.

[00:12:46] These trials which took place across Europe were large, continuous events that spanned many years due to the sheer amount of those accused and the long, painful process of imprisonment, torture and confession. 

[00:13:01] Whole villages could find themselves involved in trials with hundreds accused despite very little or no evidence. 

[00:13:09] The very worst of these trials took place in Germany, the country responsible for executing over 40% of all Europeans accused of witchcraft.

[00:13:21] One of the worst examples in Germany was the Würzburg trials, which took place between 1625 and 1631. These saw 900 people, 400 of which were children, burnt at the stake for being witches.

[00:13:39] The accusations ranged from the disgusting to the ridiculous, with children accused of intercourse with demons and people condemned for humming a song in honour of the devil.

[00:13:52] It’s not hard to see how these trials could end up involving thousands of people when you could be accused for simply humming a song.

[00:14:01] And it was not just villagers accusing one another, even monarchs, kings and queens, pointed the finger

[00:14:09] For example, in 1590, King James VI of Scotland, who was soon to become King of England too, blamed witchcraft for his recent misfortune at sea.

[00:14:20] King James had attempted to sail from just north of the English-Scottish border to Copenhagen, in order to marry his future wife, Princess Anne of Denmark.

[00:14:31] However, on his journey his fleet was met with a terrible storm which forced him to stop and take refuge in Norway.

[00:14:41] Did he consider for a moment that this might be the typical weather of the stormy North Sea?

[00:14:47] No, of course not, he blamed the disaster on witchcraft and the event started the king’s lifelong obsession with magic, witches and demons.

[00:14:58] First to be blamed for the storm was a lady called Geillis Duncan who was burnt alive at the stake after she confessed following days of torture.

[00:15:08] Soon after around 70 others would follow in her footsteps, many of whom she had been forced to name while being tortured.

[00:15:16] Perhaps unsurprisingly, whenever one of these poor women was being tortured and pressurised to name other “fellow” witches, they would name dozens of people in an attempt to stop the pain.

[00:15:29] The torture that people accused of being witches faced was truly horrific.

[00:15:34] Sometimes the victim was forced to stay awake for days and days until they were delirious and they confessed.

[00:15:42] Other more violent methods included whipping, or crushing their legs, fingers or toes with clamps.

[00:15:50] And we know that Geillis, the woman who was accused of causing the storm in the North Sea, had suffered all her fingers being crushed.

[00:15:59] Another common punishment was the ‘ducking stool’, and this is, I’m afraid, yet another example of the deck being stacked, the system being rigged, against women.

[00:16:11] This was designed specifically for women and the victim would be strapped to a chair which was then submerged in freezing water for whatever amount of time the judges believed necessary.

[00:16:25] If she floated, if she came to the surface, she would be declared a witch, and most likely burned alive.

[00:16:33] If she sank, well, this was proof that she was innocent but she would probably die in the process.

[00:16:41] Another test to determine if the accused was a witch was seeing if they bled after being pricked with a needle, after a needle was put on their skin.

[00:16:53] If they did not bleed they would be found guilty of being a witch.

[00:16:58] But the problem was that a witch hunter would often use a blunt needle, a not sharp needle, that would not break the skin, or they would prick the poor victim over and over again, waiting for one spot where it would not bleed.

[00:17:15] Why would they use these blunt needles? Why would they use these tactics? Well because they were paid every time they successfully convicted a witch.

[00:17:25] Some people literally made a living through witch hunting, it was their job, so there was a clear incentive to find as many women as possible and “prove” they were witches.

[00:17:38] A man called Mathew Hopkins was one notorious English witch hunter, and it is said that he was responsible for the execution of 300 witches from the year 1644 until his death in 1647. 3 years, 300 witches, 100 witches a year, one new one every few days. It was really quite something.

[00:18:02] Fortunately, the witch hunting madness wouldn’t last forever, and 35 years after Hopkins, the notorious witch hunter, died, in 1682 England would carry out its final execution of a witch. 

[00:18:17] Why, you might be asking yourself?

[00:18:20] Why did people go from such unimaginable and illogical cruelty through to, well, at least a slightly more civilised society?

[00:18:29] Scholars have argued that witch trials had always been a result of war, religious tension, superstition, poor leadership, disease, and an underdeveloped understanding of medical science.

[00:18:43] And all of these issues had been present throughout Europe in the 14th to 17th Century when the witch hysteria really peaked

[00:18:52] After the Black Death had ravaged through Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries, the 1500s saw the fracture of the Catholic Church, leading to countless religious, civil and international wars and conflict between Catholics and Protestants.

[00:19:09] By the mid 17th century, much of this was over. The Treaty of Westphalia came in 1648, and by 1651 the English Civil War was over too.

[00:19:22] Shortly after, the Enlightenment started, and with it came a more nuanced, more developed understanding of everything from medical science to the rule of law.

[00:19:34] And clearly, accusing a woman of having sex with the devil because she has no children or she has lots of children makes absolutely no sense.

[00:19:44] As a result, life started looking brighter for anyone who might be accused of witchcraft.

[00:19:50] By 1735, England had even introduced the Witchcraft Act, which declared it a crime for a person to claim someone had magical powers or practised witchcraft

[00:20:03] The act also outlawed the execution of witches.

