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Demonology Notes

History Notes > Optional 8: Witch-craft and Witch-hunting in early modern Europe Notes

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1. Why were demonologists writing?
- All motivated by similar worries.
- Political:"Witchcraft was inextricably mixed with politics" (Montague Summers).E.g. 1419 - HV prosecuted stepmother Joan of Navarre for trying to kill him by WC.E.g. James I.E.g. Bodin claimed that there was a network of powerful, wealthy and organised witches in France, at war with the state.Was a key feature of worldview at time:"An ever-present, fearfully ominous menace" (Summers).Period saw "explosion in the idea of evil, and especially of the devil" (Jonathan Pearl).Mirrored by a "folkloric peasant outlook" (Pearl).
- James VI talks of "the feareful abounding at this time in the countrie".Worries about health abounded.E.g. Venice stat.
- Heightened by Black Death, 1347-49 (>1/3 Eu dead).
- Reformation:
- "The splintering of Christendom into many rival camps could only increase the feelings of chaos" (Pearl).
- "The enormous extension of interest in the demonic...
marked the theology... of the 2 Refs" (Stuart Clark).

2. Background to the 'Malleus':
- MM ('The Witch Hammer') = highly significant."A kind of classic in the genre" (Hans Peter Broedel)."The most prominent, the most important, the most authoritative volume" (Montague Summers)."Founded modern demonology and outsold every other book except the Bible" (Armando Maggi).Written by Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, 1486, following Pope Innocent VIII's papal Bull, 'Summis desiderantes affectibus', 9 Dec 1484.14 eds 1487-1520, 16 1547-1669.


"Created a certain uniformity of discourse" (Broedel).Pre-C15th: no one term 'witch'.

3. How did the views of later writers differ from those in the 'Malleus'?
E.g.s of later writers:Bodin's 'Demonomanie' (pub'd 1580, 23 eds, trans ? German, Italian, Latin).De Lancre's 'Tableau' (by Pierre de Rosteguy, Sieur de Lancre, after being appointed head of investigation c'ttee in Labourd region, 1609).James VI/I's 'Daemonologie" (pub'd after target of witchcraft ploy 1590-1).
- "Later writers... have done little more than draw from the seemingly inexhaustible well of wisdom" (Summers). On punishment:MM was used in trials:"Constantly quoted and appealed to in the witch-trials of Germany, France, Italy and England" (Summers).How serious a crime is WC?MM:
- Even to deny existence of witchcraft = "plainly heretical".Bodin:
- Key idea = "witchcraft is treason against God".
- However, it is not against the law to communicate with spirits - likely believed himself to have a guardian angel (dedicated 6 pages to 'friend', v vivid, whose angel first appeared 1567 and warned him of things e.g. tainted food).De Lancre:
- "Sinners take themselves from God through disobedience alone".
- Cites Exodus 22:18 - 'you shall not permit a female sorcerer to live'.James:
- This is "the highest poynt of idolatrie".How should witches be punished?MM:
- Talks of many diff courses of action to take according to level of guilt - e.g. "when the Accused is no more than defamed" [i.e. accused] - must produce "some seven, ten, twenty or thirty men" to act as "sponsors". If can't, excommunicated. If same year later, heretic.Bodin:
- Death compl necessary.

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