HALE, MATTHEW (1609-1676). An English judge, and later Chief Justice of the King's Bench, Hale is most well known for conducting the trial of two witches in Bury Saint Edmunds in 1662. In this notorious case, which began when several children exhibited signs of bewitchment and accused two old women, he allowed hearsay and unsupported

spectral evidence, and even refused to give credence to clear evidence of fraud and perjury on the part of some of the children, all in his zeal to attain convictions. Later, as Chief Justice, he was able to help set the tone for the conduct of witch trials across England. When accusations of witchcraft arose in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, again from the testimony of children, the noted Boston minister Cotton Mather used Hale's conduct of the Bury Saint Edmunds trial as a model.

HALLOWEEN. The period around the present date of Halloween has long carried supernatural significance and has often been associated with death and the spirits of the dead. The Celtic tribes of Europe celebrated the feast of Samhain, their new year and hence a festival associated with death and rebirth, on November 1. On the night before this festival, the boundaries separating the living and the dead were believed to be particularly weak. The Romans, who by 43 c.e. had conquered most Celtic territory in Western Europe, combined two of their own holidays with the Celtic Samhain: the feast of Feralia, which commemorated the dead, and the feast of Pomona, goddess of apples and other fruits, which celebrated fertility and rebirth. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV, seeking to Christianize these pagan holidays and incorporate them into the church's liturgical calendar, declared November 1 to be All Saints' Day, to honor Christian saints and martyrs. Later, around the year 1000, the church declared November 2 to be All Souls' Day, commemorating all the Christian dead. All Saints' Day was also known as All Hallows, and so the night before became Hallows Eve and eventually Halloween.

Such modern Halloween traditions as trick-or-treating probably have their roots in the medieval celebration of All Souls' Day, when people would give pastries and other food to the poor, and eventually to children, in exchange for their promise to pray for the souls of the gift-givers' dead relatives. Even older was the tradition of leaving offerings of food and wine for the spirits of the dead thought to roam free on this night. The custom of dressing up in costumes also extends far into the past, when people sought to disguise themselves from wandering spirits. However, Halloween was not particularly associated with witches during the medieval or early-modern periods. Rather, if any one night was thought to be a time of partic-

ular celebration and revelry for witches, it was Walpurgisnacht (April 30).

In modern times, and especially in the United States, certain religious groups have tired to associate Halloween with witchcraft and Satanism. This might find its historical roots in colonial times, when the Puritan settlers of New England opposed the celebration of Halloween on moral grounds (the holiday was more widely celebrated in the southern colonies). In the later 20th century, Halloween has finally become a real witches' holiday, as practitioners of modern witchcraft, or Wicca, as well as practitioners of other forms of neo-paganism have revived the celebration of the Celtic Samhain.

HAND OF GLORY. In medieval and early-modern sources, witches were often described as taking the limbs of corpses, and especially their hands, for magical purposes. The Hand of Glory was one particular use to which such a limb could be put. The hand of a hanged murderer was removed from the corpse, often while it still hung on the gallows, then pickled and dried. It was then used to hold candles or the fingers themselves could be lighted. Supposedly, the hand had the power to immobilize or incapacitate anyone within a house, and was often employed by thieves.

HARTLIEB, JOHANN (ca. 1410-1468). Court physician to Duke Albrecht II of Bavaria, Hartlieb was one of the first authorities to write on witchcraft in a vernacular language. Around 1456, he published his Buch aller verbotenen Kunst (Book of All Forbidden Art). He was very credulous, and accepted, for example, the full reality of night flight and the witches' sabbath, opposing the tradition derived from the canon Episcopi that these were only demonically inspired illusions.

HEALING, MAGICAL. Curing diseases and healing injuries have historically always been among the principal functions of common magic. Across Europe in the Middle Ages and early-modern period, a wide variety of healers and cunning men and women practiced such magic. In common culture, for the most part, such people were easily distinguished from witches, who performed harmful magic, or maleficium, and who were typically believed to cause disease rather

than cure it. Authorities, however, especially clerical authorities, often did not recognize such distinctions. They placed less importance than most average people on the effects of magic and were more concerned with the means by which magic supposedly operated. Because they believed that most magical operations depended on invoking demonic power, such acts were still evil even if (occasionally) used to achieve beneficial ends. Many authorities believed, for example, that witches might cause a disease or injury only to cure it later. They supposedly did this not out of compassion for their neighbors, but in order to corrupt their souls by involving them in operations of demonic power.

