Witchcraft and Magic in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Carol Menning, University of Toledo, History and Women's Studies
Fall 1998

Originally published in the Societas Magica Newsletter No. 5 (1998)

I. Introduction to the course.
History 4490/5490 (also WMST 4500), an advanced baccalaureate/master's level course, examines the history of beliefs about witchcraft and magic in Europe. We begin with a survey of the origins of Western credence in witchcraft, including its pagan, biblical, patristic, folkloristic, and Germanic sources. The course covers in greater detail the period from the twelfth century, when the Catholic Church began to see witchcraft and the practice of diabolical magic as growing threats, through the height of the witch-hunting mania in the late sixteenth century, to the development of skepticism about witchcraft's efficacy in the seventeenth century. We also compare European witchcraft beliefs to those of seventeenth-century America and the modern world. Lady Arian Rhod, a local coven leader, will come to class to present her views and beliefs about contemporary witchcraft in the Toledo area. Professor Alfred Cave, an expert on the subject, will give a guest lecture on the history of Native American religion and alleged witchcraft.

Students read a textbook, primary sources and two case studies of sixteenth-century witchcraft. The class will combine lectures and discussions.

II. Books. Students should purchase the following:

Joseph Klaits, Servants of Satan: The Age of the Witch Hunts (text)
Alan Kors and Edward Peters, eds., Witchcraft in Europe, 1100-1700: A Documentary History (primary sources)
Michael Kunze, High Road to the Stake (course pack copy)
Carlo Ginzburg, The Night Battles

III. Requirements. Students write a midterm examination in class on Thursday, October 15th. A paper (4-5 pp., typed and double-spaced) based on Carlo Ginzburg's Night Battles and/or Michael Kunze's High Road to the Stake is due any time during the semester, but no later than Tuesday, December 1st. A final exam is scheduled for Monday, December 14th.

The approximate weight of each exercise is as follows: midterm 30%, paper 30%, final examination 40%.

IV. Reading Assignments and Lecture/Discussion Schedule. Please complete each week's reading assignment for that week's Tuesday class meeting.

Week 1:
Reading: familiarize yourself with this syllabus and the books; begin reading for next week
Aug. 27: Introduction to the course.

Week 2:
Reading: Klaits (K), Introduction; Kors and Peters (KP), Introduction and no. 15
Sept. 1: Images of the Witch: Film, Literature and the Popular Imagination; Some Historical Background to the Period
Sept. 3: Explaining the Natural by the Supernatural: Ancient and Anthropological Origins of Magic and Witchcraft, I

Week 3:
Reading: K, chap. 1
Sept. 8: Ancient & Anthropological Origins, II; Brief Historiography of Witchcraft
Sept. 10: The Power of the Curse, of the Devil, and of Sin

Week 4:
Reading: K, chap 2; KP, nos. 1-6
Sept. 15: Medieval Magic
Sept. 17: The Church's Discovery of Witchcraft: The Twelfth Century

Week 5:
Reading: KP, nos. 7-14, 16-17
Sept. 22: Witchcraft, Heresy, and the Theologians of the Thirteenth Century
Sept. 24: Looking for Witches: The Papacy and the Inquisition

Week 6:
Reading: K, chap. 4; KP, nos. 18-30, 23 Sept. 29: The Hammer of the Witches
Oct. 1: Legal Procedure and Torture; Witchcraft as crimen exceptum

Week 7:
Reading: K, chaps. 3, 5; begin Ginzburg and complete over the next two week
Oct. 6: Witchcraft and Sexuality
Oct. 8: Learned Magic, Renaissance Humanism and the Occult

Week 8:
Reading: review K and KP for exam
Oct. 13: Class Discussion; Review for Midterm Examination
Oct. 15:
Midterm examination

Week 9:
Reading: KP, nos. 21-22; begin Kunze, High Road to the Stake, complete over next two weeks
Oct. 20: Witchcraft and the Reformation, I
Oct. 22: Witchcraft and the Reformation, II

Week 10:
Reading: K, chap. 6; KP, nos. 24-32
Oct. 27: Witchcraft in the Late Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Oct. 29: Case Study I: from good witches to bad: the case of the Benandanti

Week 11:
Reading: KP, nos. 33, 42
Nov. 3: case study II: the terrible case of the Pappenheimers
Nov. 5: American witchcraft, I: The Salem witch trials

Week 12:
Reading: none
Nov. 10: local witchcraft today: guest speaker: Lady Arian Rhod, Toledo-area coven leader
Nov. 12: no class; work on papers

Week 13:
Reading: K, chap. 7; KP, nos. 35-41, 43-44 Nov. 17: Skepticism and the decline of the witch hunt, I
Nov. 19: Skepticism and decline, II

Week 14:
Reading: review last week's reading, esp. KP, for discussion
Nov. 24: class discussion
Nov. 26: Thanksgiving--no class

Week 15:
Reading: none; complete paper
Dec. 1: vestiges of witchcraft in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe; images of the witch in art; paper due in class
Dec. 3: American witchcraft, II: accusations of witchcraft among Native Americans: guest speaker: Professor Alfred Cave

Week 16:
Reading: review
Dec. 8: Never again? allegations of Satanic worship in in late 20th-century America, I: Ingram case from Washington State
Dec. 10: Never again?, II: discussion and conclusions

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Posted 15 May 2004