[00:20:08] Other laws, too, helped to reduce the vast amount of accusations hurled towards women.

[00:20:14] For example, Britain continued to develop its Poor Laws, which helped to prevent women from falling into poverty and forced into positions, such as begging or prostitutition, that had formerly led to suspicions.

[00:20:30] Instead these women could be more welcomed members of society.

[00:20:35] And as Europe developed and modernised, witch fears faded.

[00:20:40] Which brings us to the modern day, and modern ideas of witches.

[00:20:45] In the 20th century, much like vampires and werewolves, witches became a mainstay of fiction, appearing in books, films and TV.

[00:20:56] By 1900, witches could even be the ‘good guys’, as in The Wizard of Oz, where this had a bad witch but there’s also a good one, called Glinda.

[00:21:07] And in most recent fiction, witches are often neither good nor bad. As you’ll know, the most popular children’s book series in history, Harry Potter, is all about wizards and witches.

[00:21:19] But outside of the world of fiction, in the real world, we can also, interestingly, see a rebirth of “witch culture”, or at least interest in witchcraft and paganism.

[00:21:34] One survey in 2008, found there were 340,000 people identifying as pagan in the United States, by 2014, another survey found 1.5 million, a staggering increase.

[00:21:50] This modern paganism has similarities with the white magic we talked about earlier - it uses herbs and healing, and can also involve fortune telling and spells

[00:22:02] There is even a whole subsection of TikTok dedicated to this called ‘Witch-Tok’.

[00:22:09] Now, it is chilling but fascinating to think about how tens of thousands of women were killed, only a few hundred years ago, for doing absolutely nothing wrong, for having committed the crime of being too poor or too rich, having no children or having too many, and who would have never even dared to experiment with any kind of magic like this.

[00:22:32] And now, in the 21st century, there are millions of people who are doing it, free from persecution, even though we have plenty of evidence that there is no scientific basis behind it.

[00:22:45] So, the next time you see someone wearing a witch costume, or someone talking about spells or white magic, you’ll know that the story of witches is in fact one of misogyny, of the murder of women of all ages, and it’s a story that goes a lot deeper than cheap black hats. 

[00:23:07] Ok then, that is it for today’s episode on witches, and with it comes the end of this three-part mini-series on the theme of Halloween.

[00:23:17] As you’ll have seen with all three, the stories of vampires, werewolves and witches are partly one of an innate human desire to create mythical creatures, but partly as a way to make sense of the unknown.

[00:23:31] As always I would love to know what you thought of this episode, and of this mini-series in general.

[00:23:37] Do you have any interesting stories about witches or witchcraft from your culture?

[00:23:42] Were you surprised by the elaborate histories behind what have become simple Halloween costumes?

[00:23:48] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:23:52] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:00] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:05] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is part three of our three-part mini-series on the theme of Halloween.

[00:00:29] In case you missed them, in part one we looked at the bloody history of vampires, and in part two, which was one of our member-only ones, it was the hair-raising history of werewolves.

[00:00:41] Today, we are finishing the mini-series with witches.

[00:00:45] It’s a tragic story of superstition, of sexism, and how a misunderstanding of science led to the murder of thousands of innocent women.

[00:00:56] OK then, let’s get started with the wicked story of witches.

[00:01:03] Our story starts in the village of Salem in Massachusetts, in America.

[00:01:08] Between 1692 and 1693, over 200 people out of a population of roughly 500 were accused of witchcraft, the use of magic. 

[00:01:22] 10 years after the last witch would be executed in England, across the pond, in America, witchcraft hysteria was at its peak.

[00:01:32] The event would become known as The Salem Witch Trials, arguably the most famous witch trials in history.

[00:01:41] It all began after two young girls in the village, Betty Parris and her cousin Abigail Williams started experiencing horrible episodes of seizures, screaming, and pain throughout their bodies.

[00:01:56] They even crawled under furniture, threw things around their home, and made strange sounds. 

[00:02:03] Understandably concerned, their family brought a doctor to the girls.

[00:02:08] He could not find anything physically wrong with them and his diagnosis was that they must be cursed by witchcraft.

[00:02:18] And soon, others around the village would slowly start to exhibit the same symptoms.

[00:02:24] It did not take long for rumours of witchcraft to spread around Salem and villagers would accuse each other of using magic to harm one another.

[00:02:36] Soon enough, the trials and executions started.

[00:02:41] The first to be executed was a lady called Bridget Bishop, after it was decided that it was she who had cursed the two young girls and had also attacked various other members of the community.

[00:02:55] As the trials continued, the two young girls began to make other accusations. Fingers were pointed and suspicions continued to grow.

[00:03:06] This cycle continued until hundreds had been accused, imprisoned, tortured and in some cases killed.

[00:03:15] 20 of the accused, 14 of which were women, would face death by hanging. 

[00:03:22] One, an 81-year-old man called Giles Corey, who was accused of witchcraft along with his wife, would escape the hangman’s noose.

[00:03:32] I’m afraid though hanging would have been a blessing for Corey. He was to suffer something much worse.

