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Witchcraft, Lycanthropy, Drugs and Disease

An Anthropological Study of the European Witch-Hunts- Second Printing


Homayun Sidky

Long before the political mass-murders witnessed in the present century, western Europe experienced another kind of holocaust – the witch-hunts of the early modern period. Condemned of flying through the air, changing into animals, and worshipping the Devil, over a hundred thousand people were brutally tortured, systematically maimed and burned alive. Why did these persecutions take place? Was it superstition, irrationality, or mass delusion that led to the witch-hunts? This study seeks explanations in the tangible actions of human actors and their worldly circumstances. The approach taken is anthropological; inferences are grounded on a wide spectrum of variables, ranging from the political and ideological practices used to mystify earthly affairs, to the logical structure of witch-beliefs, torture technology, and the role of psychotropic drugs and epidemic diseases.


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Table of Contents


Preface xiii Introduction 1 The European Witch-Craze 23 European Witchcraft and Demonology 31 Sabbats and the Pact With Satan 36 Witch-Sects and Flying Cannibals: Fact or Fantasy? 51 Ethnographic Studies of Witchcraft 62 Cannibalism and European Witchcraft 65 The Black Death: Prelude to the Witch-Persecutions 77 Reaction to Disaster: The Flagellants 85 The Plague-Spreader Conspiracy 87 Witch-Hunts After the Great Plague 94 Demonology: Ideology of Terror 101 Torture: The Proof of All Proofs 117 Discovering Witches 121 Methods and Technology of Torture 127 Torture: The Validation of Demonology 141 Torture: Economic Motives 149 Demonic Possession, Witchcraft, Deception, and Disease 155 Demonic Possession and Disease 166 Hallucinogenic Drugs and Witches 189 The Witch Ointments: Pharmacological Composition 195 Hallucinogens and the Witches' Sabbat 199 Drugs, Poisons, and Chemical Ecstasy 202 Psychochemical Torture 208 viii WITCHCRAFT, LYCANTHROPY, DRUGSAND DISEASE Werewolves and Witches Wolves and Werewolves Werewolf-Hunts and Lycanthropy Trials Wolf Madness: Lycanthropy and Disease Mad Wolves and Wolf Madness Hallucinogenic Drugs and Lycanthropy Sociological Considerations Witch-Hunting, Terror, and Social Control Bibliography Index 215 220 229 238 242 246 249 255 269 311 Figures Figure 1.1 Figure 1.2 Figure 1.3 Figure 1.4 Figure 1.5 Figure 1.6 Figure 1.7 Figure 1.8 Figure 1.9 Figure 1.10 Figure 1.11 Figure 2.1 Figure 2.2 Figure 2.3 Figure 2.4 Figure 2.5 Figure 3.1 Figure 3.2 Figure 3.3 Figure 3.4 Table of Figures Frontispiece from Heinrich Institoris' Malleus Maleficarum. A witch burned at Schiltach, near Rottweil, in 1533. Three witches. Witches performing weather-magic. Obtaining human flesh. The Witches' Sabbat. The...

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