The authors of ‘Malleus Maleficarum,’ Institoris and Sprenger, began their analysis of witchcraft by observing that, for witchcraft to have any effect, three things must concur: the devil, the witch and the permission of God. This chapter follows in the inquisitors' footsteps and examines the relationships between witchcraft, God and the Devil, revealing how the authors reconciled data from testimony and experience with their assumptions about the nature of the universe. For them, as for us, the devil provides a convenient starting point, because the witchcraft of the text depends upon an unusual conception of what the infernal side of the Christian pantheon is all about. The inquisitors' devil is not amenable to simple definition; nor is it easy to determine in what form and to what extent the devil was actually present in people's minds. They embraced an oddly bifurcated devil; a being of transcendent but mechanical power for evil, and a creature whose physical presence was more often than not of an almost trivial appearance. This disjunction between impressive diabolic power and minimal diabolic presence demanded a mediator who could channel and direct disordering and harmful forces on earth. In the text, Malleus, the witch, becomes the effective agent of diabolic power, a living, breathing devil on earth in respect to those around her.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines the experience of and attitudes towards witchcraft from both above and below, in an age when the beliefs and 'worldview' of the 'elite' and the 'people' are often thought to have irrevocably pulled away from one another. It suggests that in Sweden and the Netherlands, as in England, the ecclesiastical courts had given up on dealing with popular magic by the early eighteenth century. The book highlights the significant role the Italian Inquisition continued to play in policing 'superstition' during the period. It describes that the parish minister was instrumental in bringing charges against her for practising magic. The book shows that Benito Feijoo's unmasking of the fraud and delusion involved did not lead him to reject completely that some people, albeit a very small number, were truly possessed.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book makes the male witch visible, to construct him as a historical subject, as a first step toward a deeper understanding of the functions and role of gender in pre-modern European witch-hunting and ideas about witches. The Malleus maleficarum, or Hammer of Witches, is the best-known early modern work on witchcraft, infamous for its misogynist statements about women and for its argument that most witches were women. The primary affinity between male and female individuals with witchcraft was related to their status as 'fools'. The existence of male witches, and particularly their presence in demonological treatises, raises many questions. The overtly political dimension to the study of witches in early modern Europe demands a high level of consciousness and reflexivity regarding language, representation, and meaning.
Enlightenment is a broad phenomenon, and it is now increasingly recognised that it was as diverse in its protagonists as it was geographically and chronologically disparate. This chapter reveals that, outside of traditional Enlightenment studies, there also exists strong support for the Enlightenment-modernity thesis in the form of the so-called post modernity theory. Modernity gave way to post modernity in the early 1970s. Postmodernists have repeatedly asserted that the secularising, reason-orientated Enlightenment is the one and only origin of modernity. It is true that postmodernism has been responsible for a renewed interest in the philosophy of history, mostly because it asserts that the past is irretrievably gone, and that self-interested attempts at reconstructing it are, by their nature, consequently doomed to failure. This study represents an attempt to review some of the causes and contexts of religious change in Enlightenment Italy, France and England.
This chapter reveals the extent to which the category ‘witch’ was contested in late fifteenth-century Germany. In Helena Scheuberin's trial, all the learned men believed in witchcraft. Up to a point, Bishop Golser and his representatives had supported the inquisitor with no real enthusiasm; they certainly had not interfered with his investigation. Nor did they object to prosecuting those who caused injuries through magic. They and the inquisitor simply disagreed about how a witch should be recognised, and, on a more fundamental level, about what a witch actually was. This was not simply an isolated confrontation between inquisitorial and local authorities, but rather a reflection of a much more widespread debate within the learned, ecclesiastical community over these same issues. Therefore, the problem of the construction of witchcraft in fifteenth-century Europe is examined, with particular reference to the text, the ‘Hammer of Witches’ or the ‘Malleus Maleficarum’, one of the best-known, most quoted and, indeed, most infamous of all medieval texts brought into existence because of the insults of an otherwise obscure woman, Helena Scheuberin.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book argues that the end of witchcraft may set in when the witchcraft story was replaced by a rational one. It shows that witches were scratched in England, swum in Germany, beaten in the Netherlands and shot in France. The book stresses the replacement of witchcraft by non-witchcraft stories and considers different interpretations of a witchcraft event as competitive. It discusses that in the Netherlands orthodox Protestants reacted more violently to bewitchments than orthodox Catholics. The book typically focuses on French mentalité paysan. It aims to see witchcraft within the context of 'vernacular religion' and to study its 'entire range'. The book provides a very special example of making stories into physical reality in the case of Northern Ireland, where 'evidence' of black magic rituals was fabricated.