[00:03:40] Corey was what's called ‘pressed’, that is being slowly crushed to death under a wooden board as weights were added one by one.

[00:03:51] Five others were also accused, including two infant children, who died in prison.

[00:03:57] The village even had two dogs killed on suspicion of witchcraft.

[00:04:03] Yes, even children and dogs could not escape the hysteria of Salem.

[00:04:09] So, what do historians think really happened? 

[00:04:13] If these poor women weren’t actually witches, which, of course, they weren’t, why did they behave in such a strange way?

[00:04:23] In the 1970s, a historian Linnda Caporael had an idea. She proposed that the village had been suffering the effects of a strange fungus, rye ergot, that had grown on the wheat they used to make bread.

[00:04:39] This fungus has been described as nature’s LSD and it causes all of the symptoms the villagers were experiencing.

[00:04:49] Essentially, everyone in the village was on hallucinogenic drugs, causing them to behave erratically.

[00:04:56] But of course, in 1692 there was no way these people had any awareness of this, so it was witchcraft that was to blame.

[00:05:06] So this all begs the question - what exactly were they being accused of? 

[00:05:12] What was a witch? 

[00:05:14] Why was it so bad, and why was being one punishable by death?

[00:05:20] The ideas around witches at Salem had been brought over by European settlers throughout the previous century and were the result of a long history of pagan beliefs.

[00:05:32] And while the idea of witches does exist in cultures across the globe, today we will be discussing European witches.

[00:05:42] A defining feature of these witches was that they could be any ordinary person who practises magic.

[00:05:50] In contrast, many other traditions and beliefs see witches as beings with inherent supernatural powers.

[00:05:59] These European-style witches were usually women but could occasionally be men, children or even animals.

[00:06:08] And fundamentally, their use of magic was believed to make them a follower, or even worse, a lover of the devil. Yes some people were convicted as witches on the basis that they had sex with the devil himself.

[00:06:26] Clearly this was difficult, impossible, to prove, but there were plenty of signs that people came to believe indicated that someone, typically a woman, was a witch.

[00:06:38] Women who were old, women who had no children, women who had too many children, women who talked to themselves, who had pets, who did not attend church, who were too sexual, who were too intelligent, too ugly, too unfashionable, too rich or too poor.

[00:06:58] Any of these things could lead to suspicions you were a witch. 

[00:07:02] And I’m sure many of you are thinking that you too could have faced accusations of being a witch – these are not exactly a set of rare criteria.

[00:07:13] And although being a witch, and follower of the devil was clearly a bad thing to be accused of, ideas of women with positive supernatural powers have existed almost since the dawn of time.

[00:07:27] In ancient Greek mythology, for instance, there were figures such as the goddess of magic Hecate, or her daughter the enchantress Circe.

[00:07:38] These mythical women were known to use magic both for good and evil. And for thousands of years there was this distinction between black and white magic, good and bad magic.

[00:07:52] Pagan beliefs involved the use of both black and white magic, with white magic associated with healing and a legitimate and celebrated practice often carried out by women.

[00:08:05] In contrast, black magic was typically thought to be spells that were intended to do harm, to damage someone.

[00:08:14] But by the 1200s, such beliefs were being stamped out in Europe by the Catholic church, which declared that all magic was heretical, against Christianity.

[00:08:26] It might have been declared heretical, but it didn’t disappear altogether.

[00:08:32] Instead, what happened was the categories of black and white magic became increasingly blurred and before long, white magic was also viewed with suspicion.

[00:08:44] This was only made worse by misunderstandings about the spread of diseases, most notably the plague, the Black Death.

[00:08:53] As the plague raged on and spread rapidly throughout the 14th century, people looked for someone or something to blame.

[00:09:02] Perhaps unsurprisingly, in many instances it was those women who had been involved in magical healing that were believed to be responsible for the outbreaks of disease.

[00:09:14] And this was only made worse whenever there were poor harvests or diseases that also affected cattle.

[00:09:21] So, as a result of the church’s new views on magic and years of suffering due to plagues, frustrations had reached an all time high by the 15th century.

[00:09:33] And as there was minimal evidence required for someone to be proven to be a witch, it was a useful accusation for anyone you wanted to get rid of.

[00:09:44] Joan of Arc, now a patron saint of France, claimed she was acting under divine guidance, which led her to being tried for witchcraft and burned at the stake in 1431.

[00:09:57] And this rising anti-witch feeling even led the Pope to announce measures to be taken against witches, in the form of something called the Malleus Maleficarum, or The Hammer of Witches, which was written in 1487.

[00:10:13] The book was written by a Catholic church official and it respresented the church’s official views on witches and how to capture, torture and execute them.

[00:10:25] Basically, it was a guidebook for witch hunters, and it led to many witch hunts and the deaths of thousands of people for centuries.

[00:10:35] It is estimated that over 16,000 people in Europe were executed as witches between the years of 1300 and 1850.

[00:10:44] Many thousands more were accused and tortured and likely died during torture or in prison.

[00:10:52] And it was the Malleus Maleficarum, this book that laid out the basis for these accusations, and it was also this text that firmly established the identification of women with witches.

