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Between the Devil and the HostImagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland$
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Michael Ostling

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587902

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587902.001.0001

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A Candle for the Devil

A Candle for the Devil

(p.195) 9 A Candle for the Devil
Between the Devil and the Host

Michael Ostling

Oxford University Press

A tradition of Polish historiography sees the Polish devil as a comical figure of fun, in strong contrast to the terrifying Satan of western Christianity. While overdrawn, this tradition has a basis both in early modern literature and in later folklore: often by the word ‘devil’ Poles have meant beings such as house-elves, treasure-hauling demons, or the spirits of unbaptized infants. This is true in the witch-trials as well: the devils there described bear a resemblance to the familiars of English tradition. The chapter argues against too strong a causal role for the ‘mild’ Polish devil in ‘mild’ witch-trials, but also suggests that early modern Polish women could have dealings with ‘devils’ while remaining Christian, to their own satisfaction.

Keywords:   comical devil, Satan, house-elf, treasure-hauling demons, unbaptized infants, familiars

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