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Witchcraft and Persecution

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  1. Witchcraft and Persecution

  2. 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

  3. Continuities and Discontinuities • Witches in the medieval period • Witches in the early modern period • What changes? How?

  4. 14th c manuscript, France or Germany

  5. St.Bernard defeats the Devil, German woodcut, 1470

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. The Malleus Maleficarum, or ‘The Hammer of Witches’

  9. 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

  10. 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!

  11. …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

  12. …to Protestant England!

  13. Why did people take so seriously what had been only a set of gossip and popular superstition (albeit dangerous ones) before? For two reasons:

  14. Humanism and ‘high’ magic create a hostile environment for ‘low’ and popular magic; also, remember the invention of the printing press!!!

  15. 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

  16. 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