Witch trials in the early modern period

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Witch-phobia and prosecutions for the crime of witchcraft reached a highpoint from 1580 to 1630 during the Counter-Reformation and the European wars of religion, when an estimated 50,000[1][2] persons were burned at the stake, of which roughly 80% were women,[3] and most often over the age of 40.[4] [5] [6]

Medieval Background[edit]

An Unsettling of Christian Doctrine Toward a Belief in Witchcraft[edit]

Throughout the medieval era mainstream Christian doctrine had denied the existence of witches and witchcraft, condemning it as pagan superstition.[7] The work of Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century helped lay the groundwork for a shift in Christian doctrine by which certain Christian theologians eventually began to accept the possibility of collaboration with devil/s resulting in a person obtaining certain real supernatural powers.[8] That pagan superstitions would be considered heretical is unsurprising, as any departure from the official positions of Rome could be considered a heresy, for instance, a definition of the relationships within the trinity as seen in the much-vilified Arianism. But with witchcraft, a fear and panic for certain Christian theologians seems to grow in lockstep with the embrace of a new doctrinal position that it was actually possible for a person to obtain real supernatural power through a collaboration with the devil/s. The doctrinal views expressed in Canon Episcopi were never officially repudiated within the papal lands (nor even by the Council of Trent which immediately preceded the peak of the trials) but in France in 1398 new decrees from the theological faculty at the University of Paris became something of an "unanswerable argument to sceptics who questioned the reality of the wickedness of the arts of magic."[9] The Paris theologians declared "that there was an implied contract with Satan in every superstitious observance, of which the expected result was not reasonably to be anticipated from God and from Nature..." Almost 200 years later, the influential witch-phobic Jean Bodin cites these Paris theologians and defines a witch [sorcier] as "one who knowingly tries to accomplish something by diabolical means." [10]

The new witch-phobia found influential supporters but nonetheless remained something of an innovative, heterodox, and ever-contested view throughout the entire period of the trials as can be seen in the combative and defensive tone carried by the zealous promoters. But because this was a time of widespread religious intolerance and religious conflict, the various denunciations of mere practitioners of witchcraft can often seem to blur or confuse the basic doctrinal view.

15th Century Growth of a New Heterodox View[edit]

Some growth during the 15th century of this new heterodox acceptance of the real power of witchcraft can be traced among certain influential theologians, especially in France and Francophone regions, and is most clearly expressed in the Dominican inquisitor Nicholas Jacquier's lengthy and complex argument (in Latin) against the doctrinal position of the Canon Episcopi.[11] Other instances of this shift can be found in the wake of the Council of Basel and geographically centered on the Duchy of Savoy in the western Alps,[12] leading to an early series of witch trials by both secular and ecclesiastical courts in the second half of the 15th century.[13]

The most important and influential book promoting the new heterodox view was theMalleus Maleficarum by Heinrich Kramer.[14] Like most witch-phobic writers, Kramer had met strong resistance by those who opposed his heterodox view and this inspired him to write his work as both propaganda and a manual for like-minded zealots. The Gutenburg printing press had only recently been invented along the Rhine river and Kramer fully utilized it to shepherd his work into print and spread the ideas that had developed by inquisitors and theologians in France into the Rhineland.[15] Malleus Maleficarum was printed 13 times between 1486-1520, and-- following a very curious 50 year pause that coincided with the height of the Protestant Reformation-- it was printed again another 16 times following the Council of Trent (1574-1669). It inspired many similar works such as an influential work by Jean Bodin and was cited as late as 1692 by Increase Mather, then president of Harvard College. [16][17][18]

Medieval Trials and into the 15th Century[edit]

During the High Middle Ages, a number of heretical Christian groups, such as the Cathars and the Waldensians were accused of performing a variety of anti-Christian activities in France. Some of the earliest known witch trials in which the accused were associated with the fully developed stereotype of was in the Valais witch trials of 1428, which took place in communities of the Western Alps, in what were at the time Burgundy and Savoy.[19] [20]

1533 account of the execution of a witch charged with burning the German town of Schiltach in 1531

Soon, the idea of identifying and prosecuting witches spread throughout the neighboring areas of northern Italy, Switzerland and southern Germany, and it was at Basel that the Council of Basel assembled from 1431 to 1437. This Church Council, which had been attended by such anti-witchcraft figures as Johann Nider and Martin Le Franc, helped to standardize the stereotype of the Satanic witch that would be propagated throughout the rest of the trials.[21] Men who had been at the Council of Basel went on to spread the ideas regarding demonic witchcraft throughout other parts of Europe in the ensuing years.[22]

Peak of the trials: 1580–1630[edit]

Title page of the seventh Cologne edition of the Malleus Maleficarum, 1520 (from the University of Sydney Library). The Latin title is "MALLEUS MALEFICARUM, Maleficas, & earum hæresim, ut phramea potentissima conterens." (Generally translated into English as The Hammer of Witches which destroyeth Witches and their heresy as with a two-edged sword).[23]

The height of the European trials was between 1560 and 1630, with the large hunts first beginning in 1609.[24] During this period, the biggest witch trials were held in Europe, notably the Trier witch trials (1581–1593), the Fulda witch trials (1603–1606), the Basque witch trials (1609-1611), the Würzburg witch trial (1626–1631) and the Bamberg witch trials (1626–1631).

Also well-known were the Scottish North Berwick witch trials, Swedish Torsåker witch trials and the American Salem witch trials.

In 1590, the North Berwick witch trials occurred in Scotland, and were of particular note as the king, James VI, became involved himself. James had developed a fear that witches planned to kill him after he suffered from storms whilst traveling to Denmark in order to claim his bride, Anne, earlier that year. Returning to Scotland, the king heard of trials that were occurring in North Berwick and ordered the suspects to be brought to him—he subsequently believed that a nobleman, Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell, was a witch, and after the latter fled in fear of his life, he was outlawed as a traitor. The king subsequently set up royal commissions to hunt down witches in his realm, recommending torture in dealing with suspects, and in 1597 he wrote a book about the menace that witches posed to society entitled Daemonologie.[25]

Gary Foxcroft in 2014 had an article appear in the World Policy Journal suggesting that a minor change King James made to the Bible justified "horrific human rights violations and fuel[ed] the epidemic of witchcraft accusations and persecution across the globe.".[26] The change involved changing Exodus 22:18 from "do not suffer a poisoner to live" to "do not suffer a witch to live." The veracity of this claim has been questioned.[by whom?] A translation that dates before that of the King James version contradicts Foxcroft's claim. The Geneva Bible which precedes the King James version by 51 years includes the term "witch" in Exodus 22:18 ("Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.")[27]

Decline of the trials: 1650–1750[edit]

There had never been a lack of skepticism regarding the trials. In 1635, the Roman Inquisition acknowledged that it had "found scarcely one trial conducted legally".[28] In the middle of the 17th century, the difficulty in proving witchcraft according to legal process contributed to the councilors of Rothenburg (German), following advice to treat witchcraft cases with caution.[29]

Whilst the witch trials had begun to fade out across much of Europe by the mid-17th century, they continued on the fringes of Europe and in the American Colonies. In the Nordic countries, the late 17th century saw the peak of the trials in a number of areas: the Torsåker witch trials of Sweden (1674), where 71 people were executed for witchcraft in a single day, the peak of witch hunting in Swedish Finland,[24] and the Salzburg witch trials in Austria (where 139 people were executed from 1675–1690).

