Those of you who have talked podcasts and/or folklore with me at some point may already know, but I LOVE the Lore podcast. Aaron Mahnke does all his homework and presents a practical view of mysterious events in history that is both engaging and serious without ever being dry. Every episode is spellbinding, and the latest one is no exception.
Episode 70, “Familiar,” deals with witches and witch trials. It’s a topic the podcast has covered before, most notably in episodes 12 (“Half-Hanged”), 28 (“Making A Mark”), 41 (“Hole in the Wall”), and 57 (“Quarantine”). There are others where witchcraft is mentioned, but those are the ones that stand out in my memory. This time around, Mahnke delves into the tale of Matthew Hopkins. If you’re a witch who also happens to be a student of English History, that name might inspire a wince, and with good reason.
During his sordid career in the 1600s, the self-styled “Witchfinder General” took advantage of superstition and religious upheaval to accuse, torture, and ultimately execute close to three hundred people, all on almost entirely baseless charges of witchcraft. Some of you may recall me talking a lot about King James in relation to the standards and practices involved in persecuting witches. Oh yes, he’s mentioned here too.
Mahnke addresses the social circumstances, historical documents, and civil unrest which played into Hopkins’ rise to power, as well as the horrific consequences of his “work” and a poignant reminder of just how little society has changed.
This episode is a must for anyone looking for a historical perspective on witch trials, what caused them, and what actually happened during the period some modern revisionists term “the Burning Times.”