Witch trials in medieval europe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


ALONG WITH NORMAN COHN (2), Richard Kieckhefer established the chronology of medieval witch trials that is now accepted by scholars in the field. The modern concept of witchcraft developed gradually in the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Here Kieckhefer identifies four phases in this process. It was not until the last of these phases, from around 1435 to 1500, that the ideas of nocturnal Devil-worship, the satanic pact, and harmful magic were combined in a series of major trials, and even in this period, such trials were still less common than prosecutions for simple sorcery. Before the 1430s, the various elements that would eventually coalesce into the witchcraft stereotype surfaced occasionally in the prosecution of magicians and heretics, and politically inspired actions like the suppression of the Order of the Knights Templar in fourteenthcentury France. Kieckhefer shows how these elements provided the raw material for the fantasy of satanic witchcraft that emerged at the end of the Middle Ages; he also demonstrates that the lethal potential of this fantasy was only partially realised before the 1500s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Witchcraft Reader, Third Edition
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781351345248
ISBN (Print)9781138565401
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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