After the archaic superstition of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance was a breath of fresh air -- rational, reasonable air, where before there had been only fire and knives to breathe.
The drunken liberal arts college that was Renaissance-era Europe didn't have much room for fields like scientific inquiry -- there was literally no curriculum for what was then called "natural philosophy." In fact, science historians "consider the Renaissance an actual step backward from the more scientifically curious Middle Ages." That's presumably because everyone was too busy fondling their magic wands to worry about actual science.
When they weren't busy cupping their balls, that is.
Pretty much every Western occult tradition can trace its origins to the Renaissance, because the literati of the period got way into witchcraft. Think today's Ghost Hunters are annoying? During the Renaissance, they would've been university professors instead of deep-cable buffoons. An entire generation of scholars learned, practiced, and taught astrology, necromancy, goety (invoking spirits), and alchemy.
It was a golden age of decorative skull placement.
Ah, but you can't make a witchcraft-omelet without burning a few eggs: There had been few if any sorcerer slayings in the thousand years prior, but the renaissance brought three waves of intensifying witch hunts that killed thousands across Europe. Suddenly, women who were once praised by their communities as healers found themselves on the receiving end of a purely objective and rational drowning. Historians place the number of prosecuted witches during humanity's "enlightened era" somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000. Yep, they were "enlightening" something, all right.
You can't really blame the witch hunters, though. After all, they were only following the manual. A witch-hunting guide called the Malleus Maleficarum -- The Witch Hammer -- was at least partially responsible for this uptake in superstitious genocide. See, the printing press was the Internet of the Renaissance, and the presses didn't just print Bibles and educational texts. They printed whatever you put into them. Material was at the whim of public demand. And what sounds like a more entertaining read to you: Nicomachean Ethics or the fucking Witch Hammer?! You can practically hear a guitar solo just reading the title.
Mullica, via Wikimedia
"Art thou ready to ROCK?!"
And that's why the Renaissance's hippest fad was mass, ill-advised murder. Kind of makes you thankful all we got was the Harlem Shake.
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Related Reading: People believe a lot of lies about history. The American Revolution didn't go at all the way you've heard. And while we're at it, the idea that Hunter-Gatherers lived a life of miserable starvation is bullshit too. Not even the Middle Ages are safe from this lie parade!