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The Witch Hunts were a series of purges that nearly brought about the end of the witches.
Occurring somewhere during the Middle Ages, humans enacted hunts in retaliation towards the witches. While the actual event in the real world was the result of superstitious people, it is implied by the Earl of Hanbridge that witches may had used their powers to terrorize the locals.
After the Witch Hunts end, witches manage to build a new reputation by helping lead the progress of human civilization during the Golden Age of Magic.
Eventually, the tradition of witch hunting became a more peaceful parade to reproduce some aspects of the history of witch hunting.