The 1692 Salem witch trials were a brief outburst of witch-phobia in the New World while the practice was waning in Europe. In the 1690s Winifred King Benham and her daughter Winifred were thrice tried for witchcraft in Wallingford, Connecticut, the last of such trials in New England. While found innocent, they were compelled to leave Wallingford to settle in Staten Island, New York.[30] In 1706 Grace Sherwood of Virginia was tried by ducking and jailed for allegedly being a witch.[31]

An example of a rural trial culminating in a conviction for witchcraft The trial of witchcraft in Kasina Wielka in 1634

Rationalist historians in the 18th century came to the opinion that the use of torture had resulted in erroneous testimony.[32]

Witch trials became scant in the second half of the 17th century, and their growing disfavor eventually resulted in the British Witchcraft Act of 1735.

In France, scholars have found that with increased fiscal capacity and a stronger central government, the witchcraft accusations began to decline.[33] The witch trials that occurred there were symptomatic of a weak legal system and "witches were most likely to be tried and convicted in regions where magistrates departed from established legal statutes." [34]

During the early 18th century, the practice subsided. Jane Wenham was among the last subjects of a typical witch trial in England in 1712, but was pardoned after her conviction and set free. The last execution for witchcraft in England took place in 1716, when Mary Hicks and her daughter Elizabeth were hanged. Janet Horne was executed for witchcraft in Scotland in 1727. The Witchcraft Act 1735 put an end of the traditional form of witchcraft as a legal offense in Britain. Those accused under the new act were restricted to those that pretended to be able to conjure spirits (generally being the most dubious professional fortune tellers and mediums), and punishment was light.[35]

In Austria, Maria Theresa outlawed witch-burning and torture in the late 18th century (the last capital trial, that of Maria Pauer occurred in 1750 in Salzburg, which was then outside the Austrian domain).[36]

Sporadic witch-hunts after 1750[edit]

In the later 18th century, witchcraft had ceased to be considered a criminal offense throughout Europe, but there are a number of cases which were not technically witch trials but are suspected to have involved belief in witches at least behind the scenes. Thus, in 1782, Anna Göldi was executed in Glarus, Switzerland, officially for the killing of her infant – a ruling at the time widely denounced throughout Switzerland and Germany as judicial murder. Like Anna Göldi, Barbara Zdunk was executed in 1811 in Prussia not technically for witchcraft but for arson.[citation needed] In Poland, the Doruchów witch trial occurred in 1783 and the execution of two additional women for sorcery in 1793, tried by a legal court but with dubious legitimacy.[citation needed]

Despite the official ending of the trials for witchcraft, there would still be occasional unofficial killings of those accused in parts of Europe, such as was seen in the cases of Anna Klemens in Denmark (1800), Krystyna Ceynowa in Poland (1836), and Dummy, the Witch of Sible Hedingham in England (1863). In France, there was sporadic violence and even murder in the 1830s, with one woman reportedly burnt in a village square in Nord.[37]

In the 1830s a prosecution for witchcraft was commenced against a man in Fentress County, Tennessee named either Joseph or William Stout, based upon his alleged influence over the health of a young woman. The case against the supposed witch was dismissed upon the failure of the alleged victim, who had sworn out a warrant against him, to appear for the trial. However, some of his other accusers were convicted on criminal charges for their part in the matter, and various libel actions were brought.[38][39][40]

In 1895, Bridget Cleary was beaten and burned to death by her husband in Ireland because he suspected that fairies had taken the real Bridget and replaced her with a witch.

The persecution of those believed to perform malevolent sorcery against their neighbors continued into the 20th century. In 1997 two Russian farmers killed a woman and injured five other members of her family after believing that they had used folk magic against them.[24] It has been reported that more than 3,000 people were killed by lynch mobs in Tanzania between 2005 and 2011 for allegedly being witches.[41]

Presumed Innocence[edit]

Most historians agree that the majority of those persecuted in these witch trials were innocent of any involvement in Devil worship.[42].

Regional differences[edit]

There were many regional differences in the manner in which the witch trials occurred. The trials themselves emerged sporadically, flaring up in some areas while neighbouring areas remained largely unaffected.[43] In general, homogeneously Catholic states, such as Spain and Italy, remained largely unaffected, while religiously divided countries like the Holy Roman Empire or France were more affected.[44]

One of the areas that witnessed the largest number of panics, trials, and executions were the German-language of the Holy Roman Empire. Nevertheless, there were regional variations here, with relatively few executions in southern Bavaria and the Lower Rhine area.[45] On the whole the trials were less severe in neighbouring France, although there was regional variation domestically, with the Pyrenees, Languedoc, the Alps and the North East being particularly heavily affected by the trials. There were also large trials in Lorraine and Franche-Comté, although these regions would only be permanently annexed by France after 1660.[46] The situation differed in Southern Europe, with few trials taking place in either Spain or Italy. When they did occur in these nations, it was in the northern regions such as Spain's Basque Country; being close to neighbouring countries, these areas were more open to foreign influences and had a weaker central authority.[47]

There was much regional variation within the British Isles. In Ireland, there were few trials, and those that did take place lacked the demonic elements present elsewhere on the continent.[48] Similarly, the trials in England were atypical of Europe as a whole, for the emphasis of the charges was normally on the practice of malevolent magic rather than contact with the Devil, while the concept of witches' familiars played a key role, which was conversely largely absent from the continental trial accounts.[49] North of the border, in Scotland, witch trials were far more numerous and resulted in far more executions than in England, having far more in common with the trials of France and Germany.[50] Among the British settlements in New England, witch trials were very rare and not a feature of typical Early Modern life.[50]

The malefizhaus of Bamberg, Germany, where suspected witches were held and interrogated: 1627 engraving

A country's government and legal system often made a major difference. England, for instance, had and has a long history of strong judicial centralization and therefore regulations prevented easy convictions, except for periods such as the English Civil War and the periods of Witch-hunting; Scotland, on the other hand, lacked the strong central government that England had and authorities had greater trouble controlling local justice or even contributed to the problem. During the time of the Witch Hunts, Germany was a patchwork of more than 300 autonomous territories and was highly decentralized politically, therefore making Germany highly vulnerable to massive witch hunts that spun out of control in the absence of judicial regulations.[51]

