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The Decline of Witchcraft

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Antonia Wade

on 27 April 2017

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Transcript of The Decline of Witchcraft

The Decline of Witch-hunting
Continental Europe
Germany -
the sceptical tradition
Johann Weyer
De praestigiis daemonum
in 1563
Doubted existence of 'true' witches
Scepticism shifted in 17th Century
Adam Tanner, Paul Laymann, Friedrich Spee, and Johann Matthäus Meyfart
Germany -
the result of the debate
A three-way distinction developed
A witch 'whose actions were impossibilities and melancholic self-delusions
A witch 'who made the demonic pact and committed real maleficium'
A witch 'who made it but did not damage'
Similar to Reginald Scot's arguments
Disenchantment - need to restore order and overcome chaos
Scepticism in the prosecution of witches rather than scepticism in the existence of witchcraft
The Dutch Republic
Right environment
Shared many of the crises experienced by other states who endured witch 'panics'
Execution rate was relatively low at 18%

Religious tolerance
Gary Waite - proponent of the importance of this in reducing and ending witch-hunts
A lack of strong central authority allowed religious tolerance to flourish
, this is challenged by Behringer.
Paris Parlement
Decline of convictions upheld on appeal
Increased scrutiny of evidence

Royal Edict
1682 - briefly mentions 'pretended' witchcraft
A focus on poison
Multitude of local and national factors affecting the decline of witch-hunting
France - arguably the Royal Edict and the influence of the Paris Parlement
Germany - arguably the sceptical tradition influencing a change in judicial process
Dutch Republic - arguably the culture of religious tolerance and the resultant impact on prosecutions
Clark, Stuart, “Believers and Sceptics” in his Thinking with Demons: the Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 195-213.
Hartmut Lehmann, ‘The Persecution of Witches as Restoration of Order: The Case of Germany, 1590-1650s’, Central European History 21/2 (1988), pp. 107-121
Wolfgang Behringer, ‘Weather, Hunger and Fear: Origins of the European Witch-Hunts in Climate, Society and Mentality’, German History 13/1 (1995), pp.1-27
Brian Levack, The Witchcraft Sourcebook (2004)
Gary Waite, ‘Religious Pluralism and the end of the Witch-hunts’ in ibid, Heresy, Magic and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (2003), pp. 192-228
Friedrich Spee, Cautio Criminalis, or, A book on witch trials tr. Marcus Hellyer (2003)
Marijke Gijswijt-Hofstra, Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, Volume 5: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, (London, 1999)
It was an attempt to 'place limits on the prosecution of witches, especially in the outlying regions of the country'
Any man who maintained that all the effects of magic
were true, or who believed that they were all illusions,
would be rather a radish than a man.
(Fancesco Maria Guazzo, Compendium maleficarum)
Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld,
Cautio Criminalis
, p.9
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