Research topic: Superstition and witchcraft

The struggle against evil has been an important element in Western cultural history. There have been variations, however, in what has been identified as evil. From the 16th century onwards, authorities throughout Europe attached importance to countering witchcraft by judicial means.

Explaining the judicial processes used against "witches" in the period 1450-1750 requires insights into the formation of early modern states and the relationship between ecclesiastical and state jurisdictions.

An interpretative approach is also necessary in order to construe the religious content of the accusations. This requires an understanding of both learned culture and popular beliefs about witchcraft.

Witch trials can often be said to represent an asymmetrical "cultural encounter" between "high" and "low" forms of learning and culture. Demonology is moreover more generally a source for European ideas about "others".

For example, motifs associated with ideas about witches' sabbaths are found in sources going as far back as Roman times. These sources describe the first Christians, but Christian Europe later associated the same motifs with Jews, lepers and Muslims.

Recent research into witchcraft has focused more on the phenomenon's meaning than its causes. Narrative theory is being used to analyse witch trials as depictions of social reality.

 

See also

Norwegian witch trials (Norsk Folkeminnesamling)

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Published Feb. 5, 2013 1:30 PM - Last modified Nov. 22, 2017 2:43 PM