HIST110 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Satanism, Early Modern Europe, Ergotism

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29 Mar 2018
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Witches: And that Early Modern Vibe
Theories about why it happened:
- A war against ancient, pre-Christian religion
- War of men against women
- Campaign of state and church to establish authority
- Campaign of urban, literate culture against rural, oral culture
- Movement of general religious intolerance provoked by the reformations
- Ergotism: toxins in grain
- Age of anxiety from social change and upheaval
Witches
- 110,00 prosecutions, many more accusations
- 60,000 executions
- 75% were women
- most women were unmarried, significant because in order to defend oneself at the time,
women had to have a man to speak for them in court
Women Witches
- most women were over 50
o were they senile?
o Were they eccentric?
o Anti-social?
o Seen as sexually voracious
- Most were from the lower classes
o Most vulnerable
o Most likely to sell magical cures or resort to sorcery
o Feelings of resentment and guilt from community members
Witches
- Why women?
o Weak women: ancient belief that women are morally weaker than men and this
more likely to succumb to diabolical temptation
o Wise women: healers who used charms and magical formulae, herbs ointments
o Just women: cooks, healers, midwives
But why were these women accepted before and then suddenly not?
*Witch Hunts
- Grassroots: everything is local
- Institutional environment:
o More likely when church was weakened by challenges and revolts
o More likely when state authority
Witchcraft was… (definitions)
- The straight forward one: the manipulation of supernatural forces to do harm, for profit or
for vengeance, to another person
So, lots of people probably did this for a long time in Europe
- maleficia: harmful deeds, piercing a doll in someone’s image, inflicting sickness through
a spell, bringing down hail on crops, causing impotence by tying knots in a piece of
string: Magical
- diabolism: made a pact with the devil and paid homage to him
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Document Summary

Campaign of state and church to establish authority. Campaign of urban, literate culture against rural, oral culture. Movement of general religious intolerance provoked by the reformations. Age of anxiety from social change and upheaval. Most women were unmarried, significant because in order to defend oneself at the time, women had to have a man to speak for them in court. Most women were over 50: were they senile, were they eccentric, anti-social, seen as sexually voracious. Most were from the lower classes: most vulnerable, most likely to sell magical cures or resort to sorcery, feelings of resentment and guilt from community members. Institutional environment: more likely when church was weakened by challenges and revolts, more likely when state authority. The straight forward one: the manipulation of supernatural forces to do harm, for profit or for vengeance, to another person. So, lots of people probably did this for a long time in europe.

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