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Burning Times Numbers...

The generally accepted "high" estimate" of the number of "witches" burned through the "burning times" is around 100,000. With a number of around 60,000 being considered more common. However, we do tend to get the "radical" estimate as high as 9 million.

Now, my question is, where do these numbers come from? We all know "history is written by the winner" and the few records which do exist of these atrocities come from those "winners." We know there were a number of towns which were completely wiped out, others were almost completely erased, and we have no idea the numbers of victims which came out of these towns or the surrounding countryside.

Regardless of where your numerical belief comes in at when estimating these numbers, my question is WHERE do we get the estimates? It seems to me they are little more than guesses taken from writings and records which were written by those who came later - not at the time of the doings.

Answer Question

Asked by SabrinaMBowen at 5:17 PM on Aug. 15, 2010 in Religion & Beliefs

Level 40 (122,988 Credits)
Answers (7)
  • Well your right there is no way that the numbers can be right. There simply wasn't someone taking now accurate information then. They do have some court reports, records from burials, ect... But it is only a guess. I'm sure many more were killed without a record made.

    Answer by SalemWitchChild at 5:20 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • A lot can be found in historical records, especially church records. Considering most of the people slaughtered were actually normal, everyday people, their births and deaths would be listed with the local churches, just like anyone else. While it wouldn't be exact, it would give a general idea of the population of the villages that were destroyed, and other records were kept of trials and judgments. If nothing else you can see what isn't there - people who were recorded as being born and married but not their deaths may not all have been part of the chaos, but it gives a proportion of how many people are unaccounted for vs accounted for. Even peasants buried in paupers graves would be recorded in church records, provided they were still "without sin".

    Answer by NotPanicking at 5:21 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • I can't figure out where they got the numbers, I looked at several articles and got all sorts of different numbers. On some of those sites you have to consider where the information is coming from because it's clearly biased. I did find one really interesting site that gives a timeline and history of witch burning and hatred of witches. It goes up to 1999. I can't believe some preachers still advocate burning witches. It's shocking in this day and age. Here is the link for the site:

    Answer by SophiaofLight at 5:28 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • Thanks for the link, Sophia, I know all about what ReligiousTolerance says, but I'm far from a fan of that site. I've found many of their facts to be both religiously and politically conservative or simply lacking vital information... If you want I can send you an article from last month about recent "witch trials" which are taking place TODAY! So even ending their time line in 1999, is far from telling the whole story!

    Comment by SabrinaMBowen (original poster) at 5:37 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • Thank you Sabrina, I would love to read the article if you would send it to me. The sad thing is, is that the Religious Tolerance site was the least biased of the ones I read. Some of the other ones were just awful. I should have checked Witchvox. But I don't think anyone is ever going to know the actual numbers. There were too many small towns and villages that kept no records. And the Queen of England, Bloody Mary just called things witchcarft and burned people for it. So it's hard to get any type of accurate number.

    Answer by SophiaofLight at 6:02 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • Well, again, I think that's a large part of why we have such a gap in estimates. One source guesses at 50K-60K and others are in the millions - simply because if we actually counted those who WERE witches the numbers would be much lower... Also, I think it's because people can't decide when the burning times started and ended. Sites like Religious Tolerance gather a number from about 100 years, however historians will tell you there is closer to 300 years, and as you and I know it really never ended, so even limiting it to 300 years feels as if we are cutting things short...

    Here is that article. I've posted it here before, so you may have even seen it... But it's really the SAME thing as what happened in Europe, the difference is, today, there is no excuse for not knowing better!

    Comment by SabrinaMBowen (original poster) at 6:07 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

  • well im not versed in European history, but history in general gets its numbers for things like this from 2 places. what were the town records of population before the burnings and what were they afterwards. basically they would have used church & town documents of say 100 ppl in a village and then after the burnings there were only 15 ppl left, take away the ones that were born after and those who died after and your left w/ the estimate. its especially hard to know about things like this b/c 1) it was so long ago, 2) church documents are often falsified to keep the church from looking bad, 3) so many of these "witches" werent in church or town records, and 4) there are no preserved bodies or artifacts from the "losers".

    one thing ive noticed about history is that when they find a site of a disaster (like Pompeii) there are always way more casualties than they originally thought.

    Answer by okmanders at 10:31 PM on Aug. 15, 2010

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