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blasting The ability of witches to interfere with or destroy the fertility of man, beast and crop. This malicious destruction was considered a common activity among witches, and remedies and preventive actions circulated in folklore and MAGIC. Blasting is the antithesis of rituals to enhance fertility, and accusations of it date to the second century C.E. Witches also were credited with the power to produce abundant harvests and ensure healthy offspring of livestock and humans, but during the witch hunts this ability was largely ignored in favor of maleficia; witches could not be prosecuted by inquisitors for good acts.

Since fertility was vital to prosperity, it was believed that a witch who wanted to harm a neighbor would cast a spell on his generative ability or that of his livelihood (see ILL-wiSHING). If cows didn't calve, if the corn failed to sprout, if the wife miscarried, then the household had been bewitched. The bewitchment could be done with a look (see EVIL EYE) or touch but usually involved incan-tantions and magic powders. According to the church, God allowed the DEVIL to have power over the generative act because the first sin of corruption was sex; a serpent tempted Eve; therefore, witches—the alleged agents of the Devil—could use snakes to impair fertility.

To blast crops, witches were said to take a flayed CAT, toad, lizard and viper and lay them on live coals until they were reduced to ashes. From this, they made a powder and sowed it in the crop fields. To disrupt conception and cause miscarriages, stillbirths and the births of deformed young, they placed serpents under barns, stables and houses. A medieval male witch named Stadlin in Lausanne, France, confessed (perhaps with the aid of torture) that he had for seven years caused miscarriages in the wife and animals of a certain household simply by placing a serpent under the threshold of the outer door of the house. Fertility, he said, could be restored by removing it. But the serpent had long since decayed into dust, and so the owners excavated an entire piece of ground. After that, fecundity was restored to humans and animals alike.

In a story recounted in the Malleus Maleficarum (1486), a pregnant noblewoman in Reichshofen was warned by her midwife not to speak to or touch any witches if she ventured outside her castle. She did go out and after awhile sat down to rest. A witch came up and put both hands on her stomach, causing her immediately to begin aborting the fetus. She returned home in great pain. The fetus did not come out whole, but in little pieces.

Witches reportedly could blast generations of a family with such curses as "a heavy pox to the ninth generation" or "pox, piles and a heavy vengeance."

With regard to humans, the Devil and witches also were believed to interfere with fertility by obstructing the sex act in several ways: by preventing bodies from coming together by interposing a demon in a bodily shape; by destroying desire; by preventing an erection, and by

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