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.
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.
Conclusion In Rothenburg and its hinterland four factors interacted to ensure that the area experienced a restrained pattern of witch-trials and only three executions for witchcraft throughout the early modern period. The first was a willingness on the part of the councillors and their judicial advisers to treat and punish a significant proportion of the witchcraft allegations with which they were confronted as slanders.1 This happened most often during the second half of the sixteenth and early part of the seventeenth century, but was still possible in later
readings of the exceptionally rich records from the Rothenburg witchtrials to explore the social and psychic tensions that lay behind the making of witchcraft accusations and confessions, the popular and elite reactions to these accusations and confessions, and the ways in which participants in witch-trials pursued strategies, expressed emotions and negotiated conflicts through what they said about witchcraft. These aims are important for various reasons. In 1996, Robin Briggs suggested that what was surprising about the early modern period was not how many people were
1 Beyond the witch trials Marking (dis)order Marking (dis)order: witchcraft and the symbolics of hierarchy in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Finland Raisa Maria Toivo What do witchcraft and witch trials tell us about power and social hierarchy? Witch trials have often enough been explained in terms of social relations and schisms, particularly in local contexts. In a highly competitive world, disagreements resulted from and caused both attacks by suspected witches and accusations made against them. It has often been noted that in Sweden and
9 Beyond the witch trials Counter-witchcraft and popular magic The archaeology of counter-witchcraft and popular magic Brian Hoggard 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. Objects such as witch-bottles, dried cats, horse skulls, shoes, written charms and numerous other items have been discovered concealed inside houses in significant quantities from the early modern period until well into the twentieth century. The locations
witchcraft beliefs after the end of the witch trials is still in its infancy among German historians. Recently, there have been some innovative impulses in researching the persistence or re-emergence of magic in the nineteenth century. Here, so-called superstitious practices and beliefs are placed within their social and cultural context and analysed according to modern patterns of interpretation. 3 However
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.
Beyond the witch trials Introduction Introduction: beyond the witch trials Owen Davies and Willem de Blécourt The so-called Enlightenment of the eighteenth century has often been portrayed as a period in which much of Europe cast off the belief in witchcraft and magic under the influence of new philosophies, and advances in science and medicine. This received wisdom has often led to the academic dismissal of the continued relevance of the belief in witchcraft and magic, not only for the poor and illiterate in society but also for the educated. This book seeks
6 ‘God will punish both poor and rich’: the idioms and risks of defiance in the trial of Margaretha Horn, 1652 While it is possible to attribute the restrained pattern of witch-hunting in early modern Rothenburg to the interaction of the beliefs and the legal and social priorities of both the councillors and their subjects, we must not forget another factor that was vital in ensuring that most of the Rothenburg witch-trials were unlikely either to end in verdicts of guilt or to spiral out of control into chainreaction type ‘witch-panics’. This was the courage of