[00:11:06] The book is an incredible piece of misogyny, sexism towards women, and included many of those ridiculous witch warning signs we mentioned earlier such as intelligence, fashion sense and age.

[00:11:21] Another characteristic the book highlighted was disfigurement, and this was believed to be a sign of the devil’s touch which is where the image of witches with warts on their noses or hands comes from.

[00:11:36] However, it wasn’t only old women with warts that had to be afraid of being accused of witchcraft.

[00:11:42] Young and old, beautiful or covered in warts, anyone could be accused of being a witch.

[00:11:49] And looking through this guidebook, it’s clear that many of the signs of being a witch were simply signs of a woman not conforming to the expectations of the patriarchal, or male-dominated, society.

[00:12:04] For example, a woman who was too intelligent or too rich would not be as easy to control by her husband.

[00:12:12] But a woman who was too poor was not worthy of a husband and would either grow old alone and childless, therefore arousing suspicion, or enter into the typical female roles of midwifery or weaving, which might also lead to suspicion.

[00:12:30] So, given the book’s extremely general witch criteria, it's not surprising that it led to countless accusations of witchcraft, which led to hundreds of trials and countless executions, far worse than those seen at Salem.

[00:12:46] These trials which took place across Europe were large, continuous events that spanned many years due to the sheer amount of those accused and the long, painful process of imprisonment, torture and confession. 

[00:13:01] Whole villages could find themselves involved in trials with hundreds accused despite very little or no evidence. 

[00:13:09] The very worst of these trials took place in Germany, the country responsible for executing over 40% of all Europeans accused of witchcraft.

[00:13:21] One of the worst examples in Germany was the Würzburg trials, which took place between 1625 and 1631. These saw 900 people, 400 of which were children, burnt at the stake for being witches.

[00:13:39] The accusations ranged from the disgusting to the ridiculous, with children accused of intercourse with demons and people condemned for humming a song in honour of the devil.

[00:13:52] It’s not hard to see how these trials could end up involving thousands of people when you could be accused for simply humming a song.

[00:14:01] And it was not just villagers accusing one another, even monarchs, kings and queens, pointed the finger

[00:14:09] For example, in 1590, King James VI of Scotland, who was soon to become King of England too, blamed witchcraft for his recent misfortune at sea.

[00:14:20] King James had attempted to sail from just north of the English-Scottish border to Copenhagen, in order to marry his future wife, Princess Anne of Denmark.

[00:14:31] However, on his journey his fleet was met with a terrible storm which forced him to stop and take refuge in Norway.

[00:14:41] Did he consider for a moment that this might be the typical weather of the stormy North Sea?

[00:14:47] No, of course not, he blamed the disaster on witchcraft and the event started the king’s lifelong obsession with magic, witches and demons.

[00:14:58] First to be blamed for the storm was a lady called Geillis Duncan who was burnt alive at the stake after she confessed following days of torture.

[00:15:08] Soon after around 70 others would follow in her footsteps, many of whom she had been forced to name while being tortured.

[00:15:16] Perhaps unsurprisingly, whenever one of these poor women was being tortured and pressurised to name other “fellow” witches, they would name dozens of people in an attempt to stop the pain.

[00:15:29] The torture that people accused of being witches faced was truly horrific.

[00:15:34] Sometimes the victim was forced to stay awake for days and days until they were delirious and they confessed.

[00:15:42] Other more violent methods included whipping, or crushing their legs, fingers or toes with clamps.

[00:15:50] And we know that Geillis, the woman who was accused of causing the storm in the North Sea, had suffered all her fingers being crushed.

[00:15:59] Another common punishment was the ‘ducking stool’, and this is, I’m afraid, yet another example of the deck being stacked, the system being rigged, against women.

[00:16:11] This was designed specifically for women and the victim would be strapped to a chair which was then submerged in freezing water for whatever amount of time the judges believed necessary.

[00:16:25] If she floated, if she came to the surface, she would be declared a witch, and most likely burned alive.

[00:16:33] If she sank, well, this was proof that she was innocent but she would probably die in the process.

[00:16:41] Another test to determine if the accused was a witch was seeing if they bled after being pricked with a needle, after a needle was put on their skin.

[00:16:53] If they did not bleed they would be found guilty of being a witch.

[00:16:58] But the problem was that a witch hunter would often use a blunt needle, a not sharp needle, that would not break the skin, or they would prick the poor victim over and over again, waiting for one spot where it would not bleed.

[00:17:15] Why would they use these blunt needles? Why would they use these tactics? Well because they were paid every time they successfully convicted a witch.

[00:17:25] Some people literally made a living through witch hunting, it was their job, so there was a clear incentive to find as many women as possible and “prove” they were witches.

[00:17:38] A man called Mathew Hopkins was one notorious English witch hunter, and it is said that he was responsible for the execution of 300 witches from the year 1644 until his death in 1647. 3 years, 300 witches, 100 witches a year, one new one every few days. It was really quite something.

[00:18:02] Fortunately, the witch hunting madness wouldn’t last forever, and 35 years after Hopkins, the notorious witch hunter, died, in 1682 England would carry out its final execution of a witch. 

[00:18:17] Why, you might be asking yourself?