In practical terms, because most witch trials began with accusations of maleficium, magical healers, who were not commonly seen to perform such harmful sorcery, were generally safe. If a witchhunt developed, however, and accusations increasingly came to be directed by authorities rather than arising naturally, magical healers and cunning folk were certainly at risk. Authorities, who at best regarded them as frauds and charlatans, could become convinced that they were witches, and as the level of panic generated by a hunt increased within a community, common people, too, could begin to become suspicious of the nature of magical healers' supposed power.

HECATE. A classical goddess of night, death, and malevolent magic, Hecate was also a lunar deity and was often associated with Diana and Selene. Even in the ancient world Hecate was regarded as a dangerous and often evil entity. She was imagined as a three-faced spirit that haunted crossroads and roamed about at night, visible only to dogs (a dog's howl was taken as a sign that Hecate was near). She caused nightmares and insanity and was particularly associated with dark magic and witchcraft in the ancient world. The mythical sorceresses Circe and Medea were sometimes believed to be daughters of Hecate. In the Christian Middle Ages, when all pagan deities were transformed into demons, many of Hecate's terrifying attributes and her strong association with witchcraft were transferred to the more general figure of Diana.

HERESY. Any belief contrary to a formally established doctrine of the church is considered a heresy. In the Middle Ages, the practice of de-


monic sorcery was deemed to be heretical because clerical authorities decided that such acts must entail the worship of demons and thus were considered a form of idolatry, a violation of the first commandment. The most influential figure in establishing an argument for the heretical nature of demonic sorcery was the 14th-century theologian and inquisitor Nicolau Eymeric. Because witches were thought to perform sorcery by demonic means, they were also considered heretics. Many aspects of witchcraft, and especially many elements of the witches' sabbath, derived from earlier medieval stereotypes about heretics and heretical assemblies. Heretics were commonly described as worshiping demons, often in the form of some animal such as a cat or goat, murdering children, desecrating the sacraments, and engaging in sexual orgies with one another. All of these stereotypes were later transferred onto witches. During the period of the witch-hunts, many authorities argued that denying the reality of witchcraft or the existence of witches was also heretical, because the church had declared such things to be real.

HERMETIC MAGIC. A major source of magical and occult knowledge in European history was the body of writings traditionally attributed to Hermes Trismegistus (the Thrice-Great Hermes) and referred to collectively as the Corpus Hermeticum. Thrice-Great Hermes was a mythical figure — a blend of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god of wisdom, Thoth. He stood as a personification of arcane, magical knowledge, and supposedly wrote over 20,000 books containing his wisdom. In fact, the Corpus Hermeticum was composed by various authors over several centuries. Much of it was lost in ancient times, but some writings remained known throughout the Middle Ages, and more were rediscovered in the Renaissance of the 14th and 15 th centuries. Hermetic writings became a basis for much learned or high magic in the Renaissance and continued to be a basis for systems of learned magic and occult science in Europe thereafter. For example, when occultists in 19 th century England organized into a group, they designated themselves the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The rites and rituals of such groups have had some effect on modern witchcraft, or Wicca, but historical Hermetic magic, always regarded as a highly learned system and limited to a small elite, had little to do with witchcraft in the medieval and early-modern periods.


HERMETIC ORDER OF THE GOLDEN DAWN. Founded in England in 1888, the Golden Dawn was an elite, secret society, along the lines of earlier Masonic and Rosicrucian groups. Unlike those groups, however, the purpose of the society was to promote the study and practice of ritual magic among its members. Although the founders initially claimed that the order was of ancient origin, in fact the rituals and practices of the Golden Dawn were a loose assembly of ancient Greco-Roman, Egyptian, and Hebrew systems of magic and mysticism, along with medieval and modern Christian beliefs. The members of the Golden Dawn could justify such mingling of different belief-systems because they accepted the notion, perhaps most famously articulated in the writings of British anthropologist James Frazer, that all historical religions were built upon a single, underlying mythic system. Such ideas also influenced Margaret Murray and others to conceive of historical witchcraft as an ancient, pre-Christian fertility cult.

