Chronology

Ca. 1750 b.c.e. The Code of Hammurabi, one of the first written law codes, contains sections dealing with magic and legal charges of sorcery and witchcraft.

Ca. 400 b.c.e. By this time, magicians (magoi) come to have a very negative reputation in ancient Greece. They are condemned by Plato, among others.

Ca. 150-400 c.e. Early Christian writers such as Tertullian, Origen, and John Chrysostom condemn magic by associating it with demonic forces, while defending Christian miracles as non-magical.

375 The Council of Laodicaea forbids Christian clergy from practicing any form of magic.

425 Augustine completes The City of God, sections of which become foundational for later Christian demonology and the theory of demonic pacts associated with magic and witchcraft.

438 The imperial law code of Theodosius II prescribes severe penalties for those convicted of practicing magic or divination.

529 The code of Justinian reiterates earlier severe penalties for magic and divination.

789 Charlemagne issues legislation against sorcerers and magicians for his entire kingdom.

Ca. 906 An early version of the canon Episcopi, describing groups of women who believe that they fly through the night with the goddess Diana, appears in a collection of legal canons made by Regino of Prüm.

1022 The first known burning of heretics in medieval Europe occurs at Orléans.

Ca. 1140 Gratian's Decretum, one of the first standard texts of medieval canon law, includes several sections dealing with magic, sorcery, and superstition, including a version of the canon Episcopi.

1184 Pope Lucius III issues the decree Ad abolendam, which orders bishops and other ecclesiastical officials to rigorously investigate cases of heresy.

1215 The Fourth Lateran Council of the church regularizes procedures to be used against heretics.

1231 Pope Gregory IX commissions the first papally appointed inquisitors to hear cases involving heresy.

1233 Pope Gregory IX issues the decree Vox in Rama, in which he describes heretics gathering to worship a demon in the form of a toad or a pallid man, and then engaging in sexual orgies, similar to later notions of witches' sabbaths.

Ca. 1250-1275 Thomas Aquinas establishes much of the basic scholastic understanding of magic and demonology in his many theological works, including his Summa contra gentiles (Summa Against the Gentiles) and Summa theologiae (Summa of Theology).

1258 Pope Alexander IV orders papal inquisitors not to inquire into matters of sorcery unless the sorcery also involves "manifest heresy," primarily meaning the worship of demons.

1307-1314 Arrest and trial of the Knights Templar in France. Although charges of sorcery do not figure significantly in these events, the trial exhibits many of the features — diabolism, conspiracy theories, and forced confessions—that later characterize witch trials.

1324-1325 Trial of Lady Alice Kytler in Kilkenny, Ireland, for practicing sorcery with the aid of a demon.

Ca. 1324 The inquisitor Bernard Gui writes his handbook Practica inquisitionis heretice pravitatis (The Practice of Inquisition into Heretical Depravity), which includes sections on sorcery and demonic magic.

1326 Pope John XXII issues the Decretal Super illius specula, in which he declares a blanket excommunication on anyone who summons demons or enters into pacts with them for the purpose of performing sorcery.

1376 The inquisitor Nicolau Eymeric writes his highly influential inquisitorial manual Directorium inquisitorum (Directory of Inquisitors), in which he proves the necessarily heretical nature of all magic involving the invocation of demons, and hence the legal jurisdiction of ecclesiastical inquisitors over most types of sorcery.

1398 The theological faculty of the University of Paris condemns various forms of superstition and the practice of sorcery in 28 articles.

Ca. 1400 One of the earliest known witch-hunts in European history (although in reality the trials probably dealt only with simply sorcery and maleficium) takes place in the Simme valley in the western Alps.

Ca. 1425-1500 The beginnings of the major European witch-hunts can be traced to this period. The number of trials in which harmful sorcery, or maleficium, is linked to diabolism rises significantly, and many early treatises on witchcraft are written.

1426 The Franciscan preacher and moral reformer Bernardino of Siena witnesses an early trial for witchcraft in Rome.

Ca. 1428 The Lucerne chronicler Hans Frund describes witchcraft in the diocese of Sion in the western Alps.

Ca. 1436 Claude Tholosan, a secular judge in the French region of Dauphine, writes a treatise Ut magorum et maleficiorum errores mani-festi ignorantibus fiant (That the Errors of Magicians and Witches May be Made Clear to the Ignorant), detailing the practices of witchcraft based on trials he had conducted in Dauphine and arguing that secular courts should have jurisdiction over this crime. Also around this time, an anonymous clerical author writes Errores Gazariorum (Errors of the Gazarii), a brief but extremely lurid description of witchcraft and the witches' sabbath.

1436-1438 The Dominican theologian Johannes Nider writes his Formicarius (The Anthill), a long moralizing treatise containing some of the most extensive early accounts of witchcraft to appear in Europe.

1440-1442 The French cleric Martin Le Franc writes the long poem Le Champion des Dames (The Defender of Ladies), which includes a section on witchcraft.

1458 The French inquisitor Nicholas Jacquier writes the influential treatise Flagellum haereticorum fascinariorum (Scourge of Heretical Witches), one of the first major treatises devoted exclusively to witchcraft and witch-hunting.

1474 Heinrich Kramer (Institoris) is made inquisitor in southern Germany, where he presides over numerous witch trials.

1478 The Spanish Inquisition is established.

1484 Pope Innocent VIII issues the bull Summis desiderantes af-fectibus, ordering that inquisitors in German lands should not be hindered or prevented from exercising their authority in matters of sorcery and witchcraft. The bull is later included in the Malleus maleficarum.

1486 Malleus maleficarum (Hammer of Witches) is written by the Dominican inquisitor Heinrich Kramer.

1487 Malleus maleficarum is published in the first of many printed editions.

Ca. 1500-1575 The steady rise in the number of witch trials, evident since the early 15 th century, levels off in this period, and in some areas the number of witch trials even declines.

