Witchcraft can be defined as any supernatural or magical powers that are used by a person with an intention to harm an individual or individuals or, to the property of a person or any group of persons.
Another way in which witchcraft can be explained is the belief of the older generations that in the event of some unfortunate incidence taking place, it was said that some evil or a witch had casted a spell upon the residents of that locality. The primary reason for this norm was the lack of scientific and medical knowledge available.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, despite the rapid technological developments taking place in the society, people were very religious and God fearing. It was in this era that the concept of Witchcraft gained momentum.
The reason for this was again the incomplete knowledge of the people regarding the actual reasons responsible for happening of events. For instance, if there was destruction of crops or there was a case of untimely death of a person, the frustration of the people was automatically directed to witches.
An important point to note here is that only women, old , poor or those who were weak, were associated with witches. The reason for this belief among the people was because Elizabethan men were regarded as powerful and as such, could not be affected by the magical spells of the witches.
Also, since the society was male dominated, the women were considered to be subordinate to men and were expected to obey them, look after the household work and take care of children. Women were thus weak and needed protection either from their husband, brother or father or any male member of the family.
Renaissance Witch Trials
In the Elizabethan period, a witch was believed to be an old warped woman who, by her evil powers could cause damage. It was also believed that a witch used to keep pets like birds, black cats, wolves, ferociuos dogs, bats, and frogs. In the Elizabethan era, there were 270 cases of witch trials on record, of which 247 cases were of women and only 23 cases involved men.
It was thus a common notion that if anything bad or unfortunate happens, then it was because of the witches and primarily only women could be witches. The people were fed up with the witches that they actually would go in search of these witches and would kill them hoping that all the bad things would stop because their creator is dead.
More Info On- Elizabethan Era Beliefs and Superstitions