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Witchcraft & witch hunts

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  • 1. Witchcraft & Witch Hunts
  • 2. Early Views on Witches
    • While witches are mentioned in Exodus, early Catholic leaders argued against their existence
    • Pope Innocent III & Thomas of Aquinas begin Catholic persecution in 1200s
    • Image from witch-hunter’s guide Malleus Maleficarum
    • Douglas Linder, professor of law at University of Missouri, Kansas City
  • 3. To Find a Witch
    • Witch interrogations often involved torture, leading to extravagant confessions
    • Interrogators also closely examined women’s bodies for “signs” of witchcraft such as moles & extra nipples
    • Barbara Ehrenreich & Deirdre English, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses
  • 4. Anxieties About Witches
    • They were sexual deviants
      • Church associated women & sex, and any pleasure in sex was condemned by church leaders. Witches’ careers were often assumed to begin with sex with the devil.
    • They were organized into secret societies
      • While the accusations of groups of women meeting included the eating of babies and mass orgies, more likely what occurred was trading of herbal lore at festivals and perhaps peasant revolt strategies.
    • They were helpers and healers
      • “ Witches” were doubly accused: first of organizing to have orgies & kill innocents, and also the crime of nursing and helping their neighbors
    • Barbara Ehrenreich & Deirdre English, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses
  • 5. European death rates for witches
    • Ehrenreich & England claim there were hundreds of thousands of deaths of witches in the era of roughly 1400-1700. 85% of those murdered were women, sometimes leaving only one or two women alive per village.
    • Linder confirms that between 1500-1660 alone 80,000 witches were murdered, the highest concentration in Germany
  • 6. Salem Witch Trials
    • American colonies join the witch-hunt relatively late, in 1692
    • 19 men and women are hung, one is crushed, and hundreds are imprisoned in a brief but damaging hysteria
    • Salem Witch Museum official website
  • 7. The Logic of Witch-hunts
  • 8. Modern Witchcraft
    • The last European witch was convicted of witchcraft in England in 1944 (not put to death)
    • Some women & men (feminist and not) practice pagan or wiccan religious beliefs and ceremonies in contemporary society
    • Wiccans are not Satanists
    • Modern witches are interested in the relationship between (wo)man and nature
    • The BBC.co.uk /The Church and School of Wicca
  • 9. Feminism and Witchcraft
    • Feminists have been accused being members of a secret society bent on killing babies and destroying family life (they’re not!)
    • Feminists are interested in thinking through power structures that brought about the European and American witch hysteria and murders
  • 10. Witchcraft and Merricat
    • How would you describe Merricat’s witchcraft?
    • For what purposes does she use witchcraft?
    • Do you think her rituals give her power? If so, what kind? If not, why not?
    • How do you think Jackson is using the history of the idea of the witch hunt in We Have Always Lived in the Castle?
    • What examples can you find to support your ideas?

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