This book situates witchcraft drama within its cultural and intellectual context,
highlighting the centrality of scepticism and belief in witchcraft to the genre.
It is argued that these categories are most fruitfully understood not as static
and mutually exclusive positions within the debate around witchcraft, but as
rhetorical tools used within it. In drama, too, scepticism and belief are vital
issues. The psychology of the witch character is characterised by a combination
of impious scepticism towards God and credulous belief in the tricks of the
witch’s master, the devil. Plays which present plausible depictions of witches
typically use scepticism as a support: the witch’s power is subject to important
limitations which make it easier to believe. Plays that take witchcraft less
seriously present witches with unrestrained power, an excess of belief which
ultimately induces scepticism. But scepticism towards witchcraft can become a
veneer of rationality concealing other beliefs that pass without sceptical
examination. The theatrical representation of witchcraft powerfully demonstrates
its uncertain status as a historical and intellectual phenomenon; belief and
scepticism in witchcraft drama are always found together, in creative tension
with one another.
I may believe something. I may believe that God does not exist. I may believe Tuesday follows Monday. Is my belief that Tuesday follows Monday so resolute that I cannot disbelieve it?
In this chapter, I examine the fate of belief in games and gameplay. There are those who claim that some beliefs are so resolute that it is difficult, if not impossible, to disbelieve them. Given the nature of games and gameplay, I argue in this chapter otherwise. Under the influence of a lusory attitude, under the influence of the rules of a game, it is not only
In recent years there has been a significant growth in interest of the so-called “law in context” extending legal studies beyond black letter law. This book looks at the relationship between written law and legal practice. It examines how law is applied in reality and more precisely how law is perceived by the general public in contrast to the legal profession. The authors look at a number of themes that are central to examining ways in which myths about law are formed, and how there is inevitably a constitutive power aspect to this myth making. At the same time they explore to what extent law itself creates and sustains myths. This line of enquiry is taken from a wide range of viewpoints and thus offers a unique approach to the question of relationship between theory and practice. The book critically assesses the public’s level of legal, psychological and social awareness in relation to their knowledge of law and deviant behaviour. This line of enquiry is taken from a wide range of viewpoints and thus offers a unique approach to the question of relationship between theory and practice. The book covers both empirical studies and theoretical engagements in the area of legal understanding and this affords a very comprehensive coverage of the area, and addressing issues of gender and class, as well as considering psychological material. It brings together a range of academics and practitioners and asks questions and address contemporary issues relating to the relationship between law and popular beliefs.
‘BELIEF’, ‘OPINION’, AND
‘KNOWLEDGE’: THE IDIOT IN LAW IN
THE LONG EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
The Tudor formation of the powerful Court of Wards from 1540 had brought
a more sharply formalized focus to what constituted incapacity, and what constituted idiocy, in English law, after the loose and sporadically used guidance of
the medieval Prerogative Regis.1 This court, through to its demise in the 1640s,
consolidated and shaped the conventions and practices of the legal treatment
of those deemed incapacitated into a form that persisted through the
This book is the first published edition of a previously unknown manuscript treatise on the theological underpinnings of witchcraft belief in late sixteenth-century England. The treatise comprises a point-by-point response to the most famous early modern English work on witchcraft, Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584). It was written by a personal friend of Scot’s, and internal evidence demonstrates that it offers critical feedback on a now-lost draft version of the Discoverie prior to the publication of that book, providing a rebuttal to Scot’s arguments in much greater detail than any other extant text, and showing precisely why his views were so controversial in their own time. The treatise is also a highly original and sophisticated theoretical defence of witchcraft belief in its own right, and the author’s position is based on detailed scriptural and theological arguments which are not found in any other English writings on the subject. The treatise’s arguments connect witchcraft belief to Reformed Protestant ideas about conscience, the devil, and the correct interpretation of scripture, and demonstrate the broader significance of witchcraft belief within this intellectual framework. It thereby provides evidence that the debate on witchcraft, as represented by the more dogmatic and formulaic printed works on the subject, shied away from the underlying issues which the author of the treatise (in a work never intended for publication) tackles explicitly.
Beyond the witch trials
Public infidelity and private belief?
Public infidelity and private belief ?
The discourse of spirits in Enlightenment Bristol
Recent work on the history of witchcraft and magic has identified three
themes or approaches as of particular importance in our understanding of a
subject which, although it has been centre stage since the publication of
Religion and the Decline of Magic in 1971, has continued to trouble historians.
The first problem, acknowledged as ‘the most baffling aspect of this difficult
subject’ by Thomas
Ireland’s referendum and the journey from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft
‘Belief shifts’: Ireland’s referendum
and the journey from Gemeinschaft
I would begin this chapter with two pieces of narrative: one from fantasy literature and one from recent political discourse. The fantasy writer Terry Pratchett
wrote a book in his Discworld series about religion, gods and belief, entitled Small
Gods. In the Discworld, he created a country called Omnia, a theocracy within
which everyone and everything revolved around the worship of the Great God
Om. Omnianism was the hegemonic ideological position in
the formation of belief
– part one
Ambrosius de Vignate was a well-respected magistrate and legal scholar, a
doctor of both canon and civil law, who lectured at Padua, Bologna, and Turin
between 1452 and 1468. On several occasions he participated in the trials of
accused witches: he tells us that he had heard men and women alike confess
– both freely and under torture – that they belonged to the sect of witches
(“secta mascorum seu maleficorum”) and that they, and others whom they
implicated, had done all sorts of
Rationality upside down
The culture you belong to provides you not just with norms for how to behave and what values to hold. It also tells you which claims about the world you should believe and which you shouldn’t. This goes far beyond religious beliefs. It includes factual claims about how best to preserve your health, the environment, how to correct the undesirable behaviour of children, and how to reduce crime. Sociology and anthropology were among the first disciplines to clarify how deeply
Colonial medicine and folk beliefs
in the modern era
In the early twentieth century, Dutch doctors and public health officials tried to come to grips with the Afro-Surinamese belief in treef and
its influence on the execution of public health policies. Both the Afro-
Surinamese and new British Indian and Javanese migrants maintained
their beliefs and practices about leprosy. This on-going adherence to
folk beliefs and practices alongside Western medical knowledge necessitated a response from Dutch colonial medicine. If modern leprosy
politics were to