Witchcraft in Europe and the New World, 1400-1800

Witchcraft in Europe and the New World, 1400-1800

P. G. Maxwell-Stuart

Language: English

Pages: 128

ISBN: 033376465X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This book illuminates the way in which people in the early modern era framed their ideas about the Creator and the created universe in terms of magic. This perspective informed and molded theology, philosophy, the law, medicine, and the sciences, as well as offered practical help with the problems of everyday life. The study of witchcraft (as a particular manifestation of this mental world), helps to illustrate many of the key concepts which governed both defenders and, later, opponents of the magical Zeitgeist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tradition – the witch as crone or hag. From this, artistic and literary expectation preferred to draw a picture of ugliness and stupidity such as that which we can see in a set of drawings by Hieronymus Bosch, or of malice and lust for illegitimate power, such as the description of Erictho by the Roman poet Lucan, one of the most popular Latin writers in the Mediaeval educational canon. The face of the sacrilegious woman is in the grip of a repulsive, wasting thinness. It never sees the bright,

that they were the inevitable consequence of them’ [15, 97; 14]; and indeed Scotland provides an example of a region in which there does not seem to have been any correlation between natural disasters and the prosecution of witches [73, 204–5]. Witchcraft was not the monolithic system suggested by official witchcraft theory. Indeed, when one looks even at a cross-section of the thousands of indictments brought against alleged witches, it rapidly becomes clear that a very large number of

can avoid using torture only if one has witnesses who are able to prove the charges laid against the accused, and such witnesses are actually never available because witches perform their evil deeds under cover of darkness, and what individual who takes his or her religion seriously would ever be present at a gathering of witches? Respectable (and therefore trustworthy) people are in their beds during the hours of night. Thus, ‘because of the peculiar difficulty of obtaining proof with respect to

areas of an economic, social and cultural evolution which came to the West perhaps a century earlier; and he also points to the relaxation of intolerable tensions caused by wars or uprisings, which enabled people to consider the outcome of the violence they had undergone, and look for possible causes of their recent suffering [68, 224]. In Sweden, for example, imperial expansion in the seventeenth century led to the growth of a new bourgeoisie in her provincial towns, and these tended to regard

Mela, Solinus, Isidore of Seville, Vincent de Beauvais, to name but a few, not to mention Peter Martyr and later the illustrator Théodore de Bry – whose works encouraged Europeans to expect the unusual and the fantastic rather than the norm in remote parts of the world [20]. How, then, did the European conquerors, priests and traders cope with venturing into such strange and potentially perilous places? Essentially they had two ways in which they could assimilate and explain to themselves what

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