The Myth Of The Witch

1691 Words Apr 23rd, 2015 7 Pages
The image of the witch did not exist until the late fifteenth century. While the witch did exist in the popular imagination, the term “witch” was not yet synonymous with “female.” Although the witch craze was an early modern phenomenon, the stereotype of the female witch is rooted in several elements of late medieval witchcraft which antedate the witch hunts, and the time period that scholars recognize as most critical for the formation of the witch lies between the years 1430 and 1660. Before this time period, witchcraft, sorcery, and maleficium (magic) were dismissed as false superstition. Gradually, much of Medieval Europe began seriously believing that they were dealing with an omnipresent, uncontrollable threat of as many as “ten thousand old women in a troop… instructed [in] their arts and perverse sorceries by the devil himself.” By the end of the fifteenth century, people around Europe were growing increasingly nervous about witchcraft and “Satan’s concerted attack on all mankind.” Disproportionately, women were tried for, burned at the stake for, and persecuted for witchcraft at much higher rates than men during the witch hunts of early modern Europe. However, the gender profile of the prosecuted varied widely: in Normandy, for example, the majority of the accused were actually male. In this paper, I will be answering the question: how and why did the witch then become a woman? I will examine how as ideas about demonology and female nature changed and circulated,…
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