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The Devil’s pact

A male strategy

Soili-Maria Olli

6 Beyond the witch trials The Devil’s pact The Devil’s pact: a male strategy Soili-Maria Olli 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 not only a major preoccupation of the educated classes, but also seems to have considerably exercised the minds of the wider population, illiterate as well as literate. It is apparent, however, that different groups in society held different views as to the nature and consequences of dealing with the Devil

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Beyond the witch trials

Witchcraft and magic in Enlightenment Europe

Edited by: Owen Davies and Willem de Blécourt

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.

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The devil’s power to delude

Elite beliefs about witchcraft and magic

Series:

Alison Rowlands

the causing of harm by magical means; the making of pacts with the devil; and the flight to and attendance at witches’ dances, or sabbats. Broadly speaking, Rothenburg’s councillors and their advisers thought that witches really could cause harm by magical means and make pacts with the devil, although they were far less sure about whether sabbats existed in reality or were imaginary delusions. Of most importance to their handling and resolution of witchcraft cases, however, were their doubts about how effectively specific individuals could be proven guilty of any of

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Hans Peter Broedel

heresy and to magic, and the related but broader question of why heretics were conflated with magicians, malefici, and night-travelers in the first place. TMM6 8/30/03 5:37 PM Page 123 WITCHCRAFT: THE FORMATION OF BELIEF 2 123 Part of the solution to this problem is related to the idea of the demonic pact. Magic, from a very early point in Christian history, was closely related to idolatry: magicians received their powers in return for their worship of pagan idols, who were, of course, really devils. So Pharaoh’s magicians were able to work their wonders. With

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Hans Peter Broedel

course, entirely original. Both Augustine and Thomas Aquinas accepted that the demonic component of magic was concealed, since the whole point was to trick people into sin. But in the Malleus this traditional perspective no longer makes sense: witches knew full well that their magic came from the devil, or else they were not really witches; instead, the devil seemed to act mechanically because either the pact or his own nature forced him to accept that role. Furthermore, magic was no longer simply a supplementary diabolic project; in the Malleus it has become the

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Eric Pudney

absent for the entirety of the first act, which concerns itself with what – despite the play’s title – must be regarded as the main plot, the story of Frank Thorney and his bigamous marriage. A great deal of the first scene of the second act is devoted to Sawyer’s exchange with Old Banks, to her soliloquising and to the pact she makes with the devil-dog; but in the next scene she has disappeared again, not to return until the fourth act. Sawyer is a major presence in just three scenes – ii.1, iv.1, and v.1 – and aside from a few lines before her execution in the final

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Hans Peter Broedel

, witchcraft is specifically predicated upon this combination of an overtly expressed pact with the devil, the active participation of the witch in acts of maleficium and consequent actual, physical, harm. All else definitionally is not witchcraft and does not fall within the purview of the authors’ investigation. The pact is crucial, for it articulates the relationship between the witch and Satan through which witchcraft must arise; through her pact, the witch has offered herself completely and has bound herself to the devil really and in truth and not fantastically and in

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Hans Peter Broedel

their pacts with witches and subordination to God. Through this argument, Institoris and Sprenger aligned the causes and agencies of misfortune to give the widest possible scope to witchcraft. Unfortunately, however well this model may have reflected contemporary fifteenthcentury conditions, it fits the traditional pattern of Christian beliefs quite poorly. For example, the inquisitors’ argument becomes quite seriously muddled when they attempt to explain the trials of Job. The problem is that Job’s afflictions were carried out by the devil in person; they were, then

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Conceptual webs

The gendering of witchcraft

Lara Apps and Andrew Gow

Peters has argued that the classic early modern witch ‘was a distinct type’ that should not be confused with earlier types of magic-user. 4 However, historians of witchcraft and witch-beliefs, including Peters, agree generally that the night-flying witch who made a pact with the Devil and worshipped him in exchange for supernatural powers was a learned, cumulative construct that developed over centuries of Christian

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Series:

Eric Pudney

cannot be said to have caused this harm by wishing it to happen. All the elements of witchcraft are still present – hateful witches, the devil, supernaturally inflicted harm – but the causal link between witch and harm has been broken, and the pact between witch and devil is absent. Furthermore, while the punishment of these witches, for their ‘envie 9 Gibson suggests that the decline in interest in witchcraft stemmed from the publication of more controversial possession pamphlets: see Reading Witchcraft, pp. 186–87. 10 James Hart, Klinike, or the Diet of the