Beyond the witch trials
Public infidelity and private belief?
Public infidelity and private belief ?
The discourse of spirits in Enlightenment Bristol
Recent work on the history of witchcraft and magic has identified three
themes or approaches as of particular importance in our understanding of a
subject which, although it has been centre stage since the publication of
Religion and the Decline of Magic in 1971, has continued to trouble historians.
The first problem, acknowledged as ‘the most baffling aspect of this difficult
subject’ by Thomas
the formation of belief
– part one
Ambrosius de Vignate was a well-respected magistrate and legal scholar, a
doctor of both canon and civil law, who lectured at Padua, Bologna, and Turin
between 1452 and 1468. On several occasions he participated in the trials of
accused witches: he tells us that he had heard men and women alike confess
– both freely and under torture – that they belonged to the sect of witches
(“secta mascorum seu maleficorum”) and that they, and others whom they
implicated, had done all sorts of
the formation of belief
– part two
In the previous chapter we examined how motifs drawn from traditional beliefs
about spectral night-traveling women informed the construction of learned
witch categories in the late Middle Ages. Although the precise manner in which
these motifs were utilized differed between authorities, two general mental
habits set off fifteenth-century witch-theorists from earlier writers. First, they
elided the distinctions between previously discrete sets of beliefs to create a
This book explores the life, thought and political commitments of the free-thinker John Toland (1670–1722). Studying both his private archive and published works, it illustrates how he moved in both subversive and elite political circles in England and abroad. The book explores the connections between Toland's republican political thought and his irreligious belief about Christian doctrine, the ecclesiastical establishment and divine revelation, arguing that far from being a marginal and insignificant figure, he counted queens, princes and government ministers as his friends and political associates. In particular, Toland's intimate relationship with the Electress Sophia of Hanover saw him act as a court philosopher, but also as a powerful publicist for the Hanoverian succession. The book argues that he shaped the republican tradition after the Glorious Revolution into a practical and politically viable programme, focused not on destroying the monarchy but on reforming public religion and the Church of England. It also examines how Toland used his social intimacy with a wide circle of men and women (ranging from Prince Eugene of Savoy to Robert Harley) to distribute his ideas in private. The book explores the connections between his erudition and print culture, arguing that his intellectual project was aimed at compromising the authority of Christian ‘knowledge’ as much as the political power of the Church. Overall, it illustrates how Toland's ideas and influence impacted upon English political life between the 1690s and the 1720s.
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.
The study of witchcraft accusations in Europe during the period after the end of the witch trials is still in its infancy. Witches were scratched in England, swum in Germany, beaten in the Netherlands and shot in France. The continued widespread belief in witchcraft and magic in nineteenth- and twentieth-century France has received considerable academic attention. The book discusses the extent and nature of witchcraft accusations in the period and provides a general survey of the published work on the subject for an English audience. It explores the presence of magical elements in everyday life during the modern period in Spain. The book provides a general overview of vernacular magical beliefs and practices in Italy from the time of unification to the present, with particular attention to how these traditions have been studied. By functioning as mechanisms of social ethos and control, narratives of magical harm were assured a place at the very heart of rural Finnish social dynamics into the twentieth century. The book draws upon over 300 narratives recorded in rural Finland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that provide information concerning the social relations, tensions and strategies that framed sorcery and the counter-magic employed against it. It is concerned with a special form of witchcraft that is practised only amongst Hungarians living in Transylvania.
Given the widespread belief in witchcraft and the existence of laws against such practices, why did witch-trials fail to gain momentum and escalate into ‘witch-crazes’ in certain parts of early modern Europe? This book answers this question by examining the rich legal records of the German city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a city that experienced a very restrained pattern of witch-trials and just one execution for witchcraft between 1561 and 1652. The book explores the factors that explain the absence of a ‘witch-craze’ in Rothenburg, placing particular emphasis on the interaction of elite and popular priorities in the pursuit (and non-pursuit) of alleged witches at law. By making the witchcraft narratives told by the peasants and townspeople of Rothenburg central to its analysis, the book also explores the social and psychological conflicts that lay behind the making of accusations and confessions of witchcraft. Furthermore, it challenges the existing explanations for the gender-bias of witch-trials, and also offers insights into other areas of early modern life, such as experiences of and beliefs about communal conflict, magic, motherhood, childhood and illness. Written in a narrative style, the study invites a wide readership to share in the drama of early modern witch trials.
‘superstition’ among the educated elite and the clergy, vernacular religion
and folk belief were far from dead in Italy. Legend complexes about witches
and related beings flourished well into the twentieth century, and folk
healers continue to practise their craft in both urban and rural areas. In
this chapter, I will give a general overview of vernacular magical beliefs
and practices in Italy from the time of
The Most Esteemed Royal Government
may commonly find these beliefs in witches and ghosts, in the devil
and his supposed manifestations everywhere among the educated and
the uneducated, in the province of Prussia and in all others of this
state and all states. Even in most recent times, witch-hunts have
occurred in the
Chamberlain’s contemplated shutting down of the BBC,
were gradually replaced by a more sophisticated understanding of
the nature of the relationship between what people were told and
how they felt and behaved. The Head of the Home Intelligence
Division at the Ministry of Information, Stephen Taylor, believed
that the factors determining morale could be divided into the ‘material’ and the ‘mental’. The material factors were: food, warmth,
work, leisure, rest and sleep, a secure base, and safety and security for dependants. The mental factors were: belief that victory