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Author(s): Éva Pócs
Subject(s): Gender Studies, Cultural history, Gender history, Modern Age, Cultural Anthropology / Ethnology, 15th Century
Published by: Akadémiai Kiadó
Keywords: gender of the witches; witch-accusations; witch-stereotype; social conflicts; witch mythology;

Summary/Abstract: Analyses concerning the gender of the witches in Europe in the 15th–18th centuries show an unanimous female dominance. According to European statistics – as much as it can be reconstructed from the records of the trials – the percentage of men accused of witchcraft was 80–85%. The question “why witches are women” cannot be answered with a simple explanation based on a single factor. The witch-accusations were not homogeneous at all, and, what is more, the concept of the witch was made up of several components in the background of the different witchtypes. There are many kinds of social conflicts and ideological clashes acting as factors inducing witch-accusations. These factors emphasize the female side of the witch-stereotype and increase the number of female reputed witches. Thus, in connection with the different types of Early Modern rural witchcraft, the answer to our question is briefly the following: the majority of the witches was woman because the majority of the accusations was based on conflicts that could develop in the female spheres of private and communal life. Another important point is that the accusations were supported by a “female” witch-ideology and mythology: with certain kinds of conflicts and certain witch-types, this female mythology could become in itself a factor inducing witch-accusations. These two “female” factors – the social and ideological incentives of the witch-accusations – could function hand in hand and thus inevitably lead to the female dominance in witch-accusations. The joint functioning of these factors – and their reinforcing effect on each other – resulted in the far higher proportion of female witches.

  • Issue Year: 48/2003
  • Issue No: 3-4
  • Page Range: 367-383
  • Page Count: 17
  • Language: English