Alison Rowlands
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‘God will punish both poor and rich’
The idioms and risks of defiance in the trial of Margaretha Horn, 1652

This chapter offers a detailed analysis of one accused witch's strategy of denying her guilt in council custody from 1652 and also shows that elite and popular attitudes towards witchcraft began to change in the course of the seventeenth century. The accused witch called Margaretha Horn not only refused to confess to witchcraft in 1652 but also developed a sophisticated rhetoric of defiance against the city council and its handling of her case in the course of her interrogation. Her trial is of such interest because it underscores particularly effectively the point that women on trial for witchcraft were not ‘mere mouthpieces of a patriarchal elite’, whose statements and confessions were simply forced rehashing of that elite's demonology. On the contrary, and despite the fact that power over the trial process lay ultimately with the council, alleged witches were capable of contributing to and of shaping the course of interrogations in idiosyncratic ways. At the same time, however, the trial of Margaretha shows that it was becoming increasingly problematic for women accused of witchcraft in early modern Rothenburg to articulate defiance against their accusers and the council without this defiance being interpreted as additional evidence of their alleged identity as witches.

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Witchcraft narratives in Germany

Rothenburg, 1561–1652


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