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The first child-witch in Rothenburg, 1587

This chapter analyses the first Rothenburg case involving a self-confessed child-witch from 1587 and explains why the councilors found such cases hard to deal with and what precedents this case set for the future. The case involves a six-year-old boy called Hans Gackstatt from the hinterland village of Hilgartshausen, who tells a tale of nocturnal flight to a witches' dance, which starts an investigation of dubious legality and physical severity against his mother and himself from which other inhabitants of the village were not initially entirely safe. This case became the precursor of an increasing number of particularly problematic trials involving self-confessed child-witches dealt with by the councilors and their advisers in the seventeenth century. Their engagement with these cases had the long-term effect of deepening their concern about witchcraft and of intensifying their hostility towards what they increasingly came to regard as the archetypal witch-figure: the bad mother.

in Witchcraft narratives in Germany
Open Access (free)

This chapter provides an understanding of the basic arguments of Henry Institoris and Jacob Sprenger's ‘Malleus Maleficarum’: its origins, structure and methods, locating the text and its authors in space and time, as the products of both Dominican and German experience. The arguments of the text aim to demonstrate the existence and prevalence of witchcraft, and the terrible threat it poses. The text provides sufferers from witchcraft with a broad range of remedies, both legal and spiritual, of proven effectiveness, and is also a guide for civil and ecclesiastical authorities to the successful detection and prosecution of witches. Institoris and Sprenger provide a remarkably complete picture of their witch, along with descriptions of her origins, habits and powers. Before this image could be plausible, even intelligible, to a theologically sophisticated audience, however, they had to define appropriate relationships between witchcraft and established conceptual fields. In order to construct a category of ‘witch’ on the basis of such beliefs, theoreticians were obligated to make it compatible with a learned, theologically informed worldview.

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft
Magic, witchcraft and Church in early eighteenth-century Capua

The pro exoneratione sua propria coscientia seems to delineate deep penitential lines of contrition and of repentance, which are approached as a sacramental practice, and demonstrates the depth and capillary social control of the Church in eighteenth-century Italy. The exoneratione sua coscientia reveals the formalities of social control employed by the Church through the tool of the confession. This chapter 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. It examines the stylistic and rhetorical mechanisms that emerge from the documents. The chapter approaches the records as texts rather than as accusations. The Inquisitional documents used in the chapter consist of narratives describing instances of magical practices, and the reasons why people decided to denounce others who were involved in such activities.

in Beyond the witch trials
The discourse of spirits in Enlightenment Bristol

This chapter is concerned with the possible divergence of public and private responses in 'the discourse of spirits' and the implications of this for understanding of the decline in the 'public discourse' of witchcraft, magic and the supernatural during the eighteenth century. In a relatively free society where public opinion and its correlate, market demand, were held to be superior to professional or state control, the discourse of empiricism and enlightenment was open for appropriation by all sides. The evidence presented in the chapter suggests instead both that public discourse may be only an approximate guide to private belief, dependent on the rules of public debate, but also that those very rules of public debate may themselves have moulded private belief, at least in the longer term.

in Beyond the witch trials

This chapter discusses the significance of ‘misreadings’. Eighteenth-century participants and constituencies of interest could – wittingly or unwittingly – ‘misread’ the publications and events of the period, contributing to the origins of modern myths about the eighteenth century. The main discussion here, however, focuses on the role of public opinion in intellectual change on core Enlightenment topics such as toleration. The dominance of the top-down model of intellectual change has prevented due recognition of the role of the wider public in the formation of the idea of religious toleration. It is also asked whether it is appropriate for modern (or postmodern) historians to place modern definitions of religious toleration upon the shoulders of eighteenth-century thinkers. By doing so, historians invite anachronistic comparisons with the twenty-first century. Only by broadening the scope of Enlightenment studies beyond the traditional canon can one hope to grasp and investigate the intellectual dynamic of the Enlightenment.

in The Enlightenment and religion

This chapter is part of a research project directed by the authors, focusing on the major Swedish witch-hunt that took place in the county of Dalarna 1668-1671. In late seventeenth-century Sweden there were several mechanisms for the reintegration of convicted criminals into both the religious and secular community, with the church playing a key role. In the historiography of witchcraft it has been recognised that the background and the relationships between the involved parties in a witch-hunt were determining factors for how things would turn out. A notable example is the Countess Charlotta Taube who was made the very symbol of the Enlightenment struggle against superstitious witch-hunts. The heavily emphasised connection between superstition and the common people in the writings of the eighteenth-century Swedish elite did not reflect reality. Nevertheless, the folklorist-romantics of the late eighteenth century reinforced the stereotypical image of superstition as a 'popular' phenomenon.

in Beyond the witch trials

This chapter, which aims to complete the investigation into the ‘immunized’ potential of the State of Israel, presents the reader with the connection between ‘civil society’ and the ‘immunizing’ process of the Israeli democracy. It suggests that ‘civil society’, because of its state-free status, carries the potential for playing a central role in the transition to the ‘immunized’ model. The chapter's conclusion underscores the awakening of the ‘pro-democratic civil society’ in Israel and profiles a number of notable successes which can be chalked up to its credit.

in The Israeli response to Jewish extremism and violence

The prevailing view in witchcraft studies is that male witches were rare exceptions to the rule and are less important and interesting, as historical subjects, than female witches. This chapter examines cases in which men were accused of witchcraft. The examples are drawn from several different regions, in order to test conventional generalisations about male witches. G. R. Quaife exemplifies scholars' difficulty in coming to grips with the fact of male witches. He actually suggests that the male witches were merely 'secondary targets as husbands or associates of a female witch'. Discounting all secondary targets would alter the statistical picture significantly. Quaife, however, avoids this result by constructing a double standard, which presupposes, by implication, that early modern Europeans did not 'mean it' when they accused men of being witches but were serious when they accused women.

in Male witches in early modern Europe
Gender and contemporary fantasies of witchcraft

As was the case in many other places in early modern Europe, most of those who were accused of or who confessed to witchcraft or who were formally questioned as suspected witches in Rothenburg were female. This chapter provides new explanation for the gender-relatedness of witchcraft accusations through the prism of several seventeenth-century cases. The cases are analyzed in the light of ideas about how witches were conceptualized. These ideas suggest that women were more likely to be accused of and confess to being witches because witches were predominantly imagined by contemporaries as the evil inverse of the good housewife and mother; as women who poisoned and harmed others rather than nurturing and caring for them. The gender-bias which encouraged the citizens of Rothenburg and the peasants of its rural hinterland to imagine women as witches more readily than men was more marked at the elite level, where the influence of the city councilors, their legal advisors, and medical and theological experts combined to ensure that women accused of witchcraft were more likely to be formally prosecuted than their male counterparts and also to suffer more severely as a result of the rigors of the legal process.

in Witchcraft narratives in Germany
Open Access (free)
black magic and bogeymen in Northern Ireland, 1973–74

The 'Black Man' genre means two things in the context of this chapter. First, stories about black magic and sacrificed pets were current as a collective discourse in the Ardoyne a good year before they begin to show up in the newspapers. Second, with ghost stories and the like, they are further evidence of an enchanted universe within which the Troubles were experienced and interpreted, and within which the black magic rumours circulated and found a degree of credence. There were a few articles on witchcraft and black magic in the Northern Ireland press in 1974. Black magic sacrifice was not the only kind of 'ritual killing' which was in the news in Northern Ireland at this time. Northern Ireland, like many other places, had long played host to muttered intimations of black magic and satanism, supposedly often practised by people in high places. ,.

in Witchcraft Continued