[00:18:20] Why did people go from such unimaginable and illogical cruelty through to, well, at least a slightly more civilised society?

[00:18:29] Scholars have argued that witch trials had always been a result of war, religious tension, superstition, poor leadership, disease, and an underdeveloped understanding of medical science.

[00:18:43] And all of these issues had been present throughout Europe in the 14th to 17th Century when the witch hysteria really peaked

[00:18:52] After the Black Death had ravaged through Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries, the 1500s saw the fracture of the Catholic Church, leading to countless religious, civil and international wars and conflict between Catholics and Protestants.

[00:19:09] By the mid 17th century, much of this was over. The Treaty of Westphalia came in 1648, and by 1651 the English Civil War was over too.

[00:19:22] Shortly after, the Enlightenment started, and with it came a more nuanced, more developed understanding of everything from medical science to the rule of law.

[00:19:34] And clearly, accusing a woman of having sex with the devil because she has no children or she has lots of children makes absolutely no sense.

[00:19:44] As a result, life started looking brighter for anyone who might be accused of witchcraft.

[00:19:50] By 1735, England had even introduced the Witchcraft Act, which declared it a crime for a person to claim someone had magical powers or practised witchcraft

[00:20:03] The act also outlawed the execution of witches.

[00:20:08] Other laws, too, helped to reduce the vast amount of accusations hurled towards women.

[00:20:14] For example, Britain continued to develop its Poor Laws, which helped to prevent women from falling into poverty and forced into positions, such as begging or prostitutition, that had formerly led to suspicions.

[00:20:30] Instead these women could be more welcomed members of society.

[00:20:35] And as Europe developed and modernised, witch fears faded.

[00:20:40] Which brings us to the modern day, and modern ideas of witches.

[00:20:45] In the 20th century, much like vampires and werewolves, witches became a mainstay of fiction, appearing in books, films and TV.

[00:20:56] By 1900, witches could even be the ‘good guys’, as in The Wizard of Oz, where this had a bad witch but there’s also a good one, called Glinda.

[00:21:07] And in most recent fiction, witches are often neither good nor bad. As you’ll know, the most popular children’s book series in history, Harry Potter, is all about wizards and witches.

[00:21:19] But outside of the world of fiction, in the real world, we can also, interestingly, see a rebirth of “witch culture”, or at least interest in witchcraft and paganism.

[00:21:34] One survey in 2008, found there were 340,000 people identifying as pagan in the United States, by 2014, another survey found 1.5 million, a staggering increase.

[00:21:50] This modern paganism has similarities with the white magic we talked about earlier - it uses herbs and healing, and can also involve fortune telling and spells

[00:22:02] There is even a whole subsection of TikTok dedicated to this called ‘Witch-Tok’.

[00:22:09] Now, it is chilling but fascinating to think about how tens of thousands of women were killed, only a few hundred years ago, for doing absolutely nothing wrong, for having committed the crime of being too poor or too rich, having no children or having too many, and who would have never even dared to experiment with any kind of magic like this.

[00:22:32] And now, in the 21st century, there are millions of people who are doing it, free from persecution, even though we have plenty of evidence that there is no scientific basis behind it.

[00:22:45] So, the next time you see someone wearing a witch costume, or someone talking about spells or white magic, you’ll know that the story of witches is in fact one of misogyny, of the murder of women of all ages, and it’s a story that goes a lot deeper than cheap black hats. 

[00:23:07] Ok then, that is it for today’s episode on witches, and with it comes the end of this three-part mini-series on the theme of Halloween.

[00:23:17] As you’ll have seen with all three, the stories of vampires, werewolves and witches are partly one of an innate human desire to create mythical creatures, but partly as a way to make sense of the unknown.

[00:23:31] As always I would love to know what you thought of this episode, and of this mini-series in general.

[00:23:37] Do you have any interesting stories about witches or witchcraft from your culture?

[00:23:42] Were you surprised by the elaborate histories behind what have become simple Halloween costumes?

[00:23:48] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:23:52] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:00] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:05] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is part three of our three-part mini-series on the theme of Halloween.

[00:00:29] In case you missed them, in part one we looked at the bloody history of vampires, and in part two, which was one of our member-only ones, it was the hair-raising history of werewolves.

[00:00:41] Today, we are finishing the mini-series with witches.

[00:00:45] It’s a tragic story of superstition, of sexism, and how a misunderstanding of science led to the murder of thousands of innocent women.

[00:00:56] OK then, let’s get started with the wicked story of witches.

[00:01:03] Our story starts in the village of Salem in Massachusetts, in America.

[00:01:08] Between 1692 and 1693, over 200 people out of a population of roughly 500 were accused of witchcraft, the use of magic. 

[00:01:22] 10 years after the last witch would be executed in England, across the pond, in America, witchcraft hysteria was at its peak.

[00:01:32] The event would become known as The Salem Witch Trials, arguably the most famous witch trials in history.

[00:01:41] It all began after two young girls in the village, Betty Parris and her cousin Abigail Williams started experiencing horrible episodes of seizures, screaming, and pain throughout their bodies.

[00:01:56] They even crawled under furniture, threw things around their home, and made strange sounds. 