There are particularly important differences between the English and continental witch-hunting traditions. The checks and balances inherent in the English jury system, which required a 23-strong body (the grand jury) to indict and a 12-strong one (the petit jury) to convict, always had a restraining effect on prosecutions. Another restraining influence was its relatively rare use of torture: the country formally permitted it only when authorized by the monarch, and no more than 81 torture warrants were issued (for all offenses) throughout English history.[52] Continental European courts, while varying from region to region, tended to concentrate power in individual judges and place far more reliance on torture. The significance of the institutional difference is most clearly established by a comparison of the witch-hunts of England and Scotland, for the death toll inflicted by the courts north of the border always dwarfed that of England.[53] It is also apparent from an episode of English history during the early 1640s, when the Civil War resulted in the suspension of jury courts for three years. Several freelance witch-hunters emerged during this period, the most notorious of whom was Matthew Hopkins, who emerged from East Anglia and proclaimed himself "Witchfinder General".[54]

Italy saw much less witchcraft accusation, and even fewer cases where witch trials ended in execution. In 1542, the establishment of the Roman Inquisition effectively retrained secular courts under its influence from liberal application of torture and execution.[55] The methodological Instructio, which served as an "appropriate" manual for witch hunting, cautioned against hasty convictions and careless executions of the accused. In contrast with other parts of Europe, trials the Venetian Holy Office never saw conviction for the crime of malevolent witchcraft, or "maleficio".[56] Because the notion of diabolical cults was not credible to neither popular culture nor inquisitorial theology, mass accusations and belief in Witches' Sabbath never took root in areas under inquisitorial influence.[57]

Interrogation and torture[edit]

Various acts of torture were used against accused witches to coerce confessions and cause them to name their co-conspirators. The torture of witches began to increase in frequency after 1468 when the Pope declared witchcraft to be "crimen exceptum" and thereby removed all legal limits on the application of torture in cases where evidence was difficult to find.[58]

In Italy, an accused witch was deprived of sleep for periods up to forty hours. This technique was also used in England, but without a limitation on time.[59] Sexual humiliation was used, such as forced sitting on red-hot stools with the claim that the accused woman would not perform sexual acts with the devil.[60] In most cases, those who endured the torture without confessing were released.[61]

The use of torture has been identified as a key factor in converting the trial of one accused witch into a wider social panic, as those being tortured were more likely to accuse a wide array of other local individuals of also being witches.[61]

Punishment and executions[edit]

Burning of three witches in Baden, Switzerland (1585), by Johann Jakob Wick
The burning of a French midwife in a cage filled with black cats

A variety of different punishments were employed for those found guilty of witchcraft, including imprisonment, flogging, fines, or exile.[62] The Old Testament's book of Exodus (22:18) states, "Thou shalt not permit a sorceress to live".[63] Many faced capital punishment for witchcraft, either by burning at the stake, hanging, or beheading.[64] Similarly, in New England, people convicted of witchcraft were hanged.[65]

Number of executions[edit]

The scholarly consensus on the total number of executions for witchcraft ranges from 40,000-60,000[66] (not including unofficial lynchings of accused witches, which went unrecorded but are nevertheless believed to have been somewhat rare in the Early Modern period).[67] It would also have been the case that various individuals would have died as a result of the unsanitary conditions of their imprisonment, but again this is not recorded within the number of executions.[68]

Attempts at estimating the total number of executions for witchcraft have a history going back to the end of the period of witch-hunts in the 18th century. A scholarly consensus only emerges in the second half of the 20th century, and historical estimates vary wildly depending on the method used. Early estimates tend to be highly exaggerated, as they were still part of rhetorical arguments against the persecution of witches rather than purely historical scholarship. Notably, a figure of nine million victims was given by Gottfried Christian Voigt in 1784 in an argument criticizing Voltaire's estimate of "several hundred thousand" as too low. Voigt's number has shown remarkably resilient as an influential popular myth, surviving well into the 20th century, especially in feminist and neo-pagan literature.[69] In the 19th century, some scholars were agnostic, for instance Jacob Grimm (1844) talked of "countless" victims[70] and Charles Mackay (1841) named "thousands upon thousands".[71] By contrast, a popular news report of 1832 cited a number of 392,000 victims "in Great Britain alone".[72] In the early 20th century, some scholarly estimates on the number of executions still ranged in the hundreds of thousands. The estimate was only reliably placed below 100,000 in scholarship of the 1970s.[73]

Causes of the trials[edit]

The Witch, No. 1, c. 1892 lithograph by Joseph E. Baker
The Witch, No. 2, c. 1892 lithograph by Joseph E. Baker
The Witch, No. 3, c. 1892 lithograph by Joseph E. Baker

Socio-political turmoil[edit]

Various suggestions have been made that the witch trials emerged as a response to socio-political turmoil in the Early Modern world. One form of this is that the prosecution of witches was a reaction to a disaster that had befallen the community, such as crop-failure, war, or disease.[74] For instance, Midelfort suggested that in southwestern Germany, war and famine destabilised local communities, resulting in the witch prosecutions of the 1620s.[75] Behringer also suggests an increase in witch prosecutions due to socio-political destabilization, stressing the Little Ice Age's effects on food shortages and the subsequent use of witches as scapegoats for consequences of climatic changes.[76] The Little Ice Age, lasting from about 1300 to 1850,[77] is characterized by temperatures and precipitation levels lower than the 1901-1960 average.[78] Historians such as Wolfgang Behringer, Emily Oster, and Hartmut Lehmann argue that these cooling temperatures brought about crop-failure, war, and disease, and that witches were subsequently blamed for this turmoil.[79][80][81] Historical temperature indexes and witch trials data indicate that, generally, as temperature decreased during this period, witch trials increased.[81] Additionally, the peaks of witchcraft persecutions overlap with hunger crises that occurred in 1570 and 1580, the latter lasting a decade.[80] Problematically for these theories, it has been highlighted that, in that region, the witch hunts declined during the 1630s, at a time when the communities living there were facing increased disaster as a result of plague, famine, economic collapse and the Thirty Years' War.[82] Furthermore, this scenario would clearly not offer a universal explanation, for trials also took place in areas which were free from war, famine, or pestilence.[83] Additionally, these theories - particularly Behringer's - have been labeled as oversimplified.[84] Although there is evidence that the Little Ice Age and subsequent famine and disease was likely a contributing factor to increase in witch persecution, Durrant argues that one cannot make a direct link between these problems and witch persecutions in all contexts.[84]

Moreover, the average age at first marriage had gradually risen by late sixteenth century; the population had stabilized after a period of growth and availability of jobs and land had lessened. In the last decades of the century the age at marriage had climbed to averages of 25 for women and 27 for men in England and the Low Countries as more people married later or remained unmarried due to lack of money or resources and a decline in living standards, and these averages remained high for nearly two centuries and averages across Northwestern Europe had done likewise.[85] The convents were closed during the Protestant Reformation, which displaced many nuns. Many communities saw the proportion of unmarried women climb from less than 10% to 20% and in some cases as high as 30%, whom few communities knew how to accommodate economically.[86] Miguel (2003) argues that witch killings may be a process of eliminating the financial burdens of a family or society via elimination of the older women that need to be fed,[87] and an increase in unmarried women would enhance this process.

