Open Access (free)
Popular magic in modern Europe

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.

Rothenburg, 1561–1652
Author: Alison Rowlands

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.

Owen Davies

The continued widespread belief in witchcraft and magic in nineteenth- and twentieth-century France has received considerable academic attention. Yet little of the relevant work has been published in English and, moreover, no thematic historical survey has yet been attempted to trace the continued social significance of witchcraft over the two centuries. As well as discussing the extent and nature of

in Witchcraft Continued
Sabina Magliocco

berbos for things: to make birds leave a newly-sown field, or to make dogs go away,’ he explains. ‘How about keeping eagles away from the lambs?’ I ask, thinking of spells I have read in folklorists’ collections. ‘For that you need a gun,’ he says, deadpan. While the last formal accusations of witchcraft in Italy took place around 1750, and by the early nineteenth century Enlightenment discourses had relegated supernatural

in Witchcraft Continued
Author: Eric Pudney

This book situates witchcraft drama within its cultural and intellectual context, highlighting the centrality of scepticism and belief in witchcraft to the genre. It is argued that these categories are most fruitfully understood not as static and mutually exclusive positions within the debate around witchcraft, but as rhetorical tools used within it. In drama, too, scepticism and belief are vital issues. The psychology of the witch character is characterised by a combination of impious scepticism towards God and credulous belief in the tricks of the witch’s master, the devil. Plays which present plausible depictions of witches typically use scepticism as a support: the witch’s power is subject to important limitations which make it easier to believe. Plays that take witchcraft less seriously present witches with unrestrained power, an excess of belief which ultimately induces scepticism. But scepticism towards witchcraft can become a veneer of rationality concealing other beliefs that pass without sceptical examination. The theatrical representation of witchcraft powerfully demonstrates its uncertain status as a historical and intellectual phenomenon; belief and scepticism in witchcraft drama are always found together, in creative tension with one another.

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.

Stephen Mitchell

history as a means of unravelling such mysteries as the European witch-hunts has been – and was already being in the early 1970s – made by a number of scholars, and usually, although not always, brought to this question a measure of subtle and helpful insights. Confidence was high that the lessons derived from fieldwork in living traditions of witchcraft might shed light on the seemingly irretrievable historical situation of early modern Europe

in Witchcraft Continued
Nils Freytag

administrative head of Neustadt district, West Prussia, to a government minister in 1836. 2 It concerned the murder of Christina Ceinowa, a mother of six, who had long been suspected of witchcraft by her neighbours. The widow had been drowned in the waters off the Prussian Baltic peninsula of Hela on 4 August 1836. She had received terrible mistreatment at the hands of eight fishermen from the small village of Ceinowo, led by the so

in Witchcraft Continued
Eric Pudney

6 Witchcraft in the Restoration By comparison with the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods, there were very few prosecutions and executions for witchcraft during the Restoration. But despite the decline in formal indictments and convictions, lively debate about witchcraft began again during the civil war and continued, and if anything intensified, during the Restoration. Witchcraft belief, at least at the level of educated debate, had become divorced from the issue of witchcraft persecution.1 Belief in the existence of witches as agents of the devil had

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681
Eric Pudney

2 Witchcraft in Elizabethan drama Witchcraft is more frequently associated with the Jacobean theatre than the Elizabethan, despite the fact that, outside the theatre, witchcraft persecution in England seems to have peaked in the 1580s and 1590s. This focus on the later period is partly a matter of modern perceptions and the canonical status of Macbeth, whose witches have overshadowed those in earlier plays in many critical discussions. However, it is also the case that witchcraft in Elizabethan drama is curiously absent, even in those plays in which it is

in Scepticism and belief in English witchcraft drama, 1538–1681