The first wave of trials for diabolical witchcraft

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This article discusses the first wave of trials for diabolical witchcraft. It suggests that when we examine the trials in a particular region, and when we read late medieval writings about witchcraft, we find that ideas were brought together in discernible but fragile coalescence, then sometimes diffused over broader areas, and in the process fused with ideas taken from different sources; and when we look back at the cluster which was once formed, we may find that in its diffusion it has become attenuated, with key notions abridged or omitted. The article suggests some of the ways this more complex pattern of coalescence and attenuation, diffusion, and fusion is reflected in sources from the late medieval West. It shows that what late medieval witch-hunters and demonologists bequeathed to early modern Europe was not a fixed set of convictions and anxieties, but a more complex network of issues that called to be resolved, and which eventually were, at great cost.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America
EditorsBrian P Levack
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780199578160
StatePublished - 2013


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