Search results

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.

As the previous chapter showed, the prevailing view in witchcraft studies is that male witches were rare exceptions to the rule and are less important and interesting, as historical subjects, than female witches. There is a kind of conventional historiographical wisdom about male witches, which may be summarised as follows: male witches were a) accused in small numbers; b) accused primarily because

in Male witches in early modern Europe
Open Access (free)
A late eighteenth-century Dutch witch doctor and his clients

history of witchcraft studies. The self-educated Dutch folklorist, Tiesing, writing in 1913, tackled the problem openly: ‘people did not consider as superstition everything they do now, because they were firmly convinced of things and events . . . and that which is considered as conclusive, is no superstition for those who believe it’. This practical and relativising remark did not take root. The civilising offensive, in which Tiesing participated himself, overgrew it. ‘Who in witches and ghosts believes, is of his mind bereaved,’ a schoolteacher rhymed in 1949, and his

in Beyond the witch trials
Theology and popular belief

The Malleus Maleficarum is one of the best-known treatises dealing with the problem of what to do with witches. Written in 1487 by a Dominican inquisitor, Heinrich Institoris, following his failure to prosecute a number of women for witchcraft, it is in many ways a highly personal document, full of frustration at official complacency in the face of a spiritual threat, as well as being a practical guide for law-officers who have to deal with a cunning, dangerous enemy. Combining theological discussion, illustrative anecdotes and useful advice for those involved in suppressing witchcraft, the treatise's influence on witchcraft studies has been extensive. The only previous translation into English, that by Montague Summers in 1928, is full of inaccuracies. It is written in a style almost unreadable nowadays, and is unfortunately coloured by Institoris's personal agenda. This new edited translation, with an introductory essay setting witchcraft, Institoris and the Malleus into clear English, corrects Summers' mistakes and offers an unvarnished version of what Institoris actually wrote. It will undoubtedly become the standard translation of this controversial late medieval text.

Open Access (free)
witchcraft continued

witchcraft in the modern era is as much a story of continuation as of decline. The nineteenth century stands out as the great unknown in witchcraft studies, although this differs from country to country. Flanked on one side by the eighteenth century, during which the pyres still flared occasionally in countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Hungary, and the Mediterranean Inquisitions were still active, and on the other by the

in Witchcraft Continued
Open Access (free)

burning human beings (note the similarity).When we refer to religious and ideological knowledge as belief,we are not only distancing ourselves from the content (a natural enough desire in this case),we are introducing an alien distinction between what appear to us to be different elements of early modern Europeans’ world view. The language of belief in witchcraft studies betrays an anachronistic,modernist and dismissive approach

in Male witches in early modern Europe
Open Access (free)
The historian and the male witch

acculturation of the masses by the elite; 3 state-building; 4 and mass psychosis. 5 One of the most contentious sets of interpretations concerns the relationship between witch-hunting and gender. Of the thousands of people tried and executed for the crime of witchcraft, 75 to 80 per cent were women. This distinctive feature of early modern witch-hunting aroused little scholarly comment until witchcraft studies entered their ‘golden age’ during the last

in Male witches in early modern Europe
Open Access (free)
Agency and selfhood at stake

uncomfortable position of benefiting – intellectually and professionally – from the ordeals of others. This is not to suggest that we should stop studying witchcraft, any more than we should stop studying the history of warfare, science, or any other subject. Our research, however, needs to be accompanied by serious reflection on the ethics of representing others. Such reflection, we submit, is lacking in witchcraft studies, with

in Male witches in early modern Europe

observation. The moment has come for a survey of the subject’: Douglas (ed.), Witchcraft Confessions and Accusations (London, 1970), p. xiii. 8 This paradigm shift is neatly dated by Wolfgang Behringer to the change in 1974 in the Encyclopaedia Britannica : Behringer, ‘Witchcraft Studies in Austria, Germany and Switzerland’, in Jonathan

in Witchcraft Continued
Gender and contemporary fantasies of witchcraft

conflicts and for many different reasons is also emphasised by Gaskill in ‘Witchcraft in early modern Kent’; by Briggs in Witches and Neighbours; by Behringer in ‘Witchcraft studies in Austria, Germany and Switzerland’; by Rummel in ‘Vom Umgang mit Hexen und Hexerei’; and by Dillinger in ‘Böse Leute’. This work challenges older approaches to the study of witchcraft which suggested that the background to witchcraft accusations could be explained by just one dominant model of social conflict. The main proponents of the latter theory are Thomas in Religion and the Decline of

in Witchcraft narratives in Germany