An Anthropological Study of the European Witch-Hunts- Second Printing
1 This is not a convincing answer. Beliefs in maleficent magic existed long before the witch-trials and survived long after the last witch was put to death, and an explanation of why such beliefs resulted in arrests and executions during a particular period in time must depend on an analysis of how these ideas were utilized, not how they originated. Fraudulent accusations should not be ruled out as a factor of considerable significance in the persecution of countless innocent people. Witchcraft studies writers, however, indignantly dismiss such a suggestion because it is incompatible with the ontological foundations of their research perspectives. Their position, we may recall, is that since people believed in witchcraft, witchcraft was therefore real, and answers must be sought in the thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and sentiments of the people involved in the witch-hunts. In other words, everyone accepted the notion that witchcraft was real, everyone believed that the people on trial really were witches, and the witch-persecutions reflected these genuine popular views. These assumptions, as I shall attempt to demonstrated in the forthcoming chapters, are not entirely supported by the evidence. Thomas' mentalist perspective also leads him to dismiss the powerful role of printing in the propagation of Continental demonology and witch-hunting in England. 53 Eisenstein, author of The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (1979), has criticized Thomas on this issue, pointing out that given the 1486 publication date for the first edition of the Malleus Maleftcarum, the first most influential text on demonology (see...
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