The “List of people executed for Witchcraft” is a fascinating, if grim, page on Wikipedia that I stumbled across while conducting research for my novel, Conjurers. It contains a long list of names, and most are linked to individual histories. I decided it would be interesting to do some statistical analysis of the roster and, without my noticing, it had become 1:30 in the morning.
Below are some charts based on the gender of the accused, the century in which the executions happened, the type of execution, and the country where the execution took place.
This was for my own curiosity and is hardly an academically sound exercise since the list is incomplete by several thousand names, at least. Clearly there were accusations of sorcery and executions that took place off the historical record and several of the Wikipedia entries mention an individual who was part of a much, much larger witch-hunt. For instance, Merga Bien was murdered as part of the Fulda Witch Trials conducted by the apparently lunatic Prince-abbot, Balthasar Von Dernbach, but so were another 200-250 people who go unmentioned.
In any case, here’s how the list breaks down:
Executions by Gender
% of Executions by Century
Methods of Execution
The Wiki list is enormously helpful and obviously took a lot of effort to put together, but nonetheless it’s misleading and that is reflected in the chart below. Each person executed as part of the Salem Witch Trials is counted individually, but individuals who were executed as parts of mass witch-hunts in Europe are not. Examples of this are the aforementioned Fulda Witch Trials where more than 200 people died, or Sweden’s “Det Stora Oväsendet” (“The Great Noise”) in which 280 lost their lives. England supposedly executed 500 people for witchcraft between the early 15th and 18th centuries and Spain didn’t make the list at all, despite Torquemada’s campaigns.
% of Executions by Country
The American colonies were a part of England during the Salem witch trials, but I listed them separately. On the other hand, I credited the single execution in Bermuda to the English. There are a few other anomalies, but they are mostly minor, such as the fact that Italy did not exist as a single country until after the listed executions took place.
The only real takeaway is that human beings sometimes do horrific, cruel things to each other. One can only hope there is a particularly warm corner of Hell reserved for people like Cotton Mather and the Prince-abbot of Fulda.