[00:02:03] Understandably concerned, their family brought a doctor to the girls.

[00:02:08] He could not find anything physically wrong with them and his diagnosis was that they must be cursed by witchcraft.

[00:02:18] And soon, others around the village would slowly start to exhibit the same symptoms.

[00:02:24] It did not take long for rumours of witchcraft to spread around Salem and villagers would accuse each other of using magic to harm one another.

[00:02:36] Soon enough, the trials and executions started.

[00:02:41] The first to be executed was a lady called Bridget Bishop, after it was decided that it was she who had cursed the two young girls and had also attacked various other members of the community.

[00:02:55] As the trials continued, the two young girls began to make other accusations. Fingers were pointed and suspicions continued to grow.

[00:03:06] This cycle continued until hundreds had been accused, imprisoned, tortured and in some cases killed.

[00:03:15] 20 of the accused, 14 of which were women, would face death by hanging. 

[00:03:22] One, an 81-year-old man called Giles Corey, who was accused of witchcraft along with his wife, would escape the hangman’s noose.

[00:03:32] I’m afraid though hanging would have been a blessing for Corey. He was to suffer something much worse.

[00:03:40] Corey was what's called ‘pressed’, that is being slowly crushed to death under a wooden board as weights were added one by one.

[00:03:51] Five others were also accused, including two infant children, who died in prison.

[00:03:57] The village even had two dogs killed on suspicion of witchcraft.

[00:04:03] Yes, even children and dogs could not escape the hysteria of Salem.

[00:04:09] So, what do historians think really happened? 

[00:04:13] If these poor women weren’t actually witches, which, of course, they weren’t, why did they behave in such a strange way?

[00:04:23] In the 1970s, a historian Linnda Caporael had an idea. She proposed that the village had been suffering the effects of a strange fungus, rye ergot, that had grown on the wheat they used to make bread.

[00:04:39] This fungus has been described as nature’s LSD and it causes all of the symptoms the villagers were experiencing.

[00:04:49] Essentially, everyone in the village was on hallucinogenic drugs, causing them to behave erratically.

[00:04:56] But of course, in 1692 there was no way these people had any awareness of this, so it was witchcraft that was to blame.

[00:05:06] So this all begs the question - what exactly were they being accused of? 

[00:05:12] What was a witch? 

[00:05:14] Why was it so bad, and why was being one punishable by death?

[00:05:20] The ideas around witches at Salem had been brought over by European settlers throughout the previous century and were the result of a long history of pagan beliefs.

[00:05:32] And while the idea of witches does exist in cultures across the globe, today we will be discussing European witches.

[00:05:42] A defining feature of these witches was that they could be any ordinary person who practises magic.

[00:05:50] In contrast, many other traditions and beliefs see witches as beings with inherent supernatural powers.

[00:05:59] These European-style witches were usually women but could occasionally be men, children or even animals.

[00:06:08] And fundamentally, their use of magic was believed to make them a follower, or even worse, a lover of the devil. Yes some people were convicted as witches on the basis that they had sex with the devil himself.

[00:06:26] Clearly this was difficult, impossible, to prove, but there were plenty of signs that people came to believe indicated that someone, typically a woman, was a witch.

[00:06:38] Women who were old, women who had no children, women who had too many children, women who talked to themselves, who had pets, who did not attend church, who were too sexual, who were too intelligent, too ugly, too unfashionable, too rich or too poor.

[00:06:58] Any of these things could lead to suspicions you were a witch. 

[00:07:02] And I’m sure many of you are thinking that you too could have faced accusations of being a witch – these are not exactly a set of rare criteria.

[00:07:13] And although being a witch, and follower of the devil was clearly a bad thing to be accused of, ideas of women with positive supernatural powers have existed almost since the dawn of time.

[00:07:27] In ancient Greek mythology, for instance, there were figures such as the goddess of magic Hecate, or her daughter the enchantress Circe.

[00:07:38] These mythical women were known to use magic both for good and evil. And for thousands of years there was this distinction between black and white magic, good and bad magic.

[00:07:52] Pagan beliefs involved the use of both black and white magic, with white magic associated with healing and a legitimate and celebrated practice often carried out by women.

[00:08:05] In contrast, black magic was typically thought to be spells that were intended to do harm, to damage someone.

[00:08:14] But by the 1200s, such beliefs were being stamped out in Europe by the Catholic church, which declared that all magic was heretical, against Christianity.

[00:08:26] It might have been declared heretical, but it didn’t disappear altogether.

[00:08:32] Instead, what happened was the categories of black and white magic became increasingly blurred and before long, white magic was also viewed with suspicion.

[00:08:44] This was only made worse by misunderstandings about the spread of diseases, most notably the plague, the Black Death.

[00:08:53] As the plague raged on and spread rapidly throughout the 14th century, people looked for someone or something to blame.

[00:09:02] Perhaps unsurprisingly, in many instances it was those women who had been involved in magical healing that were believed to be responsible for the outbreaks of disease.

[00:09:14] And this was only made worse whenever there were poor harvests or diseases that also affected cattle.

[00:09:21] So, as a result of the church’s new views on magic and years of suffering due to plagues, frustrations had reached an all time high by the 15th century.