Catholic versus Protestant conflict[edit]

The English historian Hugh Trevor-Roper advocated the idea that the witch trials emerged as part of the conflicts between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Early Modern Europe.[88] This theory has however received little support from other experts in the subject.[89] This is because there is little evidence that either Roman Catholics were accusing Protestants of witchcraft, or that Protestants were accusing Roman Catholics.[89] Furthermore, the witch trials regularly occurred in regions with little or no inter-denominational strife, and which were largely religiously homogenous, such as Essex, Lowland Scotland, Geneva, Venice, and the Spanish Basque Country.[90] There is also some evidence, particularly from the Holy Roman Empire, in which adjacent Roman Catholic and Protestant territories were exchanging information on alleged local witches, viewing them as a common threat to both.[90] Additionally, many prosecutions were instigated not by the religious or secular authorities, but by popular demands from within the population, thus making it less likely that there were specific inter-denominational reasons behind the accusations.[91]

In south-western Germany between 1561 and 1670 there were 480 witch trials. Of the 480 trials that took place in southwestern Germany, 317 occurred in Catholic areas, while Protestant territories accounted for 163 of them.[92] During the period from 1561 to 1670, at least 3,229 persons were executed for witchcraft in the German Southwest. Of this number 702 were tried and executed in Protestant territories, while 2,527 were tried and executed in Catholic territories.[93]

A 2017 study in the Economic Journal, examining "more than 43,000 people tried for witchcraft across 21 European countries over a period of five-and-a-half centuries", found that "more intense religious-market contestation led to more intense witch-trial activity. And, compared to religious-market contestation, the factors that existing hypotheses claim were important for witch-trial activity—weather, income, and state capacity—were not."[94]

Popular Views and Folklore Studies[edit]

For many educated Christians in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including theologians and judges, there was a great concern about the idea that witches were in league with the Devil. Conversely, it appears that the idea of the witch as Satanist was far less prevalent among the peasantry and popular classes, who were far more concerned about the potential harm that they could receive from witches than from where the witches gained their magical power.[95]

Functional explanations[edit]

Inspired by ethnographically recorded witch trials that anthropologists observed happening in non-European parts of the world, various historians have sought a functional explanation for the Early Modern witch trials, thereby suggesting the social functions that the trials played within their communities.[96] These studies have illustrated how accusations of witchcraft have played a role in releasing social tensions or in facilitating the termination of personal relationships that have become un-desirable to one party.[96]

Gender conflict[edit]

An estimated 75% to 85% of those accused in the early modern witch trials were women,[97][98][99] and there is certainly evidence of misogyny on the part of those persecuting witches, evident from quotes such as "[It is] not unreasonable that this scum of humanity, [witches], should be drawn chiefly from the feminine sex" (Nicholas Rémy, c. 1595) or "The Devil uses them so, because he knows that women love carnal pleasures, and he means to bind them to his allegiance by such agreeable provocations."[100] Scholar Kurt Baschwitz in his first monography on the subject (in Dutch, 1948) mentions this aspect of the witch trials even as "a war against old women". Nevertheless, it has been argued that the supposedly misogynistic agenda of works on witchcraft has been greatly exaggerated, based on the selective repetition of a few relevant passages of the Malleus maleficarum.[101][102] There are various reasons as to why this was the case. In Early Modern Europe, it was widely believed that women were less intelligent than men and more susceptible to sin.[103] Many modern scholars argue that the witch hunts cannot be explained simplistically as an expression of male misogyny, as indeed women were frequently accused by other women,[104][105] to the point that witch-hunts, at least at the local level of villages, have been described as having been driven primarily by "women's quarrels".[106] Especially at the margins of Europe, in Iceland, Finland, Estonia and Russia, the majority of those accused were male.[107]

Barstow (1994) claimed that a combination of factors, including the greater value placed on men as workers in the increasingly wage-oriented economy, and a greater fear of women as inherently evil, loaded the scales against women, even when the charges against them were identical to those against men.[108] Thurston (2001) saw this as a part of the general misogyny of the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods, which had increased during what he described as "the persecuting culture" from that which it had been in the Early Medieval.[109] Gunnar Heinsohn and Otto Steiger in a 1982 publication speculated that witch-hunts targeted women skilled in midwifery specifically in an attempt to extinguish knowledge about birth control and "repopulate Europe" after the population catastrophe of the Black Death.[110]

Academic study[edit]

Early rationalist historians interpreted the witch trials as an example of mass superstition, and thus their end in the 18th century was seen as a revival of common sense among the population.[111] This idea did not take into account that the existence of malevolent witches fitted within the worldview of the Early Modern, with its strong divide between good and evil, and that a belief in witches was therefore "common sense" to Early Modern people.[111]

During the Prussian Kulturkampf, starting from the mid-19th century, the Roman Catholic Church was accused of being sole originator of witch hunts, the number of victims was significantly overstated with up to 9 million. According to recent research and extensive analysis of court records, it is believed that the result of persecution throughout Europe were about 40,000 to 60,000 deaths.[112]
From the 1970s onward, there was a "massive explosion of scholarly enthusiasm" for the study of the Early Modern witch trials.[113] This was partly because scholars from a variety of different disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, philosophy, philosophy of science, criminology, literary theory, and feminist theory, all began to investigate the phenomenon and brought their different insights to bear on the subject.[114] This was accompanied by in-depth analysis of the trial records and the socio-cultural contexts on which they emerged, allowing for a far more sophisticated understanding of the trials than had previously been available.[113] During this process, Britain and Germany established themselves as the main centres for the research of the subject.[115] There have nevertheless been regional differences in how this has been undertaken; scholars in Britain and the United States have for instance largely neglected questions regarding how ancient ideas influenced and informed the identities of Early Modern witchcraft, something which conversely has been of great interest to a number of continental European scholars.[116]

Reception in wider culture[edit]

Popular culture[edit]

In 20th-century Western society, the witch trials were used as "a synonym for pointless persecution", such as the Red Scare and McCarthyism in the 1950s United States.[117]

Witch-cult hypothesis and Wicca[edit]

