Women’s persecution

The study of the witch-hunt reveals that 90% of the victims were women. Among the accused women, most of them were elderly women aged more than 60.

The Renaissance Christian myth of the witch is complex and grotesque. Most witches were women, the Malleus Maleficarum stated, because "All witchcraft arises from lust, which in women is insatiable." Their lust was supposedly for the Devil, who initiated the witch at the Sabbat and copulated with her.

A societal contempt for the status of women eventually led to the belief on behalf of Church authorities that the devil could easily seduce women to join him. This explained why most of the accused witches were female.

During the 16th century the physician Johann Weyer was strongly reprimanded for even suggesting that "…executed witches were really harmless old women who confessed to impossible crimes only because they were driven mad by unendurable tortures."

 In 1711 Joseph Addison reported, "that when an old woman became dependent on the charity of the parish she was ‘generally turned into a witch’ and legally terminated."

Priests were naturally against women as part of the “original sin” myth. Eve was the first woman that drove man out of Eden and she is held responsible for the curse of death and suffering.

Women have also strange powers men do not: the power to bear children and feed them from their own bodies, to bleed without being hurt or sick, and to provoke erections in heterosexual men. Such powers were not explainable at the time and it was then easy to turn woman into an evil being.

Little wonder then that by the 1550s, most European witch trials focused upon witches as the sexual slaves of Satan. Although obscene acts were usually not offered as evidence in the initial accusations of a witch, by the time the accused was indicted, the prosecutors were "predisposed to see the witch as a sex offender ".

Sex crimes became integral to witchcraft and were soon incorporated into the very definition of a witch. The witch hunts in Europe were accompanied by other measures to eliminate knowledge of birth control and sexual knowledge, and since the late sixteenth century any sexual topic was so much of a taboo nature that in the 19th century the earliest historians researching on the European witch hunts did not even see the connection between witch hunts and sexual matters.

The witch hunt is also sometimes held partly responsible for the so called European population explosion (1470-1900) as women who knew and induced abortions or contraception through the use of herbs and roots were either killed or obliged to hide their knowledge.