The Origins of Witchcraft

Scope Lecture Sixteen begins our long discussion of witchcraft and, more important, the European witch craze. The lecture begins by defining what witchcraft is, its place in the history of the West, and the relationship between magic and religion. The lecture looks at the anthropological explanations for the emergence of witchcraft with special attention to folklore and the survival of pre-Christian beliefs. Tracing the history of witchcraft, the lecture discusses how Christian theologians...

Hermeticism Astrology Alchemy and Magic

Scope Lecture Fifteen continues the themes presented in the previous lecture by providing a closer look at the different intellectual traditions competing for the mind of the West in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The lecture looks briefly at astrology, alchemy, and magic. The lecture then turns to hermeticism and explains in detail what the hermetic tradition was, tracing its roots to second-century Gnosticism and astrological lore. The lecture examines in detail the role of...

Lecture Five Mysticism in the Twelfth Century

Scope In Lecture Five and the next three lectures, we turn from a general discussion of mysticism to case studies of mystics and their roles in Christian society. My approach in these lectures is chronological. We examine the lives and teachings of specific mystics in analyzing their historical milieus, we will try to determine how their claims to transcendental awareness of God affected the world in which they lived. In Lecture Five, we look at two specific mystics, Hildegard of Bingen and...

Lecture Twenty Two The Witches of Loudon

Scope Lecture Twenty-Two describes a famous witchcraft trial in the city of Loudon in France. This case involved a clergyman, Urbain Grandier, brought to trial and executed on charges of witchcraft. The case focused on an Ursuline monastery where the nuns confessed to being possessed by the devil through Grandier's malefic intercession. The lecture explores the political and social context of the case, using the events as a lens through which to examine the mentality and sexual mores of early...

Lecture Eighteen The Witch Craze and Its Historians

Scope The witch craze was a period in Western European history when as many as 80,000 to 100,000 people, mostly elderly women, were executed because they were believed to be witches. To explain how it came about, Lecture Eighteen continues to contextualize the witch craze using specific social, political, and economic developments. The lecture looks in detail at the social, economic, and political changes enclosure, conscription, new attitudes toward the poor, rising population, and so on that...

Supplementary Reading

The Cathars Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages. Harlow, England Longman, 2000. A superb study of Catharism and the religious context in which this heresy prospered in twelfth-century southern France. Burckhardt, Jacob. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. 2 vols. New York Harper, 1975. Written more than a hundred years ago, this remains one of the most exciting reconstructions of the culture and politics of Renaissance Italy. Among the greatest...

Outline

Lecture Four examines the main characteristics of the mystical tradition in medieval and early modern Europe and traces the cultural and religious roots of mysticism in the classical and early Christian worlds. II. What are the roots of mysticism in Western thought A. We revisit the conflict between the Apollonian and Dionysian tendencies in Western thought. This is the eternal conflict between Western individualism and the desire for submerging the self into the whole, the oceanic feeling...