The invention of satanic witchcraft by medieval authorities was initially met with skepticism


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Sep 30, 2011
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On a midsummer day in 1438, a young man from the north shore of Lake Geneva presented himself to the local church inquisitor. He had a confession to make. Five years earlier, his father had forced him to join a satanic cult of witches. They had flown at night on a small black horse to join more than a hundred people gathered in a meadow. The devil was there too, in the form of a black cat. The witches knelt before him, worshiped him and kissed his posterior.

The young man’s father had already been executed as a witch. It’s likely he was trying to secure a lighter punishment by voluntarily telling inquisitors what they wanted to hear.

The Middle Ages, A.D. 500-1500, have a reputation for both heartless cruelty and hopeless credulity. People commonly believed in all kinds of magic, monsters and fairies. But it wasn’t until the 15th century that the idea of organized satanic witchcraft took hold. As a historian who studies medieval magic, I’m fascinated by how a coterie of church and state authorities conspired to develop and promote this new concept of witchcraft for their own purposes.

I might get his book just because I want to see how it was a hard sell.

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