The figure of the witch has haunted the human imagination for thousands of years. Their secret, magical spells harm the fertility of people, animals and land, cause bad luck, illness, death and natural disasters. In the history of Christianity, they are the servants of the devil, the main enemy of God and humanity. They can take the form of animals, fly on brooms to their meetings at night, and break all moral rules in the terrible orgies of the Witches' Sabbath.
How did this astonishing hostility form in medieval Christianity, how did it lead to the burning alive of at least fifty to sixty thousand unfortunate victims of witch hunts in the early modern era? What kind of human, communal, social, ethnic and sectarian tensions led to the constant resurgence of the witch's scapegoating? What explains why eighty to ninety percent of the victims were women? Who were those who sought to exploit the climate of suspicion and hatred to assert their own power and to take down their opponents? These are the questions that have preoccupied the sixteen essays in this volume by our Research Affiliate Gabor Klaniczay.
In explaining witchcraft belief, he has tried to draw on the comparative context of positive counter-examples, miracle beliefs, the cult of the saints, and news reports on the activities of 'folk' healers - quacks, midwives, midwives, watchers, tallis. But most of all, the documents revealed how the brutal mechanisms of early modern law enforcement, based on prejudices and unscrupulously exploited by accusers, judges and executors, perpetuated witch-hunting and scapegoating over centuries. His studies also provide a picture of how international and Hungarian historical, ethnographic and anthropological research has explained this in recent decades.
Learn more about the book (in Hungarian) here.