In 1997, Stuart Clark published the first monograph since the time of Jules Michelet to focus on pre-modern ideas about witches. The language of belief in witchcraft studies betrays an anachronistic, modernist and dismissive approach to a mental universe quite different from our own. This book makes the male witch visible, to construct him as a historical subject, as a first step toward a deeper understanding of the functions and role of gender in pre-modern European witch-hunting and ideas about witches. The overtly political dimension to the study of witches in early modern Europe demands a high level of consciousness and reflexivity regarding language, representation, and meaning. William Monter provides a wealth of data about male witches, in an 'unremarkable province' close to 'the heart of northern and western Europe'. Here, men comprised the majority of those tried and executed for witchcraft. The book examines cases in which men were accused of witchcraft. The examples are drawn from several different regions, in order to test conventional generalisations about male witches. The agency theory posits that actors always have choices; 'agent-centred' morality proposes a novel twist on both traditional Kantian internalist categories. The problems of both male and female witches' agency and selfhood are discussed. The book also presents data compiled from ten canonical works, and a brief discussion of demonological illustrations. Finally, it addresses the question of what it means to label a man as a witch within a framework that explicitly and implicitly feminised witchcraft.
the more simplistic ‘witch-hunting as woman-hunting’
interpretations, but otherwise no one says much about them. Most of what is
written about male witches stems directly from the conclusions drawn by Alan
Macfarlane, Erik Midelfort and WilliamMonter in their early studies of
Essex, southwestern Germany and the French-Swiss border region. 17 These conclusions may be
summarised as follows: a few men were accused of witchcraft, but they were
statements, while others are very large collections of documents which include formal accusations, defence pleadings and sentences. For a survey of the number of trials against Jews in
other areas, see WilliamMonter and John Tedeschi, ‘Towards a Statistical Profile of the Italian
Inquisitions’, in Gustav Henningsen and John Tedeschi in association with Charles Amiel (eds.),
The Inquisition in Early Modern Europe. Studies on Sources and Methods (DeKalb, IL: Northern
Illinois University Press, 1986), p. 136. The Holy Office in Reggio was abolished in 1780.
, Institoris, and Nicolas Eymeric, to name a
few), their incorporation of these elements is not surprising. Inquisitors
would, presumably, have been familiar with these alleged activities of
heretics, and, since witches were Devil-worshippers, it makes sense that
they would believe them to engage in similar practices.
The important thing about the similarity between witches and
heretics is that, as WilliamMonter has pointed out
disordering forces could be understood; it created a conceptual field
in which anxieties about social order and material well-being could be
arranged, understood, and, at least potentially resolved.
1 “Cur in sexu tamen fragili mulierum maior multitudo maleficarum reperitur quam inter
viros, et quidem in contrarium in argumenta deducere non expedit.” Malleus, pt. 1, qu.
6, p. 40.
2 See Robin Briggs, “Men against Women:The Gendering of Witchcraft,” ch. 7 of Witches
and Neighbors; E. WilliamMonter, “The Pedestal and the Stake: Courtly Love and the
Witchcraze,” in R