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the common belief among educated sectors of the European populace was that there had never been any genuine cult of witches and that all those persecuted and executed as such had been innocent of the crime.[118] However, at this time various scholars suggested that there had been a real cult that had been persecuted by the Christian authorities, and that it had had pre-Christian origins. The first to advance this theory was the German Professor of Criminal Law Karl Ernst Jarcke of the University of Berlin who put forward the idea in 1828; he suggested that witchcraft had been a pre-Christian German religion that had degenerated into Satanism.[119] Jarcke's ideas were picked up by the German historian Franz Josef Mone in 1839, although he argued that the cult's origins were Greek rather than Germanic.[120]

In 1862, the Frenchman Jules Michelet published La Sorciere, in which he put forth the idea that the witches had been following a pagan religion. The theory achieved greater attention when it was taken up by the Egyptologist Margaret Murray, who published both The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921) and The God of the Witches (1931) in which she claimed that the witches had been following a pre-Christian religion which she termed "the Witch-Cult" and "Ritual Witchcraft". She claimed that this faith was devoted to a pagan Horned God and involved the celebration of four Witches' Sabbaths each year: Halloween, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh.[121] However, the majority of scholarly reviews of Murray's work produced at the time were largely critical,[122] and her books never receiving support from experts in the Early Modern witch trials.[123] Instead, from her early publications onward many of her ideas were challenged by those who highlighted her "factual errors and methodological failings".[124]

We Neopagans now face a crisis. As new data appeared, historians altered their theories to account for it. We have not. Therefore an enormous gap has opened between the academic and the 'average' Pagan view of witchcraft. We continue to use of out-dated and poor writers, like Margaret Murray, Montague Summers, Gerald Gardner, and Jules Michelet. We avoid the somewhat dull academic texts that present solid research, preferring sensational writers who play to our emotions.

—Jenny Gibbons (1998)[105]

However, the publication of the Murray thesis in the Encyclopædia Britannica made it accessible to "journalists, film-makers popular novelists and thriller writers", who adopted it "enthusiastically".[125] Influencing works of literature, it inspired writings by Aldous Huxley and Robert Graves.[125] Subsequently, in 1939, an English occultist named Gerald Gardner claimed to have been initiated into a surviving group of the pagan Witch-Cult known as the New Forest coven, although modern historical investigation has led scholars to believe that this coven was not ancient as Gardner believed, but was instead founded in the 1920s or 1930s by occultists wishing to fashion a revived Witch-Cult based upon Murray's theories.[126] Taking this New Forest coven's beliefs and practices as a basis, Gardner went on to found Gardnerian Wicca, one of the most prominent traditions in the contemporary Pagan religion now known as Wicca, which revolved around the worship of a Horned God and Goddess, the celebration of festivals known as Sabbats, and the practice of ritual magic. He also went on to write several books about the historical Witch-Cult, Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959), and in these books, Gardner used the phrase "the burning times" in reference to the European and North American witch trials.[127]

In the early 20th century, a number of individuals and groups emerged in Europe, primarily Britain, and subsequently the United States as well, claiming to be the surviving remnants of the pagan Witch-Cult described in the works of Margaret Murray. The first of these actually appeared in the last few years of the 19th century, being a manuscript that American folklorist Charles Leland claimed he had been given by a woman who was a member of a group of witches worshipping the god Lucifer and goddess Diana in Tuscany, Italy. He published the work in 1899 as Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches. Whilst historians and folklorists have accepted that there are folkloric elements to the gospel, none have accepted it as being the text of a genuine Tuscan religious group, and believe it to be of late-nineteenth-century composition.[128]

Wiccans extended claims regarding the witch-cult in various ways, for instance by utilising the British folklore associating witches with prehistoric sites to assert that the witch-cult used to use such locations for religious rites, in doing so legitimising contemporary Wiccan use of them.[129] By the 1990s, many Wiccans had come to recognise the inaccuracy of the witch-cult theory and had accepted it as a mythological origin story.[130]

Feminist interpretations[edit]

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, various feminist interpretations of the witch trials have been made and published. One of the earliest individuals to do so was the American Matilda Joslyn Gage, a writer who was deeply involved in the first-wave feminist movement for women's suffrage. In 1893, she published the book Woman, Church and State, which was "written in a tearing hurry and in time snatched from a political activism which left no space for original research."[131] Likely influenced by the works of Jules Michelet about the Witch-Cult, she claimed that the witches persecuted in the Early Modern period were pagan priestesses adhering to an ancient religion venerating a Great Goddess. She also repeated the erroneous statement, taken from the works of several German authors, that nine million people had been killed in the witch hunt.[131] The United States has become the centre of development for these feminist interpretations.[132]

In 1973, two American second-wave feminists, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, published an extended pamphlet in which they put forward the idea that the women persecuted had been the traditional healers and midwives of the community who were being deliberately eliminated by the male medical establishment.[133] This theory disregarded the fact that the majority of those persecuted were neither healers nor midwives and that in various parts of Europe these individuals were commonly among those encouraging the persecutions.[134] In 1994, Anne Llewellyn Barstow published her book Witchcraze,[135] which was later described by Scarre and Callow as "perhaps the most successful" attempt to portray the trials as a systematic male attack on women.[136]

