Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Witchcraft III - Lecture


Canon Episcopi (also capitulum Episcopi)  passage found in medieval canon law, first recorded by Regino of Prum in 906,  and incorporated in Gratian's canon law ca. 1140.

Black Death - Plague:

  • 1347 75 million
  • 1352 50 million 
  • The plague repeatedly returned to haunt Europe and the Mediterranean throughout the 14th to 17th centuries. According to Biraben, plague was present somewhere in Europe in every year between 1346 and 1671. The Second Pandemic was particularly widespread in the following years: 1360–1363; 1374; 1400; 1438–1439; 1456–1457; 1464–1466; 1481–1485; 1500–1503; 1518–1531; 1544–1548; 1563–1566; 1573–1588; 1596–1599; 1602–1611; 1623–1640; 1644–1654; and 1664–1667.

Johannes Nider, Formicarius (the Ant Hill), circa 1437

Papal Bull, Summis Desiderantes, 1484

 Malleus Malleficarum, 1486

Secular medieval tradition in pagan nations had laws against sorcery. Christians did not believe in such superstitions, as evidenced by Agobard of Lyon, Pope Gregory VII, and canon law - that has a description of the errors of "certain wicked women" (quaedam sceleratae mulieres), who deceived by Satan believe themselves to join the train of the pagan goddess Diana. The text emphasizes that the heretic belief is to hold that these transformations occur in the body, while they are in reality dream visions inspired in the mind.
Then things changed (in some way thanks to St Thomas Aquinas) and evil sorcery and witchcraft became connected with Satan - and with heretical beliefs. It was now claimed that the women were not deceived by, but actually had powers from and were in cahoots with the devil.
In 1320 Pope John XXII authorized the inquisition to persecute witchcraft as a type of heresy. ..."the first real witch trial in Europe," the accusation of Alice Kyteler in 1324, occurred in 14th century Ireland, during the turmoils associated with the decline of Norman control. Trials moved from secular to theological courts. 1450-1750 or so, between 40.000 - 60.000 people (mostly women) were put to death.
The Witchcraft Act of 1735 (9 Geo. 2 c. 5) marked a complete reversal in attitudes. Penalties for the practice of witchcraft as traditionally constituted, which by that time was considered by many influential figures to be an impossible crime, were replaced by penalties for the pretense of witchcraft. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Lots of different ways of looking at this - consider who was tried and killed and realize women were in the majority, - consider what reasons the accusers had to be angry with the accused and realize they were people on the margins and sometimes people with land disputes, - consider a local or national development and see that in Salem they had lost the charter and had no safe administration, no good rules for how to be, - consider a society scarred by the Black Death and continuing plagues that killed people and animals at will, - consider the religious tensions that became the Reformation and the Wars of Religion and see the need to determine and vilify heretical beliefs, - consider changing gender roles and a new need to restrain female power and determine epistemological hierarchy (who can know),- consider the Ice Age that made the very nature around people unreliable and punishing.


Barstow, Anne Llewellyn  Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts. San Francisco: Pandora, 2004.
Behringer, Wolfgang. Witches and Witch-hunts: a Global History. Wiley-Blackwell, 2004.
Hinson, "Historical and Theological Perspectives on Satan", Review & Expositor (89.4.475), (Fall 1992).
Hutton, Ronald.  The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles (1991)
..... The Triumph of the Moon (1999)
Levack, Brian. The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (2nd ed, 1995)
Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic, 1973.
Waite, Gary. Heresy, Magic, and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe.


A Convergence of Psychological and Sociological Explanations of Witchcraft
by Dennison Nash _ Current Anthropology, Vol. 14:5, December 1973 (545-

1. Evans Pritchard (1937) said WC arises out of or expresses social conflict
2. Kluckhohn (1944) argues some psychological conflict resulting from oppressive social conditions

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe by Stuart Clark
Review by: Steve Hindle The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 211-212
What Clark offers is in fact a history of 'witch-hating' (p. ix). Rejecting the
ethnographic tradition that witch beliefs were an exotic and marginal aberration,
he sets out to demonstrate that demonism was coherent and, in its own terms,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Peter Binsfeld's 1592, Tractatus de confessionibus maleficorum et sagarum

No comments: