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Slander and speech about witchcraft

also rendered more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of a legal system in which possession of ill-fame was recognised at both elite and popular levels as an important indicator of possible guilt of a crime.23 It was therefore with some justification that contemporaries likened honour to a precious jewel, worth more than gold or silver, or expressed the wish that they would rather lose vast sums of money than suffer it to be damaged.24 In addition to being precious, however, an individual’s honour was precarious and in constant need of defence and affirmation. It

in Witchcraft narratives in Germany

included practices the Protestants had for decades condemned as idolatrous. It was equally repugnant to conservative Catholic theologians, such as Cochlaeus, who rejected on principle any form of conciliation with critics of Roman ecclesiastical authority. The disputes that followed tested Melanchthon severely. His opposition to the conciliation effort remained strong.17 Indeed, his convictions may have been strengthened in the wake of the defeat of Protestant forces. The Reformation was at its most vulnerable, and Melanchthon recognized that wavering could spell the end

in Luther’s lives
Open Access (free)
Contested categories

the text’s publication, the learned definition of witchcraft had stabilized, and a category of witchcraft that closely resembled that in the Malleus was widely accepted. In large part, I would suggest that this growing consensus was due to the accord between the witch of the Malleus and perceived reality. In all probability, to most learned observers, “witches” and “witchcraft” in the world about them would look more like those described in the Malleus than those in similar texts. Nor was the conception of witchcraft in the Malleus as vulnerable to criticism as were

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft
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The historian and the male witch

occupational groups – shepherds, blacksmiths and clerics – were particularly vulnerable to witchcraft accusations. 31 Monter’s study of Normandy is exciting because it offers concrete evidence that early modern beliefs about witches were not necessarily sex-specific. For example, both men and women were searched for Devil’s marks, with men ‘as likely as women to display such anaesthetic spots.’ However, Monter suggests that ‘it was

in Male witches in early modern Europe
Gender and contemporary fantasies of witchcraft

was deaf and GENDER AND CONTEMPORARY FANTASIES OF WITCHCRAFT 137 hardly knew what she was doing at times as a result.11 One of their servants, two of their neighbours, and Dürr himself confirmed that he beat Magdalena frequently, but this was doubtless insufficient to stop damaging inferences from being drawn from Magdalena’s absence from her child’s funeral: that she cared little for it and had therefore perhaps been responsible for its death.12 Magdalena’s vulnerability to the negative rumours which occasioned her arrest probably also sprang from her social

in Witchcraft narratives in Germany
Open Access (free)
Agency and selfhood at stake

intense fear and vulnerability, and explained that they confessed simply in order to stop the torture. A set of accounts by Burmese prisoners contains repeated stories of attempts to resist interrogation that falter or fail due to fear, confusion, and mental and physical exhaustion: ‘When my physical situation deteriorated and I was unable to delay my interrogators

in Male witches in early modern Europe

markedly strong tradition of administrative episcopalism existed within the French church is evident from the recommendations of the Colloquy held in Poissy in September 1561, ostensibly with the purpose of reaching some reconciliation between the Huguenot and Catholic factions in France. Rather misleadingly labelled a ‘colloquy’, however, it could never really achieve any hope of accommodation given that Catholic clergy dominated the meeting and deigned to hear Huguenot discourses only after considerable pressure from an increasingly uneasy and vulnerable crown.27 But

in Fathers, pastors and kings
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temporal encroachment, they had to concern themselves with two distinct areas of vulnerability: their own prerogatives and those of the church as a whole. Of course, for the episcopate, one could never truly separate the two, for attempts to limit its power ultimately damaged the entire church. It was its duty to defend the church from secular intrusions which would dishonour its roles of leadership and protection and leave bishops as the simple lackeys of the state. Although the bishops generally concentrated exclusively on their jurisdictional rights in their quarrels

in Fathers, pastors and kings

less easily dissuaded from them.19 Jean Gerson argued that similar mental weaknesses made “old women, girls and boys, and the slow-witted more prone to observing and believing such superstitions.”20 Nider in his Praeceptorium elaborated upon this theme, and gave what would become the three canonical reasons for women’s inclination to superstitious practices. First, women were simply more credulous than men, and since false and erroneous faith was a principal aim of the devil, he mercilessly exploited this weakness. Second, women were especially vulnerable to

in The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft

body: youth was relatively ‘wet’, while old age was ‘dry’, and bodily fluids such as semen, milk and blood were symbols of the capacity to reproduce and nurture. Those in a condition of ‘wetness’, or fecundity, were particularly vulnerable to the envious looks of strangers because they had what others did not; newborn babies, young livestock, new brides, pregnant women and nursing mothers were thought to be especially susceptible. Conversely, those

in Witchcraft Continued