1532 The Carolina legal code is enacted for all the lands of the German Empire. It deals, in part, with matters of witchcraft.

1542 The Roman Inquisition is established by Pope Paul III.

1563 A statute ordering the death penalty for witches is passed in England. Stringent witchcraft laws are also passed in Scotland. Johann Weyer publishes De praestigiis daemonum (On the Deceptions of Demons), a treatise that is skeptical of various aspects of witchcraft.

1566 The first major witch-hunt in England takes place at Chelms-ford, Essex.

Ca. 1575-1675 Witch-hunting reaches its height in most regions of Europe.

1580 The French political philosopher Jean Bodin publishes his very influential treatise on demonology and witchcraft, De la demonomanie des sorciers (On the Demonomania of Witches).

1582-1594 A series of witch-trials take place in the archbishopric and electoral principality of Trier in the German Empire.

1584 The skeptical English thinker Reginald Scot publishes his Dis-coverie of Witchcraft.

1589 Dietrich Flade, vice-governor of Trier and the highest ranking victim of any witch-hunt in Europe, is executed. Peter Binsfeld, suffragan bishop of Trier, writes a Tractatus de confessionibus maleficorum et sagarum (On the Confessions of Witches), defending the necessity of witch trials and the procedures used in them.

1590-1591 A group of supposed witches from North Berwick, Scotland, are put on trial; the Scottish king James VI takes part in the proceedings.

1593 The skeptical theologian Cornelius Loos, who had criticized a recent wave of witch-hunting in Trier, is forced to recant publicly. He is then exiled from Trier to Brussels.

1595 The French magistrate and important demonologist Nicholas Remy publishes his Daemonolatreiae (Demonolatry).

1597 King James VI of Scotland (from 1603 also James I of England) publishes his Daemonologie (Demonology).

1599 The first edition of the Jesuit Martin Del Rio's Disquisitiones magicarum (Disquisitions on Magic) is published.

1604 A new witchcraft act is passed in England, establishing much harsher penalties for the crime.

1608 The Italian friar Francesco Maria Guazzo publishes his Compendium maleficarum (Handbook of Witches), which becomes the most important and influential such manual used in Italy. In England, William Perkin's Discourse on the Damned Art of Witchcraft is published posthumously.

1609-1614 A major outbreak of witch-hunting occurs in the Basque lands in southwestern France and northern Spain.

1623-1633 Severe witch-hunts take place in Bamberg, Germany, under the so-called Hexenbischof (Witch-Bishop) Johann Georg II.

1631 The German Jesuit Friedrich Spee publishes (anonymously) the Cautio criminalis (Warning for Prosecutors), a harsh critique of the procedures by which most witch trials are conducted.

1633-1634 A famous case of mass possession occurs among nuns in a convent at Loudun, France.

1645-1646 The infamous witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins directs the most intense witch-hunt in English history, primarily in the counties of Essex and Suffolk, leading to the execution of more than 200 victims.

1661-1662 During the "great Scottish witch-hunt," hundreds of trials and executions occur throughout the country.

1669 Severe witch-hunts occur in Mora in central Sweden. These in turn help trigger hunts in other areas of the country.

Ca. 1675-1750 In this period, most regions in Europe see a steady reduction and end of witch-hunting.

1682 King Louis XIV reclassifies the crime of witchcraft in France as mere "superstition," no longer warranting capital punishment, effectively ending legally sanctioned witch-hunting in that country.

1689 Cotton Mather preaches about the dangers of witchcraft in Boston, Massachusetts.

1692 The famous witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts, take place.

1736 The Witchcraft Act of 1604 is repealed in Great Britain, effectively decriminalizing witchcraft in that country.

1782 A woman named Anna Goldi is executed for witchcraft in the Swiss Canton of Glarus. This is the last execution for witchcraft in Europe carried out under full and unequivocal legal sanction.

1793 Two women are executed for witchcraft in Posnan, Poland, which is at that time just passing under Prussian authority. Local courts sanction the execution, but it seems clear that if higher authorities, either Polish or Prussian, had been able to act, the sentence would not have been carried out.

1828 The German scholar Karl-Ernst Jarcke advances the argument that historical witchcraft was actually a pre-Christian, pagan religion.

1888 The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an elite secret society devoted to ritual magic, is founded in England.

1899 The amateur folklorist Charles Leland publishes Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, an account of the history and beliefs of the supposedly ancient religion of witchcraft in Italy.

1921 The British academic Margaret Murray publishes The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, the first of three studies in which she argues that historical witchcraft was actually a form of an ancient pagan fertility religion.

1937 British anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard publishes Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande, a very influential study of African systems of magic and witchcraft.

1954 Gerald Gardner publishes Witchcraft Today, laying the foundations for modern witchcraft, or Wicca.

1966 Anton Le Vey founds the Church of Satan in San Francisco, the most important group within modern Satanism. This movement is not, however, associated in any direct way with modern Wicca.

1972 In a decision by the Internal Revenue Service, the Church of Wicca becomes the first Wiccan organization to achieve official federal recognition as a religion in the United States.

1979 The Wiccan author Starhawk publishes The Spiral Dance. Margot Alder publishes Drawing Down the Moon. Both become foundational books for modern Wicca in the United States and elsewhere.

1989 Aidan Kelly, a student of Wicca, publishes Crafting the Art of Magic, a thorough study of Gerald Gardner's papers relating to his development of modern witchcraft. The British academic Tanya Luhrmann publishes Persuasions of the Witch's Craft, the first major study of modern witchcraft done outside the movement.

1999 Ronald Hutton publishes The Triumph of the Moon, the first major academic historical study of modern witchcraft and neo-paganism.

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