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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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(p.238) (p.239) Conclusions
Between the Devil and the Host

Michael Ostling

Oxford University Press

This conclusion reviews the themes of the book, in particular its notion of ‘imagining witchcraft’. Drawing on the work of Jonathan Z. Smith, it claims that witchcraft, like religion, is a second-order category created by scholars for their own comparative purposes: accordingly scholars have the responsibility to use the category well. Drawing on the work of Clifford Geertz, the conclusion argues that we study not ‘The Other’ but others—real people and their own projects of self-imagination. Accused witches were caught in multiple layers of imaginative labeling—as criminals, Satanists, pagans, demoniacs. They also imagined themselves as Christians, wives, mothers. The task of this book has been to explore these multiple imaginations in an attempt to understand all the actors caught up in witch-trials: the accused, their accusers, magistrates, and alleged victims.

Keywords:   Jonathan Z. Smith, Clifford Geertz, imagining witchcraft, The Other, labeling, self-imagination

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