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Why did witchcraft prosecutions decline in the later seventeenth century?

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  1. A change in the legal treatment of witchcraft
  2. The change of the intellectual framework

I have remained in the shape of a horse until the witch removed the bridle from me, and then I saw thirteen women and a tall black man whom the women called their Protector. The others danced in the shapes of hares, cats and mice, and I sang and was then bridled again and ridden home' could be an ordinary testimony about witchcraft in the sixteenth-century England. However reactions to such kinds of statements and to witchcraft has changed. After centuries of prosecutions of alleged witches supported for instance by the 1542 Statute, the prosecutions declined in the later seventeenth century. What was the cause of such a decline? First, was the alteration of the relations between the judicial system and witchcraft, with the growth of judicial scepticism; then an intellectual and scientific revolution occurred during the seventeenth century, thus people, namely the élite, saw witchcraft in a new light. All Christian countries whatsoever have consented in the belief of them and provided capital laws against them: in consequence of which, many hundreds of both sexes have suffered cruel death, and now, the belief in witches is now utterly extinct, and buried. Was this statement true at the level of the common people or did they continue to view witchcraft as the explanation for their day-to-day problems?

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