Witch Trials in Early Modern Europe and New England

The height of the witch frenzy was marked by the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum (“Hammer of Witches”). Legal Basis for Witch Trials Historians have identified a number of crucial legal developments that led to the panic surrounding— and subsequent trials of— witches in Early Modern Europe. One was the idea of “heretical fact,” put[…]

The European Witch-Hunts, 1450-1750

The witch-hunts of early modern Europe took place against a backdrop of rapid social, economic, and religious transformation. By Adam Jones Introduction For three centuries of early modern European history, diverse societies were consumed by a panic over alleged witches in their midst. Witch-hunts, especially in Central Europe, resulted in the trial, torture, and execution[…]

The Invention of Satanic Witchcraft by Medieval Christian Authorities

The idea of organized satanic witchcraft was invented in Europe by church authorities, who at first were met with skepticism. Introduction On a midsummer day in 1438, a young man from the north shore of Lake Geneva presented himself to the local church inquisitor. He had a confession to make. Five years earlier, his father[…]

Magic and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe

Although magic and witchcraft had existed since antiquity, early modern Europe underwent a growth in anxiety about witches and their practices. Originally published by Newberry Digital Collections for the Classroom, 03.23.2018, Newberry Library, republished with permission for educational, non-commercial purposes. Introduction Historians have named the era in Europe that lasted from about 1500 to 1650[…]

From Ancient Rome to Hollywood: Witches as Figures of Fun

How Romans overcame their fear of witches by finding them funny. Introduction For centuries, when people thought of witches, they were evil or possessed by evil demons: think of the Salem witch trials or the 16th and 17th-century woodcuts depicting sinister women conjuring demons or flying on broomsticks. These were the sort of women who morphed in[…]

A Bit of Serendipitous Magic: The Sorcière of Conques and Grillot de Givry

Grillot de Givry’s discovery of this 18th-century manuscript from an alleged witch was serendipitous – twice over. I grimaced, examining the neat box of pale blue cardboard in front of me. Manuscript number 4171? This wasn’t the one I’d ordered, and I was conscious of my rapidly passing research week. With only a couple hours[…]