The Witch Hunts were a series of events that led to the destruction of the Umbra Witch clan after they emerged victorious from the Clan Wars with the Lumen Sages. Only two members of the clan are known to have survived the persecution: Bayonetta and Jeanne.
After the conclusion of the Clan Wars 500 years ago, the Umbra Witches had finally won the brutal conflict with their Lumen Sage counterparts and had become weary from their battles. A surviving Sage named Balder, who had been previously cast out for being the primary cause of the Clan Wars to begin with, was told by the angelic forces he had allied with that the Witches were planning to enact some sort of 'rebellion' now that the Lumen was no longer able to keep them in check. He agreed to head to Vigrid to make sure this didn't happen.
However, upon following up on the plan, Fortitudo explained how they had deceived Balder to make sure that the Eyes of the World would be taken from both of the clans after their destruction and given to Jubileus, The Creator as they believed they should. Realizing how he had been deceived by the light, Balder attempted to save his lover Rosa from the onslaught of angels that attacked their Vigrid home. However, a presence from the shadows promptly killed her and Balder was spirited away to another time by a mysterious force. Shortly afterward Bayonetta discovered the death of her mother and lost the will to fight. Realizing that Bayonetta had been bestowed with the power of the Left Eye, Jeanne sealed her away in order to stop their angelic attackers from abusing its power. She was sealed away in a coffin where she would remain for 500 years in a slumber whilst Jeanne escaped and disguised herself in order to avoid the persecution.
After the events of Bayonetta 2, Balder had since become corrupted by the influence of Loptr. Leading to the Festival Of Resurrection which was supposed to coincide with the return of Jubileus, Balder spurred the human populations of Europe into seeing the Witches as a dark force that had to be eliminated. Fuelled by paranoia and fear over their dark abilities, the humans joined the remainder of the Witch Hunts to round up the remaining tired Witches, torture and eventually kill them to drive them from this world. Aided by their faith in their God and the forces of Paradiso, the Witches were all but wiped out. Both the clans were now gone and Balder would have to wait another 500 years in order to bear the fruits of his plan to resurrect Jubileus.
In the altered timeline Cereza wears the Umbran Watch on her at all times. Because of this, the stab which sets off the ritual that sealed her failed and instead strikes the watch. Instead of losing her will to fight, she is inspired by her future self, whom she had met and mistaken as her authentic mother. As a result, she retains her fighting spirit after witnessing her actual mother's death and fights off the angels and people of the Witch Hunts alongside Jeanne.
Role in Bayonetta & Bayonetta 2Torture Attacks is pulled directly from the Witch Hunts as the devices she conjures to use on the angels were used on her fellow clan members 500 years ago. She can also find numerous Umbran Resting Places, explaining the fate of her fellow clan members after their bodies were sealed away by the Laguna.
At the climax of the original game, it is revealed that Father Balder's entire plan was to change Bayonetta's fate in the Witch Hunts; by engineering a meeting between Bayonetta and her past self, Cereza, he ensured that Jeanne's attempt to seal the latter away would ultimately fail. As a result, Cereza was able to fight alongside Jeanne in the Witch Hunts and survive through the next 500 years with her memories intact, leading to the present-day Bayonetta awakening the power of the Left Eye.
In Bayonetta 2, Bayonetta is thrown back in time to the Witch Hunts after Loki loses control of his power and learns the truth about how her father was not responsible for the downfall of her clan nor the death of Rosa. Balder himself would also learn the true identity of Rosa's killer and eventually absorb Loptr's evil in order to make sure he would not succeed in his plan to conquer the human realm.
- If Bayonetta or Jeanne is killed, the game over screen directly references that the Witch Hunts are now finally complete with their deaths.
- The Witch Hunts did not only take place in Europe, as written in the description for Gaze of Despair, the Malinese witch Karaba (an African witch) was also murdered by angels after she was forced into the accessory, during the Witch Hunts.
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