This chapter focuses on the trials involving allegations and confessions of maleficent or demonic witchcraft that took place in the German city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber between c.1561 and c.1652. Rothenburg had a restrained pattern of witch-hunting during this period, with relatively few trials (even fewer of which ended in guilty verdicts against alleged witches); no mass-panics involving large numbers of accused witches; and the execution of only one alleged witch. The reasons for this phenomenon are analyzed. Detailed readings of the exceptionally rich records from the Rothenburg witch trials are provided to explore the social and psychic tensions that lay behind the making of witchcraft accusations and confessions, the popular and elite reactions to these accusations and confessions, and the ways in which participants in witch-trials pursued strategies, expressed emotions and negotiated conflicts through what they said about witchcraft. The witch-trials are contextualized, using a range of other sources in order to establish the life histories of trial-participants, the immediate circumstances of particular trials, and the broader social and cultural context of the beliefs and conflicts expressed and negotiated within them. The different ways—desperate, measured, artful, enthusiastic, unwilling—in which accusers and witnesses shaped their stories of witchcraft and participated in trial-processes to the advantage or disadvantage of the accused witch tell a great deal about their reasons for so doing and about their pre-trial relationship with the accused witch, as well as about the narrative-telling strategies available to them and their awareness of the risks that they ran in speaking openly about witchcraft.
The exclusion of male witches from witchcraft historiography is the result of active processes and assumptions. More commonly, especially in surveys, male witches are mentioned once or twice and then forgotten, and witches are referred to subsequently as if they were exclusively female. E. William Monter provides a wealth of data about male witches, beginning with the fact that in this 'unremarkable province' close to 'the heart of northern and western Europe', men comprised the majority of those tried and executed for witchcraft. Monter's study of Normandy is exciting because it offers concrete evidence that early modern beliefs about witches were not necessarily sex-specific. Stuart Clark's interpretation of demonological views of gender and witchcraft offers the most striking instance of the invisibility of male witches. Demonological literature is a major source for the assumption that witch-hunting was primarily about persecuting women.
This chapter discusses a case study that provides a different context of the Enlightenment. The experience of Catholic dissidents in the Italian peninsula provides some similarities with the struggles in France. The chapter illustrates that broad politico-religious struggle, rather than the actions of the philosophes, provides the most significant challenge to the status quo of Enlightenment Europe. It sheds light on the nature of the polemical challenge that radical Catholics–Jansenists advanced against Roman theocracy and Church jurisdiction in the independent states of the Italian peninsula. In the practical absence of the voices of deists and philosophes, the broad Catholic forces opposed the ‘tyranny’ of Rome in very forceful terms remarkably similar to those of dissenting Protestants. This chapter also demonstrates how politics and religion were intertwined, and that the broad politicisation of religion is really the key to understanding religious change in the Enlightenment.
The body of witchcraft literature is much too large to permit a complete survey; there is, however, a smaller group of works that could be considered canonical, at least from the perspective of contemporary scholarship. This chapter presents data compiled from ten of these canonical works, as well as a brief discussion of demonological illustrations. Stuart Clark's statement that demonological theory about gender and witchcraft did not conform to the patterns of prosecution appears somewhat too broad. Clark's conclusions are similar to those of Eric Wilson, whose Cambridge dissertation is the first modern study in English of the Malleus maleficarum. Both Clark and Wilson suggest that early modern demonology was sex-specific and thus different from witchcraft prosecutions, which were merely sex-related.