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Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, Volume 5: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, Volume 5: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries by Bengt Ankarloo, Roy Porter, Brian P. Levack, and Marijke Gijswijt-Hofstra

Being three essays on three different topics:  how the trials ends, what forms of folk magic were practiced after the end of the trials, and the enlightenment contempt for magic and the supernatural.

The first one slowly wades through the multiplicities of different situations.  The one commonality is that it was top down -- the upper classes brought it to a halt.  Tended to be driven by higher standards of evidence -- quite as high as were demanded for other crimes.  (In some regions this was demanded all along.  The Inquisitions, for instance, insisted that they needed good evidence.)  Which raised questions about spectral evidence, the claim of the victims to have seen the witch tormenting them, but given that it came from the Devil, how could they know it was true?  The increase in lawyers, which helped, because the evidence was extremely vulnerable to challenges.  There was a period in Scotland, over a decade, where only one accused witch was acquitted; she had hired three lawyers.  Besides, you needed a corpus delicti -- you had to prove that there was witchcraft before the question of which witch was responsible arose.  So people asked, could the problem have had a natural origin?  Might it be fraud or hysteria?  Or perhaps the storm was God's punishment for sins, not something witches conjured, or the demonic possession came straight from the Devil.

And then investigations into folkmagic.  Observations about what changed.  For instance, the large-scale harms of epidemics and bad weather slipped away -- they were chiefly concentrated in regions with lots of witch trials even in that period.  And even moderate disasters like fires and shipwrecks fell out of the folklore, so that people talked about bewitchments and unwitching personal harm, to one's children, or pig, or cows, or ability to churn butter.  (Urbanization also limited that.)  And the actual practice of folk magic.  Love magic, particularly in the Mediterranean area.  Treasure hunting,which is the type where we know they tried to call on devils, because it was learned magic, in books.  Divination magic that tried to call on saints.  Places where fairy lore -- or huldre or dona -- were closely equivalent.  Vampire lore was closely tied to witchcraft in Hungary.  The increase in assaults and lynchings of alleged witches -- not that that had been rare when you could have trials.

Finally, the people who actually rejected all magic and all demons categorically.  Their mockery of the witch trials and the irregular attacks going on.  The assertions of divine Providence being better evidence of the supernatural than demonic attacks.  (With some observations about its continuation in pulp literature, and the Romantic counter-attack.)

Lots of interesting stuff.
Tags: author: a, author: g, author: l, author: p, genre: non-fiction, review
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