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Slander and speech about witchcraft

This chapter explores popular speech about witchcraft, explains why the inhabitants of Rothenburg and its hinterland were generally unwilling to accuse suspected witches at law, and details the non-legal methods with which they more usually coped with witches. The Wettringen case from 1561 is used as a starting point to focus on two legal factors central to this web of restraints: the unwillingness of the Rothenburg council to abandon due legal procedure in its treatment of witchcraft, and the role that the legal treatment of slander in Rothenburg played in dissuading people from accusing others formally of witchcraft, and even from voicing suspicions of witchcraft publicly at all. The Wettringen case is the forerunner of a case-type in which allegations of witchcraft were treated as instances of slander and in which the slanderers rather than the alleged witches came off worst—which played an important part in shaping the council's judicial engagement with witchcraft in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century and remained of some, albeit lesser, significance thereafter.

in Witchcraft narratives in Germany

This chapter presents the results of a survey of United Kingdom museums and archaeological establishments, and introduces the current facts and theories about these artefacts. The artefacts concerned provide physical evidence of the continuation and survival of counter-witchcraft practices before, during and after the witch trials. The archaeological record illuminates historical understanding of witchcraft and the popular fear of misfortune by providing primary physical evidence of individual actions, and therefore requires more consideration from those researching the cultural history of witchcraft and magic. Objects such as witch-bottles, dried cats, horse skulls, shoes, written charms and numerous other items have been discovered concealed inside houses in significant quantities from the early modern period until well into the twentieth century. All these archaeological finds provide material evidence for the continued preoccupation with witchcraft and evil influences from the early modern period through to the early twentieth century.

in Beyond the witch trials
Open Access (free)
Witchcraft and magic in Enlightenment Europe

This book looks at aspects of the continuation of witchcraft and magic in Europe from the last of the secular and ecclesiastical trials during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, through to the nineteenth century. It provides a brief outline of witch trials in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Finland. By the second half of the seventeenth century, as the witch trials reached their climax in Sweden, belief in the interventionist powers of the Devil had become a major preoccupation of the educated classes. Having acknowledged the slight possibility of real possession by the Devil, Benito Feijoo threw himself wholeheartedly into his real objective: to expose the falseness of the majority of the possessed. The book is concerned with accusations of magic, which were formalised as denunciations heard by the Inquisition of the Archdiocese of Capua, a city twelve miles north of Naples, during the first half of the eighteenth century. One aspect of the study of witchcraft and magic, which has not yet been absorbed into the main stream of literature on the subject, is the archaeological record of the subject. As a part of the increasing interest in 'popular' culture, historians have become more conscious of the presence of witchcraft after the witch trials. The aftermath of the major witch trials in Dalarna, Sweden, demonstrates how the authorities began the awkward process of divorcing themselves from popular concerns and beliefs regarding witchcraft.

witchcraft in the western Netherlands, 1850–1925

This chapter shows what thinking and acting in terms of witchcraft, in short the witchcraft discourse, implied for the way people dealt with space and to a lesser extent with time, as well as for what they thought about the body. This analysis is embedded in a discussion about the bewitched, the people they suspected of bewitchments, and the people they called in to help them. In the nineteenth century boiling a black chicken alive was, in fact, rather popular, especially in mid and western areas of the Netherlands. In some way the boiling chicken was connected to the witch and would draw her to the house. Numerous stories show a similar connection between witches and cats. The newspaper reports show that the diagnosis of a bewitchment and an unwitchment ritual were not individual events; family members and neighbours were actively consulted.

in Witchcraft Continued

The case of Ann Izzard is hardly a severe instance among post-Enlightenment witchcraft episodes. By the early nineteenth century, the symbiotic relationship between elite and non-elite sections of society where witchcraft is concerned has changed, and the differing views of magic, evil and causation held by the authorities and by those over whom they had dominion play out in significantly different ways. Among the villagers of Great Paxton, the assaults were considered neither violent outrages, revenge attacks nor irrational outbursts. The result of the hybridized situation, with institutional opinion totally transformed, but village-level perspectives largely unchanged, did not in the end spare Ann Izzard pain, humiliation and actual harm, although it very probably spared her life. Moreover, it is a case that highlights how profoundly ingrained traditional views remained among the populace as a whole, and how quickly such views could be turned into ostensive action.