Other feminist historians have rejected this interpretation of events; historian Diane Purkiss described it as "not politically helpful" because it constantly portrays women as "helpless victims of patriarchy" and thus does not aid them in contemporary feminist struggles.[137] She also condemned it for factual inaccuracy by highlighting that radical feminists adhering to it ignore the historicity of their claims, instead promoting it because it is perceived as authorising the continued struggle against patriarchal society.[138] She asserted that many radical feminists nonetheless clung to it because of its "mythic significance" and firmly delineated structure between the oppressor and the oppressed.[134]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Why did Germany burn so many witches? The brutal force of economic competition". Quartz. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  2. ^ "Beyond Halloween: Witches, devils, trials and executions". National Catholic Reporter. 2017-10-25. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
  3. ^ Hoak, Dale (1983). "The Great European Witch-Hunts: A Historical Perspective". American Journal of Sociology. 88 (6): 1270–1274. doi:10.1086/227806.
  4. ^ Jones, Adam. "Case Study: The European Witch-Hunts, c. 1450-1750 and Witch-Hunts Today". Gendercide Watch. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  5. ^ Thurston 2001. p. 01.
  6. ^ mostly in the Holy Roman Empire, the British Isles and France, and to some extent in the European colonies in North America; largely excluding the Iberian Peninsula and Italy; "Inquisition Spain and Portugal, obsessed with heresy, ignored the witch craze. In Italy, witch trials were comparatively rare and did not involve torture and executions." Anne L. Barstow, Witchcraze : a New History of the European Witch Hunts, HarperCollins, 1995.
  7. ^ "Clearly, there was an increase in skeptical voices during the Carolingian period, even if we take into account an increase in surviving sources.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 31 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
  8. ^ "Christian theology underwent a major shift of attitude only during the 13th century. In his Summa contra Gentiles, Thomas Aquinas (1255–74) not only confirmed Augustine's semiotic theory, according to which spells, amulets or magical rituals indicated a secret pact with demons, but gave the impression that sorcerers, through the support of the devil, could physically commit their crimes.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", pp. 35–36 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
  9. ^ Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages p 464.
  10. ^ Jean Bodin, De La Demonomanie des Sorciers p.1. See English translation, quoted here, by Randy A. Scott (2001) p. 45. A contemporary of Bodin, and also witch-phobic, William Perkins preaching a sermon at Oxford, England offers a similar straightforward definition with the devil as the key power source: "Witchcraft is a wicked art, serving for the working of wonders, by the assistance of the devil, so far forth as God shall in justice permit."
  11. ^ Flagellum Haereticorum Fascinariorum p. 36. Written 1458 printed 1561. Also see translations and interpretation by Matthew Champion, Scourging the Temple of God Parergon (2011) 28.1 p 1-24.
  12. ^ "We are reasonably confident today that the 'classical' doctrine of witchcraft crystallized during the middle third of the 15th century, shortly after the Council of Basel, primarily within a western Alpine zone centered around the duchy of Savoy (Ostorero et al. 1999).", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", pp. 18–19 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
  13. ^ "By the end of the 15th century, scattered trials for witchcraft by both secular and ecclesiastical courts occurred in many places from the Pyrenees, where the Spanish Inquisition had become involved, to the North Sea.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", pp. 18–19 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
  14. ^ Attached to front of Kramer's book is the 1484 Summis desiderantes affectibus, a papal bull of Pope Innocent VIII in which he approved the inquisition to move against witches who were explicitly accused of having "slain infants yet in the mother's womb" (abortion) and of "hindering men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving." The Bull of Innocent VIII see Malleus Maleficarum]] translation by Montague Summers. Note that, curiously, Kramer does not seem to ever cite Jacquier though Kramer also begins by opposing the Canon Episcopi.
  15. ^ See 2004 essay by Wolfgang Behringer on Malleus Maleficarum "first printed in... Speyer, by then a medium sized town on the Rhine."
  16. ^ Increase Mather, Cases Concerning Evil Spirits p. 272 Appended to his son's book, Wonders of the Invisible World, (1693)
  17. ^ Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 19 (2004). Wiley-Blackwell.
  18. ^ "In Switzerland, the rustic 'forest cantons' of the original Confederation apparently remained unaffected by witch trials until after 1560.", Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 19 (2004). Behringer, "Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History", p. 21 (2004).
  19. ^ Cohn 1975, p. 225; Kieckhefer 2000, pp. 198–199; Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 18.
  20. ^ Thurston 2001. p. 67.
  21. ^ Thurston 2001. p. 77.
  22. ^ Thurston 2001, p. 78.
  23. ^ The English translation is from this note to Summers' 1928 introduction Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine..
  24. ^ a b c Thurston 2001. p. 79.
  25. ^ Thurston 2001, pp. 80-81.
  26. ^ Foxcroft, Gary. "Hunting Witches." World Policy Journal 31, 1. 90-98 (2014)
  27. ^ https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+22%3A18&version=GNV
  28. ^ "even the Roman Inquisition recognized that abuses were common; in 1635 it admitted that "the Inquisition has found scarcely one trial conducted legally."", Midelfort, "Witch hunting in southwestern Germany, 1562-1684: the social and intellectual foundations", p. 28 (1972).
  29. ^ "Doubts about their ability to prove witches unequivocally guilty according to due legal procedure, fears that they would invoke God's wrath against themselves and their subjects if they overstepped its bounds, and a certain humility in thinking that witchcraft was a matter best left up to God, all played a part in encouraging the Rothenburg councillors and their advisers to handle witchcraft cases with caution.", Rowlands, 'Witchcraft narratives in Germany: Rothenburg 1561-1652', p. 59 (2003). "Compelling legal reasons almost always also existed in specific cases to discourage the councillors and their advisers from taking action against sabbat-attenders.", Rowlands, 'Witchcraft narratives in Germany: Rothenburg 1561-1652', p. 57 (2003).
  30. ^ http://alicemariebeard.com/history/witch.htm
  31. ^ "Va. Woman Seeks To Clear Witch of Pungo". USA Today. Associated Press. July 9, 2006. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  32. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 69-70.
  33. ^ Johnson, Noel D. and Mark Koyama, "Taxes, Lawyers, and the Decline of Witch Trials in France," The Journal of Law and Economics 57, no. 1 (February 2014): 77-112
  34. ^ Johnson and Koyama, ""Taxes, Lawyers, and the Decline of Witch Trials in France," 2014
  35. ^ 9 Geo. 2, c. 5.
  36. ^ Levack, Brian P. (2013-03-28). The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191648830.
  37. ^ Robert Tombs (1996). "Collective Identities: Community and Religion". France 1814–1914. London: Longman. p. 245. ISBN 0-582-49314-5.
  38. ^ Poulson's American Daily Advertiser, Volume LX, August 10, 1834, Number 17,057 (From the Nashville (Tenn.) Herald, of 22d July) (transcribed at http://www.topix.com/forum/city/jamestown-tn/TPAPB6U4LVF0JDQC8/p2
  39. ^ History of Fentress County, Tennessee, Albert R. Hogue, compiled by the Fentress County Historical Society, p. 67 (transcription)
