$$$$ for Turning in Witches?

I’ve been reading about how some of the terrorists confined at Guantanamo came to be incarcerated there, and it got me wondering. Did any of the various inquisitions offer cash rewards for turning in witches?
My copy of Robin & Briggs “Witches & Neighbors” relates all sorts of complicated sociological reasons why neighbor turned on neighbor, including indirect monetary gain, but IIRC, there’s no mention of government or church sponsored bounties on witches. Was that how it was, or do other sources document historical pay-for-name programs?

I’m not sure which of my books mentions it, so it may take me a while to produce a quote and cite. But in many of the trials, the estate of a convicted witch or heretic was confiscated by the church. In many of those cases, a share of the estate was given to the accuser.

I believe we have a few Masons and Knights Of Molay on the board. They can provide with more detailed history of how the Knights Templar were falsely accused of blasphemy (including worship of a demon named Baphomet) so that a bankrupt nobility could take their lands and possessions.

Bumpitty, Bump, Bump.

Has anyone seen reference to cash on the barrelhead payments for witches?

No, but you’re asking for a train-wreck using phrases like “terrorists”, when refering to the prisoners in Guantanamo…

Found a brief reference in The History Of Torture by Daniel P. Mannix, page 61

“On arriving in a community, Torquemada would invite the populace to report anyone suspected of being a heretic. . . [I’ve snipped a long list of behaviors Torquemada told to folks to look for.] . . . Informers were reminded that they received one-third of the accused’s estate.”

By the way, I’ve found Marvin Harris’ Cows, Pigs, Wars, And Witches- The Riddles Of Culture to give the best explanation of the witch craze. It was the method of the church and the nobles to distract the populace from high taxes, pointless wars, and the huge amounts of wealth they possessed. There were numerous peasant revolts. All kinds of heretical sects sprang up (A common tenet was that the clergy was meant to live in poverty and should redistribute its wealth to the peasants). Creating the witchcraze allowed the nobility and clergy to redirect the peasant’s anger and to claim that the taxes and treasury were needed to fight the forces of darkness.

Presumably accused and convicted. So in the main, payment was delayed. That’s about the impression I had, but I thought perhaps some of the more zealous investegators might have offered up front awards. Apparently that was rarely, if ever, the case.

Considering how rare a finding of innocence was, they may well have paid as soon as the accused was seized and brought in for interrogation.

The first point, which is one that cannot be overstated when discussing witch trials, is that judicial processes varied enormously across Europe. How any particular trial was conducted depended entirely on which local jurisdiction it was held in. This is why general theories about the Witch Craze based on how the courts operated always break down on closer inspection. There are just too many exceptions.

You also need to bear in mind that confiscation could come in many forms. Did it involve real or personal property? What about lands held as a tenant? Was the confiscation a fixed amount or did they take everything? Were the rights of any heirs or dependants respected? Was a husband liable if his wife was convicted? What happened if the costs of confiscation exceeded the value of the property confiscated? Were those responsible carrying out the confiscations powerful enough to enforce them? The answers would all vary from place to place.

Then there was the issue as to who ultimately got the profits from the confiscations. In some places, the accusers did get a cut, but the profits more often went to other people, such as the local law enforcement officers, the officials of the court, the gaolers, the local lord, the king or the Church. Moreover, even if they were not the ultimate beneficiaries, the officials carrying out or overseeing the confiscations would probably expect a share for their efforts. Such considerations sometimes made officials keener to prosecute and convict, but it rarely explains why accusations were made in the first place. In any case, once accusations had been made, the authorities usually felt obliged to prosecute, whatever the financial benefits. They tended to be reactive, not proactive. They didn’t need to offer bounties because people were genuinely afraid of those they suspected to be witches.

All this means that historians have, in general, been sceptical that financial considerations were a major factor in causing the Witch Craze. That it was the main factor in some cases cannot overcome the fact that in most cases it was not. As a number of historians, including Briggs, have pointed out, communities often found that the costs of bring an accusation turned out to be much greater than any profits.

Conviction rates were something else that varied enormously. In some jurisdictions defendants in witchcraft cases had a better than evens chance of being found innocent, even once the case had gone to court.

Always remembering that, in European terms, the Spanish Inquisition prosecuted relatively few witches.