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Witchcraft and magic in Enlightenment Europe

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.

present a rather static impression of popular belief over the century. 1 As well as these book-length studies, there are several articles by French historians that have made use of the criminal records of the period. Marie-Claude Denier has examined several late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century trials concerning unbewitching in Mayenne, a département in north-western France. Jean-Claude Sebban has analysed twenty-three trials involving

in Witchcraft Continued

popularbelief or religion. But as Leonard Primiano notes, these terminologies presuppose the existence of a hierarchical, dualistic system in which ‘official’ religion or belief, sanctioned and adopted by the hegemony, has primacy over ‘folk’, ‘popular’ and ‘unofficial’ systems, which are then viewed as inferior or illegitimate. 1 According to Primiano, the assumption that such practices exist separate from hegemonic practices is inaccurate, since

in Witchcraft Continued
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A male strategy

. Both the Lutheran Church and the secular authorities held up Satan as the fount of all evil and used the figure and fear of Satan as a means of disciplining and controlling the populace. To have any sort of dealings with him was to commit not only the gravest of personal sins but to be complicit in his master-plan to undermine Christian society.1 Yet, as nineteenth-century folklore collectors found, the Devil was not always considered a scary, dangerous figure. He held an ambivalent position in popular beliefs, and was even thought of by some as a reliable friend and

in Beyond the witch trials

archival material complements a wide range of sources aiding us in researching attitudes regarding the belief in witchcraft during the nineteenth century. As well as examining the archival material kept by the state administration and official church records, in which administrators and clergy stated their opinions, it is also helpful to consider the opinions of physicians and journalists regarding popular beliefs. After all, it

in Witchcraft Continued
medical pluralism and the search for hegemony

period. 21 For the historian the problem posed by these sources lies in the preoccupation of medical authors to locate the world of ‘popular beliefs’ in the context of the ‘irrational’ supernatural, thereby ignoring other aspects of popular medicine considered less ‘superstitious’ that were also part of the cultural repertoires about illness. 22 An examination of the sources discussed above certainly

in Witchcraft Continued
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their relationship with the devil. Elite belief in the witches’ dance, or sabbat, as a gathering of witches overseen by the devil was easily incorporated into extant popular beliefs about night-flying women and was first formally encountered in Rothenburg in a story of witchcraft told by sixyear-old Hans Gackstatt in 1587.29 The idea that witchcraft was a form of heresy, involving the giving of one’s soul to the devil, influenced popular belief more slowly and patchily, however, emerging in attenuated form for the first time in a story of witchcraft told by thirteen

in Witchcraft narratives in Germany
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scepticism towards the phenomenon. The folklorist Katherine Briggs’s ground-breaking study, Pale Hecate’s Team (1962), frequently draws inferences about popular belief, using dramatic literature partly as evidence of it. Briggs’s very wide scope and range of interests limits the depth of her study somewhat, although the extensive reading behind it makes it very useful. In a fairly similar vein is Anthony Harris’s Night’s Black Agents (1980), Introduction 7 although his book is focused specifically on drama. Harris discusses many of the plays he covers in terms of their

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681
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Beyond the witch trials

Yearbook of Folklore 44 (1988) 103–53; Henningsen, ‘Witchcraft in Denmark’, Folklore 93 (1982) 131–7. 12 Owen Davies, ‘Newspapers and the Popular Belief in Witchcraft and Magic in the Modern Period’, Journal of British Studies 37 (1998) 139–66.

in Beyond the witch trials
Shérazade and other women in the work of Leïla Sebbar

gaze is compounded by the complication that the other is not simply the absolute negation or enemy, but can be also, and often at the same time, the object of desire. Furthermore, there are problematics deriving from the Maghrebian cultural context, which also come into play. These relate to the gaze as it specifically affects women Subversion of the gaze in Sebbar’s fiction  and popular beliefs attached to the evil eye and measures to avert it, for instance, the use of Fatima’s hand and other types of amulet.4 It also relates to the role of the visual in Islam

in Women’s writing in contemporary France