  40. ^ Touring the East Tennessee Back-roads By Carolyn Sakowski, p. 212.(https://books.google.com/books?id=rLBrUbj02IcC&pg=PA212)
  41. ^ "3,000 Lynched In Tanzania For 'Witchcraft' In Past Six Years". Huffington Post. 29 May 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  42. ^ Medway 2001, p. 70.
  43. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 22.
  44. ^ [1]
  45. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 23.
  46. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 24.
  47. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 25.
  48. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 26.
  49. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 26–28.
  50. ^ a b Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 28.
  51. ^ Levack, Brain P. (1995). The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (2nd ed.). London: Longman. pp. 98–102. ISBN 0-582-08069-X.
  52. ^ Langbein, John H. (1977). Torture and the Law of Proof. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 81 ff. ISBN 0-226-46806-2.
  53. ^ Levack, Brain P. (1995). The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (2nd ed.). London: Longman. p. 202. ISBN 0-582-08069-X. See also Larner, Christina (1981). Enemies of God: The Witch-hunt in Scotland. London: Chatto and Windus. pp. 62–3. ISBN 0-7011-2424-5.
  54. ^ A detailed account of Hopkins and his fellow witchfinder John Stearne can be found in Gaskill, Malcolm (2005). Witchfinders: A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01976-8.
  55. ^ Deutscher, Thomas (1991). "The Role of The Episcopal Tribunal of Novara in The Suppression of Heresy and Witchcraft 1563–1615". Catholic Historical Review. 77 (3): 403–421. JSTOR 25023586.
  56. ^ Seitz, Jonathan (2009). "'The Root is Hidden and the Material Uncertain': The Challenges of Persecuting Witchcraft in Early Modern Venice". Renaissance Quarterly. 62 (1): 102–129. doi:10.1086/598373.
  57. ^ Black, Christopher F. (2009). The Italian Inquisition. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11706-6.
  58. ^ H.R. Trevor-Roper, The European Witch-Craze of The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries and Other Essays, (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), 118.
  59. ^ Camille Naish, Death Comes to the Maiden: Sex and Execution 1431–1933 (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 27.
  60. ^ Henry Charles Lea, Witchcraft, p. 236 as quoted in Camille Naish, Death Comes to the Maiden: Sex and Execution 1431–1933 (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 28.
  61. ^ a b Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 32.
  62. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 34.
  63. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 12.
  64. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 1, 21.
  65. ^ Historical Dictionary of Stuart England, edited by Ronald H. Fritze and William B. Robison. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996. ISBN 978-0-313-28391-8. (p.552).
  66. ^ Hutton 2010, p. 247. Scarre and Callow (2001) put forward 40,000 as an estimate for the number killed.(Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 1, 21) Levack (2006) came to an estimate of 45,000. Levack, Brian (2006). The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe Third Edition. Longman. Page 23. Hutton (2010) estimated that the numbers were between 40,000–50,000,(Hutton 2010, p. 247) Wolfgang Behringer and Lyndal Roper had independently calculated the number as being between 50,000–60,000.(Behringer 2004, p. 149; Roper 2004, pp. 6–7) In an earlier unpublished essay, Hutton counted local estimates, and in areas where estimates were unavailable attempted to extrapolate from nearby regions with similar demographics and attitudes towards witch hunting. "Estimates of Executions (based on Hutton's essay 'Counting the Witch Hunt')"..
  67. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 21; Hutton 2010, p. 248.
  68. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 34; Hutton 2010, p. 248.
  69. ^ The history of the "nine million" estimate was researched by Wolfgang Behringer: Neun Millionen Hexen. Enstehung, Tradition und Kritik eines populären Mythos, in: Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht 49. 1987, pp. 664–685, extensive summary on [2]
  70. ^ Grimm, Jacob (1883 [1844]). Teutonic Mythology Volume III. Page 1067.
  71. ^ Mackay, Charles (1841). Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions Volume II. Page 168.
  72. ^ 'however incredible it may appear, the enormous sum of three thousand one hundred and ninety-two individuals were condemned and executed in Great Britain alone' "WITCHCRAFT". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842). NSW: National Library of Australia. 29 September 1832. p. 4. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  73. ^ Norman Cohn rejected estimates in the hundreds of thousands as "fantastic exaggerations". Cohn 1975, p. 253
  74. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 41–42; Behringer 2004, p. 88.
  75. ^ Midelfort 1972.
  76. ^ Behringer, Wolfgang (1999). "Climatic Change and Witch-Hunting: The Impact on The Little Ice Age on Mentalities". Climatic Change. 43: 335–351 – via Springer.
  77. ^ Fagan, Brian (2000). The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850. United States of America: Basic Books. pp. 47–61.
  78. ^ Pfister, Christian (1999). "Climatic Variability in Sixteenth-Century Europe and its Social Dimension: A Synthesis". Climatic Change. 43: 5–53.
  79. ^ Lehmann, Hartmut (1988). "The Persecution of Witches as Restoration of Order: The Case of Germany, 1590s-1650s". Central European History. 21: 107–121.
  80. ^ a b Behringer, Wolfgang (1999). "Climatic Change and Witch-Hunting: The Impact of The Little Ice Age on Mentalities". Climatic Change. 43: 335–351 – via Springer.
  81. ^ a b Oster, Emily (2004). "Witchcraft, Weather, and Economic Growth in Renaissance Europe". Journal of Economic Perspectives. 18: 215–228.
  82. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 42.
  83. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 41.
  84. ^ a b Durrant, Jonathan (2007). Witchcraft, Gender and Society in Early Modern Germany. Boston: Brill. pp. 15, 246.
  85. ^ De Moor, Tine and Jan Luiten van Zanden. 2009. Girl power: the European marriage pattern and labour markets in the North Sea region in the late medieval and early modern period. Wiley Online Library. p 17
  86. ^ Levack, Brian P. (1995). The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe (Second Edition). London and New York: Longman. Pg. 156-157
  87. ^ Miguel, Edward (2005). "Poverty and Witch Killing". Review of Economic Studies. 72: 1153–1172.
  88. ^ Trevor-Roper 1969.
  89. ^ a b Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 43.
  90. ^ a b Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 44.
  91. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 44–45.
  92. ^ Midelfort 1972, p. 31.
  93. ^ Midelfort 1972, pp. 31–32.
  94. ^ Leeson, Peter T.; Russ, Jacob W. (2017-03-01). "Witch trials". The Economic Journal: n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/ecoj.12498. ISSN 1468-0297.
  95. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 7.
  96. ^ a b Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 45.
  97. ^ Gibbons, Jenny (1998) [3] "Recent Developments in the Study of the Great European Witch Hunt"] in The Pomegranate #5, Lammas 1998.
  98. ^ According to R. W. Thurston, 75–80% of the victims across both Europe and North America were women, Thurston 2001. p. 42. According to Anne Llewellyn Barstow, 80% of those accused and 85% of those executed in Europe were women. Barstow, Anne Llewellyn (1994) Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts San Francisco:Pandora. p. 23
  99. ^ Jones, Adam (1999-2002)
  100. ^ Klaits, Joseph. Servants of Satan: The Age of the Witch Hunts (1985) p. 68.
