popular opinion in favour of more severe action against witches was never so
widespread nor so vehemently articulated – even during years of hardship –
that the council felt obliged to accede to it.12
The Rothenburg evidence thus suggests that those areas most likely to be
characterised by a restrained pattern of witch-trials in early modern Germany
were those in which a significant majority of the rulingelites came to realise
that the social, economic and political stability of their territories was likely to
be damaged rather than strengthened
will make a significant addition to this small but
important corpus, thereby adding weight to Briggs’ idea that areas which did
not experience large-scale witch-hunts may well have been the early modern
norm rather than the exception. In the chapters that follow I will demonstrate
that complex and mutually reinforcing sets of beliefs and social, political and
religious priorities held not only by the rulingelites but also by the lower
orders of Rothenburg and its rural hinterland interacted to keep enthusiasm for
prosecuting witches at a low ebb at all social levels
challenge of extremist Jewish elements has gradually decreased. The credit for this turn of policy goes to the increasing commitment to democratic values of rulingelites and their fear of forfeiting public legitimacy by responding with too heavy a hand to the representatives of one of the groups constituting the polarised Israeli society. However, this novel approach will founder unless there is significant change in the empowerment of the democratic underpinnings of Israeli society. The various chapters of this book present evidence of the significant incongruity that
Attitudes towards subversive movements and violent organisations
State’s relatively liberal response to the most sophisticated and brutal Jewish terrorist organisation the country has known was a result of exactly the same circumstances which led it to react to marginal and minimally threatening movements with much more severity and ironfisted measures.
The rulingelite and the designers of Israeli defence policy opted not to respond to the Jewish Underground on account of the threat it posed or the severity of its actions, but rather on the basis of the political and public clout to which it had access. The
Germany that they managed to overturn this stipulation and make released
witch-suspects pay their own costs, see Rummel, Bauern, Herren und Hexen, pp. 32–35.
100 RStA Interrogation Book A906 (unpaginated), 25 August 1668.
101 RStA Interrogation Book A875 fols 192r–98v.
102 RStA Steinach Village Acts A739 fols 449r–450r, 463r–463v, 464r–465v.
103 See p. 128.
104 Rulingelites elsewhere also sent out this deterrent message to their subjects. In Munich in
1608, for example, the authorities issued an ordinance threatening those who denounced
others as witches with
Witchcraft and the symbolics of hierarchy in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Finland
Raisa Maria Toivo
of the ruling group. But
equally, it might serve as a vehicle for criticism and complaint, thus providing
a valuable opportunity for malcontents to vent their dissatisfaction with, and
opposition to, the rulingélite.33
Beyond the witch trials
As Stuart Clark puts it, ‘witchcraft was constituted by an act of revolt’, and
represented the opposite of perfect government.34 In some European laws,
including the Swedish Rural Law of 1442, witchcraft appeared among the
statutes against treason (högmålabalken).35
Vidskepelse was considered as inversionary as