The members of the Golden Dawn, which included such luminaries at W. B. Yeats and the famed occultist Aleister Crowley, were not especially interested in witchcraft, which they considered to be a form of low magic. By merging systems of ritual magic into a kind of neo-pagan structure of belief, however, the order did help establish a basis for the development of modern witchcraft, or Wicca. The principal founder of modern witchcraft, Gerald Gardner, was drawn to the sort of occult studies that the Golden Dawn promoted. Significantly, he was inducted by Aleister Crowley into the Ordo Templi Orientis, another occult society that Crowley headed after his expulsion from the Golden Dawn.

HERNE THE HUNTER. In Germanic legend, Herne was a male spirit (also given as Herlechin, Harlequin, or Berthold) sometimes thought to lead the Wild Hunt instead of the female spirit Holda or Berta. He was pictured as wearing an antlered headdress. Christian authorities in the Middle Ages frequently associated him with the devil. In modern witchcraft, or Wicca, he is associated with the Horned God.

HERODIAS. In the Bible, the wife of Herod who demanded the head of John the Baptist, during the Middle Ages, Herodias was seen as an

embodiment of female evil. Nevertheless, her association with witchcraft seems quite coincidental. In the Germanic concept of the Wild Hunt, a group of spirits was led in nocturnal flight by a female deity most typically named Holda or Berta. Authorities writing in Latin typically transformed this deity into the classical Diana (although even this was already introducing an error, since it was actually the goddess Hecate, closely associated with Diana, who was believed in classical antiquity to lead spirits through the night). Some authorities, however, gave the name Herodias instead, apparently working from the Germanic Ber- (alternately Her-) beginning of the name, but seeking to provide a similar-sounding biblical name instead. The image of the Wild Hunt later became an important basis for the idea of night flight of witches to a sabbath.

HOBBES, THOMAS (1588-1679). The most important English political philosopher of his day, Hobbes is best known for his extremely important and influential treatise on government, Leviathan (1651). He treats witchcraft only tangentially in this work, but demonstrates a complete skepticism about the reality of witches and witchcraft. For Hobbes, spirits—either angels or demons—had no real existence or power in the world. Biblical passages referring to such spirits he interpreted metaphorically. Without the real presence of demons in the world, the entire basis for the reality of witchcraft was removed.

HOLDA. A Germanic goddess, also known as Hulda, Holle, Holt, Berta, Bertha, or Perchta, she was associated with fertility, the moon, and the hunt. For these reasons she was often equated by medieval authorities with the classical goddess Diana. Holda was believed to lead the Wild Hunt, a group of spirits and ghosts who roamed through the night. This Germanic legend became an important basis for the later Christian notions of the night flight of witches to a sabbath.

HOOPOE. A type of bird, in fact any member of the Upupidae family common in Europe, hoopoes are distinguished in particular by the fanlike crests on their heads. Historically they have long been associated with magic and supernatural powers. The blood of the hoopoe,

as well as its brains, tongue, and heart, were all regarded as being particularly efficacious when used in spells, charms, and conjurations, and the hoopoe itself was often used by magicians as a sacrifice when invoking demons. Certain modern devotees of magic continue to regard the hoopoe as a sort of totem.

HOPKINS, MATTHEW (?-1647). Born the son of a Puritan minister in Suffolk, Hopkins was a failed lawyer who became, briefly, the most notorious and successful witch-hunter in English history. In less than two years, from 1645 to 1646, he oversaw the executions of no less than 230 witches in southeastern England. He declared himself to be England's "Witch-Finder General," and claimed he had been appointed to this post by Parliament. His methods proved too extreme, however, and he quickly found himself faced with criticism and significant opposition from local authorities. His witch-hunting activity ended in 1646, as rapidly as it had begun. In 1647, he published a brief treatise entitled Dis-coverie of Witches, defending himself and his procedures. He died in obscurity later that year.