  101. ^ Stark, Rodney (2003). "God's Enemies: Explaining the European Witch-Hunts". For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 201–288.
  102. ^ 'On the whole, however, the literature of witchcraft conspicuously lacks any sustained concern for the gender issue; and the only reason for the view that it was extreme and outspoken in its anti-feminism is the tendency for those interested in this subject to read the relevant sections of the Malleus maleficarum and little or nothing else.', Clark, 'Thinking with Demons: the idea of witchcraft in early modern Europe', p. 116 (1999)
  103. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 59; Thurston 2001, pp. 42–45.
  104. ^ 'the theory that witch-hunting equals misogyny is embarrassed by the predominance of women witness against the accused', Purkis, 'The Witch In History', p. 92 (1996); Purkis provides detailed examples, and also demonstrates how some documents have been misread in a manner which attributes accusations or legal prosecution to men, when in fact the action was brought by a woman. "More numerous than midwives among the accused were women who were engaged in caring for other women's children. Lyndal Roper has shown that many witchcraft accusations in Ausburg in the late sixteenth and early 17th century arose out of conflicts between mothers and the lying-in maids who provided care for them and their infants for a number of weeks after birth. It was not unnatural for the mothers to project their anxieties about their own health, as well as the precarious health of their infants, on to these women. When some misfortune did occur, therefore, the lying-in maids were highly vulnerable to charges of having deprived the baby of nourishment or of having killed it. What is interesting about these accusations is that they originated in tensions among women rather than between men and women. The same can be said regarding many other accusations made against women for harming young children.", Levack, The Witch-Hunt In Early Modern Europe, p. 140 (2nd edition 1995)
  105. ^ a b Gibbons 1998.
  106. ^ "In Lorraine the majority were men, particularly when other men were on trial, yet women did testify in large numbers against other women, making up 43 per cent of witnesses in these cases on average, and predominating in 30 per cent of them.", Briggs, 'Witches & Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft', p. 264 (1998). "It appears that women were active in building up reputations by gossip, deploying counter-magic and accusing suspects; crystallization into formal prosecution, however, needed the intervention of men, preferably of fairly high status in the community.", ibid., p. 265. "The number of witchcraft quarrels that began between women may actually have been higher; in some cases, it appears that the husband as 'head of household' came forward to make statements on behalf of his wife, although the central quarrel had taken place between her and another woman.", Willis, Malevolent Nature, p. 36 (1995). "In Peter Rushton's examination of slander cases in the Durham church courts, women took action against other women who had labeled them witches in 61 percent of the cases.", ibid., p. 36. "J.A. Sharpe also notes the prevalence of women as accusers in seventeenth-century Yorkshire cases, concluding that 'on a village level witchcraft seems to have been something peculiarly enmeshed in women's quarrels.'14 To a considerable extent, then, village-level witch-hunting was women's work.', ibid., p. 36
  107. ^ 'The widespread division of labour, which conceives of witches as female, and witch-doctors male, can hardly be explained by Christian influence. In some European countries, like Iceland, Finland, and Estonia, the idea of male witchcraft was dominant, and therefore most of the executed witches were male. As Kirsten Hastrup has demonstrated, only one of the twenty-two witches executed in Iceland was female. In Normandy three-quarters of the 380 known witchcraft defendants were male.', Behringer, 'Witches and Witch-Hunts: a global history', p. 39 (2004)
  108. ^ Barstow, Anne Llewellyn (1994) Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts San Francisco: Pandora.
  109. ^ Thurston 2001. pp. 42-45.
  110. ^ Gunnar Heinsohn/Otto Steiger: The Elimination of Medieval Birth Control and the Witch Trials of Modern Times, International Journal of Women's Studies, 3, May 1982, 193–214.Gunnar Heinsohn/Otto Steiger: "Witchcraft, Population Catastrophe and Economic Crisis in Renaissance Europe: An Alternative Macroeconomic Explanation.", University of Bremen 2004 (download) Gunnar Heinsohn/Otto Steiger: "Birth Control: The Political-Economic Rationale Behind Jean Bodin's "Démonomanie"", in: History of Political Economy, 31, No. 3, 423–448 Heinsohn, G. (2005): "Population, Conquest and Terror in the 21st Century." webcitation.com Mainstream scholarship has remained critical of this "macroeconomic approach", e.g. Walter Rummel: 'Weise' Frauen und 'weise' Männer im Kampf gegen Hexerei. Die Widerlegung einer modernen Fabel. In: Christof Dipper, Lutz Klinkhammer und Alexander Nützenadel: Europäische Sozialgeschichte. Festschrift für Wolfgang Schieder (= Historische Forschungen 68), Berlin 2000, S. 353–375, historicum.net; "there is no evidence that the majority of those accused were healers and midwives; in England and also some parts of the Continent, midwives were more than likely to be found helping witch-hunters." (Purkiss 1996, p. 8)
  111. ^ a b Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 64.
  112. ^ Gerd Schwerhoff: Vom Alltagsverdacht zur Massenverfolgung. Neuere deutsche Forschungen zum frühneuzeitlichen Hexenwesen. Zeitschrift "Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht" 46, 1995
  113. ^ a b Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 2.
  114. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 2; Hutton 2010, p. 248.
  115. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 57.
  116. ^ Hutton 2010, p. 248.
  117. ^ Purkiss 1996, p. 15.
  118. ^ Cohn 1975, p. 103.
  119. ^ Cohn 1975, pp. 103-104; Purkiss 1996, p. 34; Hutton 1999, p. 136.
  120. ^ Cohn 1975, p. 104; Hutton 1999, pp. 136-137.
  121. ^ Murray 1952; Murray 1962.
  122. ^ Sheppard 2013, p. 169.
  123. ^ Hutton 1999, p. 198.
  124. ^ Eliade 1975, p. 152.
  125. ^ a b Simpson 1994, p. 89.
  126. ^ Heselton 2004.
  127. ^ Gardner 1954. p. 139.
  128. ^ See for instance Hutton 1999. pp. 142–148 and Magliocco 2002.
  129. ^ Doyle White 2014, p. 68.
  130. ^ Simpson 1994, p. 95.
  131. ^ a b Hutton 1999. p. 141.
  132. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, pp. 57-58.
  133. ^ Purkiss 1996, pp. 19-20; Hutton 1999, p. 342; Ehrenreich & English 2010.
  134. ^ a b Purkiss 1996, p. 8.
  135. ^ Barstow 1994.
  136. ^ Scarre & Callow 2001, p. 75.
  137. ^ Purkiss 1996, p. 17.
  138. ^ Purkiss 1996, pp. 11, 16.


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Hutton, Ronald (2011). "Revisionism and Counter-Revisionism in Pagan History". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. London: Equinox Publishing. 13 (2): 225&ndash, 256. doi:10.1558/pome.v12i2.239.
Jensen, Gary (2007). The Path of the Devil: Early Modern Witch Hunts. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-46974.
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Further reading[edit]

  • Bailey, Michael D. (2006). Magic and Superstition in Europe: A Concise History from Antiquity to the Present. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-3386-8.
  • Levack, Brian P. ed. The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America (2013) excerpt and text search
  • Gibbons, Jenny (1998). "Recent Developments in the Study of the Great European Witch Hunt". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 5.
  • Gouges, Linnea de (2018) Witch hunts and State Building in Early Modern Europe
  • Heselton, Philip (2004). Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration: An Investigation into the Sources of Gardnerian Witchcraft. Somerset: Capall Bann.

External links[edit]