Don’t forget! • On Wednesday we will have our last class and we will have a review for the final! • Try not to miss class if you have questions on the final
Continuities and Discontinuities • Witches in the medieval period • Witches in the early modern period • What changes? How?
Witches before the 1480s • Since everybody believed in the devil, many people believed in the possibility of the connection between the natural world and the devil, of which the existence of witches was a manifestation. But… • Not everybody thought that witches should be openly persecuted: in fact the ecclesiastical authorities thought it was necessary to use moderation when dealing with witches
In the 1480s two things changed: • 1) In 1484 a Papal Bull by Alexander VI gave permission to Sprenger and Kramer, two Dominican Inquisitors, to persecute witches in the Holy Roman Empire • 2) In 1486 Sprenger and Kramer wrote a manual on how to recognize, apprehend, torture and execute witches
Important elements of the Malleus Maleficarum: look at your source! • The authors want to classify accurately a bunch of scattered notions and superstitions: there are ‘three kinds of witches’, in order of dangerousness. This is because the ‘Malleus’ wants to make the danger of witches as realistic as possible! • Witches are socially dangerous: in the text there are a lot of hints to sickness, tempests, etc. • Witches are powerful, but less than God: children who are ‘reborn by baptism at the font’ cannot be touched by the witch
So what? • The ‘Malleus’ does not offer anything ‘new’, but it only treats in a serious and seemingly ‘scholarly’ matters things that were not considered such • Remember Elda, the sorceress in the movie: as if some learned person set to write all the gossip around her as if they were true, ‘scientifically’ demonstrable and dangerous!
…since the publication of the book, there was a sort of witch-frenzy spreading across Europe, from Catholic Germany… Book on the killing of witches at Scheletstadt, 1571
Why did people take so seriously what had been only a set of gossip and popular superstition (albeit dangerous ones) before? For two reasons:
Humanism and ‘high’ magic create a hostile environment for ‘low’ and popular magic; also, remember the invention of the printing press!!!
The repressive action of both States and Churches • Reformation now makes it necessary for both Protestants and Catholics to make sure everybody believes in the same thing: no room for ‘uncertainty’ • Neither Protestants nor Catholics want any ‘competition’ in the realm of supernatural stuff: if you have a problem, you have to go to Church • The States did not see the witches favorably for they ‘did not fit’ properly in the social and political structure: in fact Charles V in the ‘Lex Carolina’ (1532) prescribed the death penalty for witches
Conclusions • Witches in early modern Europe: an example of the contacts between ‘high’ Church and ‘low’ Church • The persecution of witches in early modern Europe: an example of collaboration between religious and political authorities