Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany

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Messed Up Things That Actually Happened During Witch Hunts

The scope of Roper's inquiry is from mid-fifteenth century, through the worst excesses of witch-hunting in the early seventeenth century and concludes with a discussion of how witch-hunting gradually came to an end in the German-speaking lands of the Holy Roman Empire. The book is broken into four sections: 'Persecution', which details the Baroque cultural landscape and legal mechanisms used to prosecute witchcraft; 'Fantasy' and 'Womanhood' which are the heart of Roper's inquiry into the fears that drove witch-hunting; and finally 'The Witch', where she explores the decline of witch trials in the eighteenth century.

This is possibly the most surprising part of the book, as Roper demonstrates how resilient witch beliefs truly were.

Review: Witch Craze by Lyndal Roper | Books | The Guardian

The book is a major contribution to our understanding of the gendered nature of witch beliefs. Until the s, the groundbreaking studies of witches and witch-hunting all but ignored the fact that most accused witches were female.

This oversight was sharply corrected by a number of feminist historians who interpreted early modern witch hunting as thinly-veiled women-hunting and misogyny inspired from above. However, the greater number of female accusers than male suggests that we need a more complex understanding of the effect of gendered concepts within witch trials.

This is exactly what Lyndal Roper's Witch Craze vividly provides. This is achieved best in the central chapter of the book, 'Fertility', in which Roper shows how 'the terrors, anxieties and dependence that childbed brought lay at the heart of the witch craze. There was a need to replenish human costs from both, yet resources were scarce and overpopulation would prove just as dangerous.

Lyndal Roper. Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany

There was an immense pressure, therefore, on women to reproduce — those lucky few who were economically and socially secure enough to do so. Fertility and childbirth were thus experiences that generated intense anxiety.

Roper tells us that 'half of all babies died before they reached the age of one'. For all of the 17th century city-views, portraits, and prints illustrating witches and various protagonists in the trials clergy and town officials , a map of the entire territory would have been useful.

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The study is made up of four sections, the first two being "Persecution" and "Fantasy. They saw no contradiction here" Consequently, " [t] he witch had to be brought to recognize her own evil character " 61 , a feat accomplished by psychologically sophisticated tortures. What emerges in the second section is that "witchcraft depends on producing stories, and so [ Often witches were born story-tellers, who "used vivacious dialogue, telling detail and dramatic pace to convey a vivid sense of [their] emotional relationship with the Devil" The oral histories and fantastic prose narratives created under duress were dutifully recorded, creating a repository of little-known early modern texts, which constitute a literary genre of sorts, one not so very different than Praetorius's popular anthology of tales, Blockes-Berges Verrichtung or the diabolical Sabbath detailed in Grimmelshausen's Simplicissimus Book 2, chapter You are commenting using your Twitter account.

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