Allegations of both Male and Female Witches in Early Modern Europe

1940 Words4 Pages

The witch hunts in early modern Europe were extensive and far reaching. Christina Larner, a sociology professor at the University of Glasgow and an influential witchcraft historian provides valuable insight into the witch trials in early modern Europe in her article 'Was Witch-Hunting Woman-Hunting?'. Larner writes that witchcraft was not sex-specific, although it was sex-related (Larner, 2002). It cannot be denied that gender plays a tremendous role in the witch hunts in early modern Europe, with females accounting for an estimated 80 percent of those accused (Larner, 2002). However, it would be negligent to pay no heed to the remaining 20 percent, representing alleged male witches (Larner, 2002). The legal definition of a witch in this time, encompassed both females and males (Levack, 1987). This essay will explore the various fundamental reasons for this gender discrepancy and highlight particular cases of witchcraft allegations against both women and men. These reasons arise from several fundamental pieces of literature that depict the stereotypical witch as female. These works are misogynistic and display women as morally inferior to men and highly vulnerable to temptations from demons (Levack, 1987). This idea is blatantly outlined in the text of the 'Malleus Maleficarum' written by James Sprenger and Henry Kramer in the late fifteenth century. This book is used as the basis for many of the witch trials in early modern Europe (Levack, 1987). The text describes women as sexually submissive creatures and while remarking that all witchcraft is derived from intense sexual lust, a women is thus a prime candidate for witchcraft (Sprenger & Kramer, 1487). In this time period, men are seen as powerful and in control and thus rarely...

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...en accused on the premise of being heretics or using healing magic (cite, cite). Furthermore, women who were brought to court on allegations of witchcraft in Europe in the early modern times are often of low social-economic status, in contrast to men who are oftentimes of superior social-economic status. This is because men are often victimized in order to bring about financial gain through the confiscation of their property. Witchcraft in early modern Europe can definitely be regarded as sex-related, but was by no means sex-specific (Larner, 2002).


Larner, C. (2002). Was Witch-hunting Woman-hunting?. The Witchcraft Reader.

Levack, B. P. (1987). The witch-hunt in early modern Europe. London: Longman.

Monter, W. (2002). The Sociology of Jura Witchcraft. The Witchcraft Reader.

Sprenger, J. & Kramer, H. (1687). Malleus Maleficarum. Cologne.

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