The summer of 1560 brought a return of coldness and wetness that led to severe decline in harvest, crop failure and increases in infant mortality and epidemics. Bear in mind that this was an agrarian subsistence culture, nearly totally dependent on the yearly harvest to survive. One bad harvest could be tolerated, but back-to-back failures would cause horrific consequences and, indeed, they did.
Of course, the people’s misfortunes were attributed to weather-changing witches who had triggered the death-dealing weather, most often in the form of cold, rain, frost and devastating hailstorms. Horrific atrocities were alleged of the witches, including Franconian witches who “confessed” to flying through the air to spread an ointment made of children’s fat in order to cause a killing frost.
Across the continent of Europe, from the 15th to the 17th centuries there were likely many tens of thousands of supposed witches burnt at the stake, many of these old women living without husbands on the margins of society.