The motivation for Hopkins' zeal in persecuting witches is difficult to access, but might be no more complicated than a desire to salvage an otherwise failed career as a lawyer. Abandoning his legal practice, he determined to make a career as a professional witch-hunter, and announced that for a fee, he and a colleague, John Stearne, would find and eliminate witches in any community that cared to hire them. Hopkins seems to have had no particular expertise in the areas of witchcraft or demonology, and his knowledge of these subjects was gleaned primarily from King James' Dae-monologie. He first came to fame with a series of trials in Chelmsford, Essex, in 1645. Thereafter, his reputation spread, he hired more staff, and conducted numerous trials throughout Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, and other counties in southeastern England. Although the use of torture in cases of witchcraft was forbidden by English law, this prohibition was sometimes ignored, and Hopkins was particularly aggressive in his application of torture to obtain confessions. Such extreme practices helped to rouse opposition to him, however, and brought his short career to an end.

HORNED GOD. In modern witchcraft, or Wicca, and other forms of neo-paganism, the Horned God is the male aspect of the supreme deity, and consort to the Goddess. Although the Goddess is generally held to be superior, the Horned God is very important in modern neo-pagan rituals. The god is often associated with such historical pagan deities as the Celtic Cernunnos, the Greek and Roman Pan, and the Celtic and Germanic figure of Herne the Hunter. All of these beings were depicted as horned, and often appeared in half-animal forms. Following the theories of Margaret Murray, some modern witches believed that historical witchcraft was an actual survival of an ancient, pre-Christian religion, and that during the Middle Ages, Christian authorities had mistakenly (or deliberately) transformed the witches' worship of the Horned God into worship of the Christian devil. Murray's theories have long since been disproved, however, and most modern Wiccans see their religion as a creative revival of historical pagan beliefs, not as the continuation of a long, clandestine tradition.

HUMANISM. Describing a program of humanistic studies that developed in Italy in the late 14th and 15th centuries and then spread to the rest of Europe, humanism (the term was actually only coined in the 19 th century) is often seen as one of the defining elements of the Italian Renaissance. As a program of study, it stressed attention to the literature of classical antiquity, both Latin and Greek, and placed more value on rhetorical and literary skill than on dialectic logic in argumentation. It developed as an intellectual system in opposition to medieval scholasticism. Regarding witchcraft, humanist scholars were often inclined to a certain degree of skepticism. This might have been partly because of their natural suspicion of much scholastic thought, which formed the basis for medieval demonology. Also, because of their closer attention to ancient texts, humanists often realized that the Bible and other ancient sources did not really describe witchcraft as it was conceived in the 15 th and 16th centuries. Nevertheless, humanists did not deny the reality of the devil or his potential power in the world, and humanism as a system of thought was in no way antithetical to belief in witchcraft.


IDOLATRY. Along with apostasy, idolatry was considered by most authorities throughout medieval and early-modern Europe to be the main crime entailed in witchcraft. Rather than focus on the supposed harm that a witch might achieve through harmful sorcery (malefi-cium), first ecclesiastical authorities and then increasingly secular ones as well considered the real evil of witchcraft to lie in the witches' involvement with demons. They developed theories that defined how most, if not all, demonic sorcery, such as witches were believed to perform, required that worship be offered to demons, or that they be invoked in some way that set them equal to or above divine power. This was considered idolatry, a serious form of heresy. The inquisitor Nicolau Eymeric developed an extended and detailed argument about the idolatrous nature of demonic magic in the late 14th century, and thereafter, demonic magic and witchcraft were often classified by authorities as a violation of the first commandment.

IMP. Any type of small demon or demonic creature might be called an imp. In medieval and early-modern Europe, sorcerers were often thought to keep imps imprisoned in jewels, vials, or glass jars to serve them. Particularly in the British Isles, witches were also thought to keep imps in animal form as familiars.

INCUBI AND SUCCUBI. In medieval and early-modern Europe, people believed that demons could take substantial form and engage in sexual activity with humans. Demons who took male form were called incubi and those who took female form were called succubi. Such beliefs, especially the belief in seductive, although often also terrible, female demons, are of ancient origins. The ancient Sumeri-ans believed in a terrible spirit called Ardat Lili or Lilitu, a monstrous female demon with wings and talons who would fly through the night, seduce men, and drink their blood. Such beliefs are also reflected in the Hebrew demon Lilith and Greco-Roman creatures strix and lamia. All of these figures would later contribute to the stereotype of European witchcraft. Witches were themselves thought to engage in sexual activity with demons, especially during the orgies held at a witches' sabbath. Female witches were often thought to


submit sexually to the devil himself, whose member was typically described as being ice cold.