in Witchcraft Continued
Open Access (free)
The gendering of witchcraft

This chapter first argues that early modern theorists were unperturbed by male witches because they were already familiar with them in the guise of ancient and medieval heretics and sorcerers. The second argument concerns the feminisation of the witch. A man accused of being a witch was implicitly feminised. In one sense, this feminisation lends support to Stuart Clark's argument for a binary structure underlying the gendering of witchcraft. On the other hand, it cautions us against allowing that binary structure to become too rigid to accommodate flexible gender constructions. The chapter demonstrates that the lack of a conceptual barrier to the idea of male witches can be explained in part by witchcraft theorists' familiarity with various ancient and medieval prototypes. It further addresses the question of what it meant, in conceptual terms, to label a man as a witch within a framework that both explicitly and implicitly feminised witchcraft.

in Male witches in early modern Europe
Open Access (free)

The Rothenburg evidence suggests that those areas most likely to be characterized by a restrained pattern of witch-trials in early modern Germany were those in which a significant majority of the ruling elites came to realize that the social, economic and political stability of their territories was likely to be damaged rather than strengthened by severe and large-scale witch-hunts. This way of thinking was effective, however, only if it could be put into practice: it was thus crucial for the ruling elites who were of this opinion to be able to maintain or assert control over the judicial processes by means of which alleged witches were tried. They also had to help ensure—perhaps chiefly by punitive measures such as the punishment of slander—that their subjects did not bring irresistible pressure in favor of more severe action against witches to bear upon them. It was not the size, cohesion or location of a territory which made it more or less likely to fall prey to the horrors of large-scale witch-trials in early modern Germany, but rather the question of whether and for how long this set of restraining factors pertained in its particular case. In Rothenburg and its hinterland they were kept essentially intact throughout the whole early modern period, sparing the lives of many individuals who might otherwise have been executed for witchcraft.

in Witchcraft narratives in Germany
Open Access (free)

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book first discusses why male witches are not more common subjects in witchcraft historiography. Specialists in early modern witchcraft are aware that it was not sex-specific, even among the most misogynist demonologists. The book then discusses the work of unpacking conventional wisdom about witchcraft and gender. Next, it presents data, synthesised from other scholars' archival research, that showed wide variation in the proportion of male to female witches. The book also presents a few case studies of male witches in Essex and Germany. These case studies demonstrate that many generalisations about male witches, derived from specific regional studies, are not in fact suitable for Europe-wide application. The book further introduces the male witch as found in demonological literature.

in Male witches in early modern Europe
witchcraft on the borderline of religion and magic

This chapter deals with a special form of witchcraft that is practiced only amongst Hungarians living in Transylvania. The Hungarians have scarce cultural contacts with Romanians; indeed, the cases in the chapter are the examples of any connection between their respective religions. The maleficium (bewitchment) employed by the witch is an occult interaction between two people, and it is either accompanied by some actual deed or not. With his practising of magic, healing and divination, the figure of the Romanian priest resembles the 'Christian magicians' of the Western Middle Ages, as Valerie Flint termed those figures working on the borderline of magic and religion. The characteristic feature of religious witchcraft in Csík is the integration into the system of the holy person's ordeal and rites conferring blessing and curse. Some of the methods of priestly magic and divination found in Csík have direct parallels with the realms of Western Catholicism.

in Witchcraft Continued
From the ‘militant’ to an ‘immunised’ route?

This chapter is divided into three main sections. The first part presents the reader with the accumulated body of facts with regard to the Israeli response to extremist phenomena and political violence throughout the history of the State of Israel. The second part of the chapter assumes a comparative perspective between the Israeli response and that of other Western democracies, principally, the United States and Germany. The third part of the chapter highlights the theoretical developments accompanying the analysis and submits questions which remain unresolved and worthy of future investigation.

in The Israeli response to Jewish extremism and violence