comparing present day issues of witchcraft such as in africa with past societies such as the witch craze
(+) beliefs were often similar
(-) cultural differences too large and what applied to early modern europe may not apply to africa, for example the contribution of the fear of the devil (devils pact) within catholicism and the threat of heresy cannot explain african witchcraft as that is not relevant
Ignorance and delusion - were they just stupid?
(+) Early modern Europeans did not have the scientific advantages and knowledge to explain bizarre events and occurrences in the same way we do - witchcraft often appeared to be an explanation for the inexplicable.
(-) it was not all ignorance and delusion, often there was some convincing evidence for the belief in it, such as free confessions from people. Witchcraft appeared to be an unfabricated threat
(+) accusations grew into trials, into more accusations, etc. this relates to how confessions often involved torture and resulted in more accused.
(-) this only explains that there was a hysteria and not necessarily why there was one, and does not explain what caused the belief in the first place
The reformation and counter-reformation?
Thirty Years War - religious conflict may cause witch hunts Religiously homogeneous places such as Catholic Spain saw fewer witch prosecutions
- Protestants were against catholic beliefs of holy water and rituals which could lead to being against witchcraft and sacrifices
(-) a direct link is hard to find
(-) witch-hunting began before the reformation and almost a century before Luther nailed his ninty five theses to the church door
Functionalist interpretation - pressure from below
e.g england witchcraft accusations were the result of interpersonal tensions between villagers - usually unpopular, anti social people and beggars that typically causes resentment
socio-economic changes taking place across europe in the early modern period
- population increase between 16th + 17th
- decline in wages
- rise in prices
• encouraged poverty + beggars = resentment (pressure from below, personal conflict)
• hardship = anxiety = need for scapegoats
(-) hunts often took place where no hardship
Need for scapegoats
mid 16th century:
• the mini ice age had a devastating effect on crops and it is argued that climate conditions can be explained using witches as scapegoats (wine producing areas of germany had intense witch persecution’s).
• disease and plague spreading
(-) however this was a rare phenomenon as most people had accepted plague as a normal fact of life by this point
lawyers and officials encouraged witch hunting in order to make money
relatives accuse other relatives in hopes of obtaining inheritance
witchcraze was majorly against women and a byproduct of a patriarchal society due to the changing public profile of women