Many Christian authorities, especially in the earlier medieval period, were skeptical about the real existence of incubi and succubi. They doubted that demons, as spiritual creatures, could assume solid material form in order to engage in sexual intercourse. Such doubts were, for the most part, gradually overcome in the 12th and 13th centuries, as clerical authorities became more concerned about the real power of demons in the world. Notably, the great authority Thomas Aquinas developed a full argument to explain how demons could assume solid form, and how they could engage in sexual intercourse with humans. As succubi, Thomas maintained, demons collected semen from human men and were then able to preserve its potency so that later, as incubi, they could impregnate women with it. This theory persisted throughout the period of the major witch-hunts.

INFANTICIDE. A major crime historically associated with witchcraft has been the killing, in various ways and for various purposes, of babies and small children. As far back as classical antiquity, creatures like the strix and lamia were believed to fly through the night and prey on children. Such nocturnal female monsters later contributed to the stereotype of witchcraft. In medieval and early-modern Europe, witches were thought to kill children in several ways. One standard element of maleficium, the harmful sorcery witches were thought to perform, was killing and causing disease, especially in children. Witches were also believed to be able to cause miscarriages and abortions of unborn fetuses. The murder of children also played an important role in typical images of the witches' sabbath, where witches were thought to use parts of babies' bodies in their magic spells, to sacrifice children to the devil, and to cannibalize babies as a part of their general feasting and revelry.

One obvious explanation for the longstanding connection of witchcraft with infanticide is the extremely high mortality rate of infants and young children in the pre-modern world. Accusations of witchcraft provided a ready explanation for such misfortune. Historians used to think that midwives were frequently accused of witchcraft for this reason, but this theory has since been largely discredited and it now seems clear that in fact very few midwives were accused of

witchcraft. Some people still suspect that practitioners of modern witchcraft, or Wicca, engage in infanticide, although the ritual murder of children is more often associated with groups practicing Satanism. In fact, no Wiccan or Satanist groups engage in or promote any activity like this, and there has never been any substantial, credible evidence that organized groups of any nature exist that focus on the ritualistic abuse or murder of children. Nevertheless, this longstanding myth shows few signs of abating in the modern world.

INNOCENT III, POPE (1160/61-1216). One of the most important popes of the medieval period, reigning from 1198 until 1216, Innocent played a critical role in the introduction of inquisitorial procedure to Western Europe. In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council, under the pope's direction, regularized legal procedures used against heretics, and, importantly, allowed judges to initiate inquests into heresy themselves, even when no accuser was present. In following centuries, such procedures would be essential to the spread of witch-hunts.

INNOCENT VIII, POPE (1432-1492). In the first year of his pontificate, which lasted from 1484 until 1492, Innocent VIII issued what is sometimes regarded as the most important papal pronouncement concerning witchcraft, the bull Summis desiderantes affectibus (the title comes from the document's opening words in Latin: "Desiring with Supreme Ardor"). Having been alerted by the papal inquisitors Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger to the existence of numerous witches throughout lands of the German Empire, the pope expressed his grief that so many Christians had fallen into such grave error and heresy, sacrificing their souls to the devil and performing harmful sorcery, or maleficium, in his service. The pope then noted that many local authorities had not given Kramer and Sprenger the assistance they required to conduct their inquisitions effectively and root out this particularly terrible error. He commanded that papal inquisitors should have full authority to investigate and prosecute this crime in all territories, and that local authorities should give all necessary assistance and offer no impediments to such action. Although sometimes regarded as marking the official start of witch-hunting in Europe, the bull is actually fairly typical of papal pronouncements on sorcery and witchcraft throughout the late-medieval period, at least


since the pontificate of John XXII in the early 14th century. The bull was later included in the infamous late-medieval witch-hunting manual Malleus maleficarum, written by Heinrich Kramer and first printed in 1487, thus greatly enlarging its circulation. Although the bull was first issued several years before the Malleus, and was in no way connected to the treatise, its inclusion seemed to lend papal approval to the witch-hunting manual.

