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The Witch-cleric Stereotype in a Seventeenth-Century Lutheran Context

Rowlands, Alison (2020) 'The Witch-cleric Stereotype in a Seventeenth-Century Lutheran Context.' German History, 38 (1). pp. 1-23. ISSN 0266-3554

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This article enhances our understanding of the development and dynamism of early modern witch stereotypes by focusing on the stereotype of the witch-cleric, the Christian minister imagined by early modern people as working for the devil instead of God, baptizing people into witchcraft, working harmful magic and even officiating at witches’ gatherings. I show how this stereotype first developed in relation to Catholic clerics in demonology, print culture and witch-trials, then examine its emergence in relation to Protestant clerics in Germany and beyond, using case studies of pastors from the Lutheran territory of Rothenburg ob der Tauber from 1639 and 1692 to explore these ideas in detail. I also offer a broader comparison of beliefs about Protestant witch-clerics and their susceptibility to formal prosecution with their Catholic counterparts in early modern Germany, showing that cases involving Protestant witch-clerics were part of a cross-confessional phenomenon that is best understood in a comparative, Europe-wide perspective. In addition to showing how the witch-cleric stereotype changed over time and spread geographically, I conclude by arguing that three distinct variants of this stereotype had emerged by the seventeenth century: the Catholic ‘witch-priest’ and Protestant ‘witch-pastor’ (who were supposedly witches themselves) and the overzealous clerical ‘witch-master’, who was thought to do the devil’s work by helping persecute innocent people for witchcraft. Despite these stereotypes, however, relatively few clerics of either confession were tried and executed as witches; overall, patriarchy worked to protect men of the cloth from the worst excesses of witch persecution.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DD Germany
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities
Faculty of Humanities > History, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2018 10:18
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 13:54

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