This book looks at aspects of the continuation of witchcraft and magic in Europe from the last of the secular and ecclesiastical trials during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, through to the nineteenth century. It provides a brief outline of witch trials in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Finland. By the second half of the seventeenth century, as the witch trials reached their climax in Sweden, belief in the interventionist powers of the Devil had become a major preoccupation of the educated classes. Having acknowledged the slight possibility of real possession by the Devil, Benito Feijoo threw himself wholeheartedly into his real objective: to expose the falseness of the majority of the possessed. The book is concerned with accusations of magic, which were formalised as denunciations heard by the Inquisition of the Archdiocese of Capua, a city twelve miles north of Naples, during the first half of the eighteenth century. One aspect of the study of witchcraft and magic, which has not yet been absorbed into the main stream of literature on the subject, is the archaeological record of the subject. As a part of the increasing interest in 'popular' culture, historians have become more conscious of the presence of witchcraft after the witch trials. The aftermath of the major witch trials in Dalarna, Sweden, demonstrates how the authorities began the awkward process of divorcing themselves from popular concerns and beliefs regarding witchcraft.
Witchcraft and the symbolics of hierarchy in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Finland
Raisa Maria Toivo
different meanings can be attached to it. In fact, even the formulations
about fixing a brew and taking hay mentioned in the clergyman’s statements
appear in the section listing the deeds of vidskepelse as directly reported to
him by his parishioners. Although they were reformulated by the clergyman,
the parishioners’ narratives remain clearly visible. This prompts the suggestion that the inversionary nature of witchcraft did not exist only in learned
demonology and elite descriptions of witchcraft and magic, but very clearly
in the reality of ‘popularculture’.39
of amusement. They were cited as nuggets of entertainment in literature
Responses to witchcraft in Sweden
describing Swedish natural history and popularculture and even in official
church records. An attitude of irony and ridicule – sometimes combined with
a distanced scholarly interest – was common. Beliefs and customs were
variously referred to as trifles, lies, fancies, nonsense and fairy-tales.35 They
were collected and studied within a proto-folkloristic tradition, but when such
collections were published it was essential to emphasise how they
during the second half of the seventeenth century: concerted
attempts by the state to extend control and discipline over the mentalities
and activities of the populace, and the consolidation of religious unity according to Lutheran tenets. This is evident from the nature and number of laws
passed at the time, particularly the Religions Stadgan (Statute of Religion) of
1655. One can fit this period of Swedish history within the wider move
towards the reformation of popularculture outlined by Peter Burke.15
Bearing the above developments in mind, it is, perhaps
This debate incorporates broader issues concerning
the definition and division of elite and popularculture,
‘top-down’ dynamics, acculturation, persecution, and
state-building. For an overview see again Briggs, ‘“Many
reasons why”’. See also Norman Cohn, Europe’s Inner
Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom , rev.
edn. (London: Pimlico, 1993
Durbin, Narrative, p. 29.
Durbin, Narrative, p. 32.
Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal, 3 August 1765; Barry, ‘Piety and the Patient’, pp. 165–7.
For excellent guidance on the issues involved, see Clive Holmes, ‘PopularCulture?
Witches, Magistrates and Divines’, in Steven Kaplan (ed.), Understanding PopularCulture (Berlin, New York and Amsterdam, 1984), pp. 85–111. On possible conflicts
between male and female attitudes to the trials see also Clive Holmes, ‘Women,
Witnesses and Witches’, Past and Present 140 (1993) 45–78 and James Sharpe,
‘Women, Witchcraft and the Legal
an inquisitor could
A similar grounding in popularculture was possible through the assimilation of motifs drawn from traditional beliefs about night flying women and
the demonolatrous sect of malefici. An early and interesting example appears
around 1436 in the account of a magistrate in the Dauphiné, Claude Tholasan.
Tholosan had been involved in a series of trials, which began around 1425 and
WITCHCRAFT: THE FORMATION OF BELIEF 2
would continue for almost twenty years, in which authorities made extensive
Feijoo versus the ‘falsely possessed’ in eighteenth-century Spain
, show the same terror, move with the same twists and turns
as she has witnessed in other possessed people. Why? Because her rough
and ready way of conceiving things make her think that being possessed and
Beyond the witch trials
being exorcised she ought to do the same things as the others do in those
The understanding of possession as a language or cultural expression
typical of popularculture would take many years to appear.76 In the middle
of the eighteenth century, Feijoo’s worth did not stem from his scientific
knowledge or his cogent
In the last quarter of the twentieth
century, dozens of books and articles on witches and witchcraft were
published,amounting to a sort of second witch craze. These publications
addressed the topic in general and in specific times and places, witchcraft,
witch-hunting, images of witches, witches in art, literature, popularculture, new religious movements, witches in the past and the present
in Italy (Baltimore and London 1996); Stephen Haliczer, Sexuality in the Confessional. A Sacrament Profaned
(New York and Oxford 1986); David Sabean, Power in the Blood. PopularCulture and Village
Discourse in Early Modern Germany (Cambridge 1984).
8 Jean Delumeau, Sin and Fear. The Emergence of a Western Guilt Culture 13th–18th Centuries,
trans. Eric Nicholson (New York 1990); Gabriel Le Bras, Etudes de sociologie religieuse, 2 vols
(Paris 1955); Gabriel Le Bras, L’Eglise et le village (Paris 1976).
9 Jonathan Dewald, Aristocratic Experience and the Origins of