INQUISITION. Often regarded as some sort of supreme, repressive legal organ of the church, in fact there never was anything like a coherent and centrally controlled "Inquisition" in medieval Europe. Beginning in the 13 th century, there were individual, papally appointed inquisitors who were responsible for helping to combat heresy, and in later periods there were certain standing Inquisitions. However, these people and later organizations generally played only a small role in matters of witchcraft or witch-hunting. Papal inquisitors were important in some of the earliest witch trials in the 15 th century, but thereafter, and throughout the period of the great witch-hunts, witchcraft was generally classified as a secular crime and tried in secular courts (albeit courts that were operating according to inquisitorial procedure).

The Latin term inquisitio, taken in the legal sense, merely meant an inquiry, such that the further clarification inquisitio haereticae pravitatis (inquisition into heretical depravity) was needed to define a trial for heresy. Such inquisitions were originally the responsibility of bishops, who were in overall charge of enforcing correct religious observance and belief in their diocese. Owing to the perceived rise in heresy in the 12th and 13 th centuries, however, in 1231 Pope Gregory IX issued the bull Ille humani generis, in which he commissioned the Dominican convent in Regensburg to form an inquisitorial tribunal independent of the local bishop and directly under papal authority. This act is generally taken to mark the creation of "the inquisition" in Europe. However, papal inquisitors, although in theory under the control of Rome, still acted largely as independent agents, and certainly there was no institutional structure or organization that could be called the "Inquisition" at this time.

Inquisitors seem rather quickly to have begun hearing cases involving sorcery. However, in 1258, Pope Alexander IV specifically


forbade papal inquisitors from trying such cases, unless there was clear evidence that the acts of sorcery were also heretical in nature. In practice, this might not have represented much of a limitation on inquisitorial authority because the church assumed that most sorcery relied on the agency of demons, and involvement with demons or pacts made with them could clearly be construed as heresy. In 1320, Pope John XXII specifically ordered the inquisitors of Toulouse and Carcassonne in southern France to take action against any sorcerers who were invoking or worshiping demons as a part of their magical rites. In 1326, John then issued the bull Super illius specula, which declared a sentence of automatic excommunication on any sorcerer who invoked demons, worshiped them, or entered into pacts with them. Later that century, in 1376, the inquisitor Nicolau Eymeric wrote his Directorium inquisitorum (Directory of Inquisitors), in which he proved by theological argument that all magic involving demonic invocation entailed idolatry. This was a form of heresy, and therefore subject to inquisitorial authority.

In the 15 th century, papal inquisitors played an important role in early witch trials and in the production of some of the earliest literature on witchcraft. The anonymous author of one of the most lurid early accounts, the Errores Gazariorum (Errors of the Gazarii—a common term for heretics at the time), was probably an inquisitor. Most famously, Heinrich Kramer, author of the infamous Malleus maleficarum, was also an inquisitor in southern Germany for several years and conducted many witch trials before he wrote this important treatise on witch-hunting. Despite such important inquisitorial contributions to the emergence of witchcraft, however, one of the basic elements of the crime, namely the practice of harmful sorcery or mal-eficium, had always been under the jurisdiction of secular authorities. Thus witch trials were from the start conducted in both secular and ecclesiastical courts. During the period of the most intense witch-hunting in the 16th and 17th centuries, the majority of trials were conducted in secular courts in most European lands.

It is notable, in fact, that in the lands of Southern Europe, where witchcraft remained more often under ecclesiastical jurisdiction, witch-hunts were relatively light and in particular the number of executions for witchcraft was significantly lower than in many other areas. Italy and Spain are also the only two regions of Europe that ac-


tually had Inquisitions in the sense of large, centralized, bureaucratic organizations that oversaw the actions of inquisitorial courts. The Spanish Inquisition was founded in 1478 as an instrument of the Spanish royal government, not the pope in Rome. The Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition was founded by Pope Paul III in 1542. Both of these institutions were notably lenient in matters of witchcraft. There are two basic reasons for this. First, inquisitorial courts in general regarded witchcraft as a form of heresy, and traditionally, death sentences were only imposed on recalcitrant heretics. If the accused were willing to confess and formally renounce their errors, then less severe punishment could be imposed. Cases of witchcraft were often somewhat different, because the heresy involved was so extreme, but in general, inquisitorial courts proved more willing to impose lesser sentences than secular ones. Also, the very fact that the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions were large, centralized bureaucracies contributed to their lenience toward witches.

