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Tag Archives: Historical Persons related to Witchcraft

Kramer, Heinrich

KRAMER (INSTITORIS), HEINRICH (ca. 1430–1505).A Dominican friar and papal inquisitor, Kramer (the name he used in his German writings; he used Institoris in his Latin works) is best known as the author of the infamous late-medieval witch-hunting manual Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches), written in 1486 and first printed in 1487. Although he is traditionally listed along with his fellow …

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Sprenger, Jakob

SPRENGER, JAKOB (ca. 1436/38–1495). Traditionally listed as one of the authors of the infamous late-medieval witch-hunting manual Malleus maleficarum (Hammer of Witches), Sprenger was a Dominican friar, theologian, and papal inquisitor active in the German Empire in the later 15th century. He was born in or around the city of Basel and studied in Cologne, where in 1475 he received …

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Loos, Cornelius

Cornelius Loos (1546–1593) A Catholic priest and scholar, Loos was a strong opponent of witch-hunting who ultimately suffered condemnation as a heretic for his beliefs. Born in Gouda in the Netherlands, Loos studied at Louvain and Liège and then taught at Mainz and Trier, which was a center of witch-hunting at the time. He grew increasingly concerned about the nature …

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Bekker, Balthasar

Balthasar Bekker (1634–1698). One of the most important and perhaps the most thorough opponent of witch-hunting in the 17th century, Bekker was a Dutch clergyman. In 1690, he published the first volumes of his De Betoverde Weereld (The Enchanted World), which was soon translated into German, English, and French. A rationalist thinker following the model of the French philosopher René …

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Bayle, Pierre

Pierre Bayle (1647–1706). An important philosopher, born in France and later a professor at the university in Rotterdam, Bayle was a strong advocate of liberalism and religious toleration. He treated the subject of witchcraft at length in his Résponse aux questions d’un provincial (Responses to the Questions of a Provincial), written in 1703. He did not deny the potential reality …

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Mather, Cotton

Cotton Mather (1663–1728) was an esteemed Puritan minister who helped to fuel witch panics in New England, including the Salem Witches hysteria. “my Hearers will not expect from me an accurate Definition of the vile Thing,” the reverend Cotton Mather stated once in a sermon on witchcraft, “since the Grace of God has given me the Happiness to speak without …

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Perkins, William

Perkins, William (1555–1602) England Puritan and Demonologist, a Fellow at Christ’s College in Cambridge, whose views on wItches and Witchcraft greatly shaped public opinion in the last decade of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century. Perkins’ work, Discourse on the Damned Art of Witchcraft, was published posthumously in 1608 and surpassed James I’s Daemonologie as the …

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Spee, Friedrich von

Friedrich vonSpee (1591–1635) was a German Jesuit and poet who, in the course of serving as confessor to witches during the trials in Würzburg, became revolted by the torture and execution of innocent people. Spee wrote and anonymously published Cautio Criminalis, an exposé of the fraud in witch trials, which may have influenced the decline of witch-hunts in subsequent years. …

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Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc (1412–1431) A French peasant girl who, spurred on by divine voices and visions, fought the English and secured the coronation of the dauphin Charles as king of France. Contrary to popular belief, she was not executed by the English on charges of witchcraft but for being a relapsed heretic who denied the authority of the Church. Joan …

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James I

James I (1566–1625) king of Scotland and England who strengthened anti-witch laws in 1604. James’ own beliefs about witchcraft reflected the popular views of the day, and while he permitted prosecutions of accused witches, he did not lead the charge against them. When public hysteria threatened to get out of hand, he moved to cool tensions down. “James was not …

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