[00:09:33] And as there was minimal evidence required for someone to be proven to be a witch, it was a useful accusation for anyone you wanted to get rid of.

[00:09:44] Joan of Arc, now a patron saint of France, claimed she was acting under divine guidance, which led her to being tried for witchcraft and burned at the stake in 1431.

[00:09:57] And this rising anti-witch feeling even led the Pope to announce measures to be taken against witches, in the form of something called the Malleus Maleficarum, or The Hammer of Witches, which was written in 1487.

[00:10:13] The book was written by a Catholic church official and it respresented the church’s official views on witches and how to capture, torture and execute them.

[00:10:25] Basically, it was a guidebook for witch hunters, and it led to many witch hunts and the deaths of thousands of people for centuries.

[00:10:35] It is estimated that over 16,000 people in Europe were executed as witches between the years of 1300 and 1850.

[00:10:44] Many thousands more were accused and tortured and likely died during torture or in prison.

[00:10:52] And it was the Malleus Maleficarum, this book that laid out the basis for these accusations, and it was also this text that firmly established the identification of women with witches.

[00:11:06] The book is an incredible piece of misogyny, sexism towards women, and included many of those ridiculous witch warning signs we mentioned earlier such as intelligence, fashion sense and age.

[00:11:21] Another characteristic the book highlighted was disfigurement, and this was believed to be a sign of the devil’s touch which is where the image of witches with warts on their noses or hands comes from.

[00:11:36] However, it wasn’t only old women with warts that had to be afraid of being accused of witchcraft.

[00:11:42] Young and old, beautiful or covered in warts, anyone could be accused of being a witch.

[00:11:49] And looking through this guidebook, it’s clear that many of the signs of being a witch were simply signs of a woman not conforming to the expectations of the patriarchal, or male-dominated, society.

[00:12:04] For example, a woman who was too intelligent or too rich would not be as easy to control by her husband.

[00:12:12] But a woman who was too poor was not worthy of a husband and would either grow old alone and childless, therefore arousing suspicion, or enter into the typical female roles of midwifery or weaving, which might also lead to suspicion.

[00:12:30] So, given the book’s extremely general witch criteria, it's not surprising that it led to countless accusations of witchcraft, which led to hundreds of trials and countless executions, far worse than those seen at Salem.

[00:12:46] These trials which took place across Europe were large, continuous events that spanned many years due to the sheer amount of those accused and the long, painful process of imprisonment, torture and confession. 

[00:13:01] Whole villages could find themselves involved in trials with hundreds accused despite very little or no evidence. 

[00:13:09] The very worst of these trials took place in Germany, the country responsible for executing over 40% of all Europeans accused of witchcraft.

[00:13:21] One of the worst examples in Germany was the Würzburg trials, which took place between 1625 and 1631. These saw 900 people, 400 of which were children, burnt at the stake for being witches.

[00:13:39] The accusations ranged from the disgusting to the ridiculous, with children accused of intercourse with demons and people condemned for humming a song in honour of the devil.

[00:13:52] It’s not hard to see how these trials could end up involving thousands of people when you could be accused for simply humming a song.

[00:14:01] And it was not just villagers accusing one another, even monarchs, kings and queens, pointed the finger

[00:14:09] For example, in 1590, King James VI of Scotland, who was soon to become King of England too, blamed witchcraft for his recent misfortune at sea.

[00:14:20] King James had attempted to sail from just north of the English-Scottish border to Copenhagen, in order to marry his future wife, Princess Anne of Denmark.

[00:14:31] However, on his journey his fleet was met with a terrible storm which forced him to stop and take refuge in Norway.

[00:14:41] Did he consider for a moment that this might be the typical weather of the stormy North Sea?

[00:14:47] No, of course not, he blamed the disaster on witchcraft and the event started the king’s lifelong obsession with magic, witches and demons.

[00:14:58] First to be blamed for the storm was a lady called Geillis Duncan who was burnt alive at the stake after she confessed following days of torture.

[00:15:08] Soon after around 70 others would follow in her footsteps, many of whom she had been forced to name while being tortured.

[00:15:16] Perhaps unsurprisingly, whenever one of these poor women was being tortured and pressurised to name other “fellow” witches, they would name dozens of people in an attempt to stop the pain.

[00:15:29] The torture that people accused of being witches faced was truly horrific.

[00:15:34] Sometimes the victim was forced to stay awake for days and days until they were delirious and they confessed.

[00:15:42] Other more violent methods included whipping, or crushing their legs, fingers or toes with clamps.

[00:15:50] And we know that Geillis, the woman who was accused of causing the storm in the North Sea, had suffered all her fingers being crushed.

[00:15:59] Another common punishment was the ‘ducking stool’, and this is, I’m afraid, yet another example of the deck being stacked, the system being rigged, against women.

[00:16:11] This was designed specifically for women and the victim would be strapped to a chair which was then submerged in freezing water for whatever amount of time the judges believed necessary.

[00:16:25] If she floated, if she came to the surface, she would be declared a witch, and most likely burned alive.

[00:16:33] If she sank, well, this was proof that she was innocent but she would probably die in the process.