Evidence is clear to show that the most severe witch-hunts took place in regions where local courts had significant autonomy. Local judges were often swept up in the panic that could follow several accusations of witchcraft and therefore allowed certain legal procedures and safeguards (such as those that governed the use of torture) to lapse. Centralized courts, on the other hand, were less susceptible to local conditions and tended to stress the proper application of procedure, the careful evaluation of evidence, and so forth. Throughout Europe, in lands where legal systems were largely centralized or at least overseen by a central authority, prosecutions and especially executions for witchcraft were generally low. This was true also for the centralized Inquisitions in Italy and even more so in Spain, where the supreme council in Madrid had very effective control over inquisitorial courts across the country.

INQUISITORIAL PROCEDURE. This refers to a system of legal procedure that came to be used increasingly in European courts of law, both ecclesiastical and secular, after the 13 th century, in place of the older accusatorial procedure. It was in many ways a more rational procedure than the earlier method, and was based to some extent on the recovery of Roman legal texts and principles of jurisprudence in the course of the 11th and 12th centuries. In terms of the


potential to try cases of sorcery and witchcraft, however, the introduction of inquisitorial procedure had dire consequences. Certain aspects of the accusatorial procedure, above all the potential for punishment of the initial accuser if an accused person was proven innocent, tended to restrict the frequency of accusations for particularly secretive or difficult to prove crimes, of which sorcery was certainly one. Inquisitorial procedure, on the other hand, by placing responsibility for the prosecution of a trial in the hands of the court itself, paved the way for more frequent accusations, and the use of torture, allowed under inquisitorial procedure, ensured frequent confession to even the most fantastic crimes.

Under inquisitorial procedure, cases were still often initiated by accusations made by private persons who felt themselves injured or afflicted in some way. However, judges were also given the power to call people before their courts on their own initiative, often based only on some general ill-repute (infamia). However cases began, the most important aspect of inquisitorial procedure was that the judges themselves were responsible for the investigation and prosecution of the case. They did this usually by interrogating the accused person and other potential witnesses. For serious crimes, the level of proof needed was testimony from two reliable witnesses or a confession. This was in many respects a far more rational and advanced method of conducting trials than the older accusatorial procedure, which had often relied on trial by ordeal to determine guilt or innocence. However, for crimes like sorcery or witchcraft, judges faced a particular problem in that, because of the secretive and clandestine nature of such acts, reliable witnesses could rarely be found. This meant that much more weight came to rest on the testimony of the accused themselves.

Because it was assumed that people would lie to protect themselves, torture was allowed under inquisitorial procedure in order to obtain a full confession. Judges were fully aware that torture could also be used to produce false confessions, and regulations were put in place to ensure that this did not occur. However, for crimes like witchcraft, which were regarded as particularly terrible, such regulations were often set aside. This was especially true if one or more initial accusations began to produce an atmosphere of panic in the community, to which the judges were often not immune. Thus, inquisitorial proce-

dure facilitated the rise of accusations for witchcraft by eliminating the potential legal repercussions on private individuals for false accusations and by allowing the courts themselves to initiate trials. Also, in cases of witchcraft, inquisitorial procedure provided the courts with a method, one that given the nature of the potential evidence for the crime they were frequently required to use, could virtually ensure conviction. For these reasons, widespread witch-hunting would have been practically inconceivable if inquisitorial procedure had not been gradually adopted by almost all European courts by the end of the Middle Ages.



ISIDORE OF SEVILLE (ca. 560-636). A major scholar of the Visig-othic kingdom in Spain in the seventh century, Isidore's most important work was the 20 volumes of his Etymologies. Because he was convinced that most things were best understood by exploring the origins of their names, he organized this work as a study of the roots of words. In fact, it was a virtual encyclopedia of all the knowledge available to him, including a great deal of Roman learning. Isidore did not specifically focus on matters of magic or witchcraft, but he preserved much information on these subjects from Roman, Jewish, and early Christian sources. His work was very popular and became a standard reference source and basis for later medieval scholars on all subjects, including magic and the occult.


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