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Thinking with DemonsThe Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe$
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Stuart Clark

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198208082

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198208082.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 08 May 2021

Witchcraft and Science

Witchcraft and Science

(p.151) 10 Witchcraft and Science
Thinking with Demons

Stuart Clark

Oxford University Press

No two things could be further apart, seemingly, than demonology and science. Yet between the 15th and the 18th centuries — leaving some very considerable moral issues aside — the questions that dominated learned discussions of witchcraft concerned its very possibility as a genuine occurrence in the physical world. Demonology was the study of a natural order in which the existence of demonic actions and effects was, largely, presupposed. But there were still matters of detail to discuss. Could devils and witches really achieve all the effects that were commonly attributed to them? Could witches, for example, be transported, with or without their bodies, to sabbats? Were their alleged sexual exploits with devils true or false? And, if true, could they lead to the birth of offspring? Could witches transform themselves, or others, into animals? More mundanely, could they cause storms by incantations and rites, or bring illnesses merely by looking at their victims or cursing them? From Johannes Nider, Alphonsus de Spina, and Ulrich Molitor to Joseph Glanvill, Balthasar Bekker, and Christian Thomasius these, and a cluster of related questions, were debated over and over again in literally hundreds of texts.

Keywords:   demonology, science, physical world

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