[00:16:41] Another test to determine if the accused was a witch was seeing if they bled after being pricked with a needle, after a needle was put on their skin.

[00:16:53] If they did not bleed they would be found guilty of being a witch.

[00:16:58] But the problem was that a witch hunter would often use a blunt needle, a not sharp needle, that would not break the skin, or they would prick the poor victim over and over again, waiting for one spot where it would not bleed.

[00:17:15] Why would they use these blunt needles? Why would they use these tactics? Well because they were paid every time they successfully convicted a witch.

[00:17:25] Some people literally made a living through witch hunting, it was their job, so there was a clear incentive to find as many women as possible and “prove” they were witches.

[00:17:38] A man called Mathew Hopkins was one notorious English witch hunter, and it is said that he was responsible for the execution of 300 witches from the year 1644 until his death in 1647. 3 years, 300 witches, 100 witches a year, one new one every few days. It was really quite something.

[00:18:02] Fortunately, the witch hunting madness wouldn’t last forever, and 35 years after Hopkins, the notorious witch hunter, died, in 1682 England would carry out its final execution of a witch. 

[00:18:17] Why, you might be asking yourself?

[00:18:20] Why did people go from such unimaginable and illogical cruelty through to, well, at least a slightly more civilised society?

[00:18:29] Scholars have argued that witch trials had always been a result of war, religious tension, superstition, poor leadership, disease, and an underdeveloped understanding of medical science.

[00:18:43] And all of these issues had been present throughout Europe in the 14th to 17th Century when the witch hysteria really peaked

[00:18:52] After the Black Death had ravaged through Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries, the 1500s saw the fracture of the Catholic Church, leading to countless religious, civil and international wars and conflict between Catholics and Protestants.

[00:19:09] By the mid 17th century, much of this was over. The Treaty of Westphalia came in 1648, and by 1651 the English Civil War was over too.

[00:19:22] Shortly after, the Enlightenment started, and with it came a more nuanced, more developed understanding of everything from medical science to the rule of law.

[00:19:34] And clearly, accusing a woman of having sex with the devil because she has no children or she has lots of children makes absolutely no sense.

[00:19:44] As a result, life started looking brighter for anyone who might be accused of witchcraft.

[00:19:50] By 1735, England had even introduced the Witchcraft Act, which declared it a crime for a person to claim someone had magical powers or practised witchcraft

[00:20:03] The act also outlawed the execution of witches.

[00:20:08] Other laws, too, helped to reduce the vast amount of accusations hurled towards women.

[00:20:14] For example, Britain continued to develop its Poor Laws, which helped to prevent women from falling into poverty and forced into positions, such as begging or prostitutition, that had formerly led to suspicions.

[00:20:30] Instead these women could be more welcomed members of society.

[00:20:35] And as Europe developed and modernised, witch fears faded.

[00:20:40] Which brings us to the modern day, and modern ideas of witches.

[00:20:45] In the 20th century, much like vampires and werewolves, witches became a mainstay of fiction, appearing in books, films and TV.

[00:20:56] By 1900, witches could even be the ‘good guys’, as in The Wizard of Oz, where this had a bad witch but there’s also a good one, called Glinda.

[00:21:07] And in most recent fiction, witches are often neither good nor bad. As you’ll know, the most popular children’s book series in history, Harry Potter, is all about wizards and witches.

[00:21:19] But outside of the world of fiction, in the real world, we can also, interestingly, see a rebirth of “witch culture”, or at least interest in witchcraft and paganism.

[00:21:34] One survey in 2008, found there were 340,000 people identifying as pagan in the United States, by 2014, another survey found 1.5 million, a staggering increase.

[00:21:50] This modern paganism has similarities with the white magic we talked about earlier - it uses herbs and healing, and can also involve fortune telling and spells

[00:22:02] There is even a whole subsection of TikTok dedicated to this called ‘Witch-Tok’.

[00:22:09] Now, it is chilling but fascinating to think about how tens of thousands of women were killed, only a few hundred years ago, for doing absolutely nothing wrong, for having committed the crime of being too poor or too rich, having no children or having too many, and who would have never even dared to experiment with any kind of magic like this.

[00:22:32] And now, in the 21st century, there are millions of people who are doing it, free from persecution, even though we have plenty of evidence that there is no scientific basis behind it.

[00:22:45] So, the next time you see someone wearing a witch costume, or someone talking about spells or white magic, you’ll know that the story of witches is in fact one of misogyny, of the murder of women of all ages, and it’s a story that goes a lot deeper than cheap black hats. 

[00:23:07] Ok then, that is it for today’s episode on witches, and with it comes the end of this three-part mini-series on the theme of Halloween.

[00:23:17] As you’ll have seen with all three, the stories of vampires, werewolves and witches are partly one of an innate human desire to create mythical creatures, but partly as a way to make sense of the unknown.

[00:23:31] As always I would love to know what you thought of this episode, and of this mini-series in general.

[00:23:37] Do you have any interesting stories about witches or witchcraft from your culture?

[00:23:42] Were you surprised by the elaborate histories behind what have become simple Halloween costumes?

[00:23:48] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started.

[00:23:52] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:00] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:05] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]