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Healing Notes

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

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1. Which types of people can be described as witch-doctors?
- Healers = a broad concept."The term 'cunning folk' can be considered as an overall concept and it is therefore not surprising to find a fair amount of diversity among these specialists" - Willem de Blecourt."Jacobean England was... bursting at the seams with practitioners of every sort" (Ronald C Sawyer)."The linguistic or epistemological clarity imposed by the category 'witch' may obscure diversities" (Sally Scully).Bring in question of whether witch-doctors = just witches.There were ordinary doctors, e.g. Napier, Willis.-

They often claimed to be very separate from witchcraft, however this was not really the case, and probably would have seemed even less so to the common people.
- E.g. Physician Antonio Guaineri (professor of medicine at Pavia from 1412) was keen to diff himself from 'vulgar practitioners'.
- However, he then recommends gathering herbs on St John's Eve and making an amulet with a biblical quote written on it, for curing impotence among those who believed. He stated that he himself had no faith in it.Briggs talks of "a flexible and polymorphous vision of the world". Midwives also played an important role.As did cunning-folk: crossing over even more into realm of witchcraft.Used methods like divination.

- Clerics, interestingly, played a role.E.g. monk-devin Dom Jean de Xanrey provided herbal remedy for a bad hand he said was caused by WC.

"The Ambrosian fathers were specialists in exorcism and mental illness" (Briggs).
- Animal doctors, particularly knackers, too, got involved.E.g. Lutschen Mayette's trial, Lorraine - found Bastien Charpentier's missing bull, tried to give it special drink to heal it and failed. Local executioner Mre Simon accused her when dealing w/ carcass. When Charpentier's arm later became swollen, Simon again blamed WC and cured it with poultices and lancing.
- Ordinary women, trying to survive:"The survival strategies open to women... also included WC" (Sally Scully).E.g. Laura Malipiero.
- Used as alt to marriage (after negative experiences in 3 marriages - e.g. first husband Todoro d'Andro taken as slave by Turks, second husband used Patriarchal and Inquisition courts to get rid and beat her, third Andreas Salarol disappeared, husband Francesco Bonamin accused her the first time. Also daughter Malipiera beaten by husband until eye loose in socket).
- By 1654 trial (the 4th) had become more like that of a healer, or 'guaratrice'. Once called by a witness the most famous witch in Venice.Also Marietta Battaglia (1637) - half-sister of above.
- Fortune-teller, user of love magic: admitted during trial that she was a fake.Witches themselves:
- E.g. Appoline Belz de Ste Marie.
- "The early fifteenth century saw the emergence of a new stereotype of a magic-worker: the witch" (Catharine Rider).Briggs' Lorraine study shows that the vast majority of healers were women: 4/6 witch-doctors, 16/20 semi-prof healers.Link to motherhood.

2. How useful is the idea of the witch as a failed healer?
Witchcraft accusations:Some have idea that healers received large part of accusations.E.g. Norman Cohn linked it to medical mistakes.E.g. Richard Horsley (1979): "many of those executed of witchcraft were folk healers".However, this is a "popular superstition" (Blecourt).

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