Witches' Sabbath

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Francisco de Goya, The Witches' Sabbath, 1789

The term Witches' Sabbath was used to describe the belief that there were people, called witches, who regularly met for secret gatherings. The name is used for the gathering. One part of the name refers to the Sabbath, the day of rest in Judaism and other Abrahamic religions. The term was in common use in the Middle Ages. At that time, the Jews were shown as evil in many European countries. It was believed that the witches killed people in secret rituals or poisoned wells during the Witches Sabbath. From about the 14th century, the Holy Inquisition used this belief to organise pogroms against people it called heretics. The Catholic Church developed a whole set of ideas about witches. According to this theory, the Witches Sabbath is one of the five elements that characterize a witch. The other elements are witches' flight, a pact with the devil, the idea that they entered into a sexual relationship with the devil, and that they used black magic to harm people. The idea of a conspiracy theory was thematised more and more in the fifteenth century. People feared a secret society or sect of witches and warlocks (male witches) that would do harm.