"Harry Potter" and the Modern Witch?

The Depiction of Witchcraft and Witches in the "Harry Potter" Series

Bachelor Thesis, 2013
83 Pages, Grade: 2,3



I. Introduction

II. Theory on Witches
1. “Which witch is a witch?”
2. Religion, Magic, Sorcery or Witchcraft?
3. A History of WitchcraftPersecution
3.1. Once Upon a Time... Or How it All Began
3.2. Hunting for Witches
3.2.1. Legal Basis for Witch-Persecution
3.2.2. Trapping Wicked Witches: The Witch Trials
3.2.3. Burning ofWitches
3.3. The Historical Witch
3.3.1. The Usual Suspects
3.3.2. Witch hunt = Women hunt?
3.3.3. The Pentagram of Historical Witchcraft
3.3.4. The Appearance of the Witch
4. Witchcraftthroughthe Ages

III. Witchcraft and Witches in the Harry Potter Novels
1. Witchcraftin Literature
2. The Phenomenon of Harry Potter
3. Harry Potter and the Modern Witch? - The Depiction of Witchcraft and Witches in the Harry Potter Series
3.1. The Harry Potter Universe
3.1.1. Muggle, Mudblood, Half-Blood, Pure-Blood
3.1.2. MagicalPlaces
3.1.3. Magical Creatures
3.1.4. Magical Reality?
3.2. Religion in the Harry Potter Series
3.3. The Depiction of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter Novels
3.3.1. Hogwarts' Magic Education
3.3.2. Avada Kedavra! - The Dark Arts
3.3.3. Phoenix Feather, Dragon Heartstrings and Unicom Hair - Harry Potter's Magical Ingredients
3.4. Harry Potter and the Girls - Gender Issues in the Harry Potter Books
3.4.1. Witchesinthe HarryPotter Novels
3.4.2. The Appearance of Harry Potter's Witches

IV. Conclusion

V. Bibliography

I. Introduction

'Tell me one last thing' said Harry. Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?' [...] 'Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'[1]

While some people devour the books enthusiastically, others despise and would rather burn them. But whatever people think about the Harry Potter series' social, educational or literary value, they can hardly dismiss them. Harry Potter is a phenomenon worth examining. It is not only the destiny of that shy little boy with his lighting-bolt scar on his forehead that triggered the “Harrycane”[2], but also the appeal of the magical world of witchcraft.

For centuries, witchcraft is the object of research for various scholars of literature, history, theology, arts, folklore, anthropology, medicine and law. To analyse historical witchcraft, they access preserved spell books, court records, administrative correspondences, pamphlets, penitentials, sermons and art works.[3]

Due to stereotypisation processes, there is a gap between the popular and academic knowledge of witchcraft.[4] While academics rather refer to the historical witch who supposedly threatened the Church and the State since the Middle Ages and was persecuted in the Early Modern Age, laymen rather associate the witch with pictures they conceive from popular literature: the fairy tale image of an old, crook-backed, evil women who lures children into her gingerbread house and eats them. How has the image of the supposedly “single greatest threat to Christian European civilization”[5] changed during the Modern Times?

Since the first volume was published, scholars from various fields have approached the Harry Potter phenomenon. The main topics of research have been literary interpretations concerning language, motifs, generic classification, mythological elements and cultural questions relating to family, school, peer group and societal issues. Further academic approaches to the Harry Potter series tackled questions of reader interest research, communication studies, marketing strategies, didactics, translations, theology and film adaptations.[6] As of yet, there has not been much research in the field ofhistory and historical witchcraft.

The purpose of this paper is to determine whether and how witchcraft and witches in the Harry Potter series are modern. This is achieved by examining parallels between situations and characters in the Harry Potter novels and magic practices and beliefs in the historical past and in Modern Times.

Accordingly, Chapter II provides an overview of historical and modern witchcraft. Firstly, terms such as religion, magic, sorcery and witchcraft are defined. In the following, the history of witchcraft persecution is summarised, describing the conditions and beginnings of the European witch-hunt in the fifteenth to eighteenth century, the role of the Christian Church thereby, the legal basis for the witch persecution, witch trials and the execution of convicted witches. Secondly, the elements of historical witchcraft are identified. This section deals with the supposed crimes of the alleged witches, their characteristics and appearance and the gender roles applied in witchcraft persecution. Subsequently, it is explained why witch-hunting ceased and how the view and belief of witchcraft has changed into a modern witchcraft image today.

Chapter III comprises the analysis of witchcraft and witches illustrated in the Harry Potter series. The aim of this study is to investigate the extent to which witchcraft in Harry Potter corresponds to the historical image presented beforehand or in what way witches in Harry Potter are modern. Initially, the subject of Harry Potter as a literary phenomenon has been touched upon, including its critical reception, generic classification and part in the magic fiction tradition. Next, the magical universe of Harry Potter is examined with regard to magical places, creatures and population. Thereafter, the representation of religion in the novels is discussed. Finally, witchcraft and witches of the Harry Potter series are contrasted with historical and modern witchcraft in reality. In the process, Hogwarts' magic education and magical supplies are analysed closely, thereby contrasting good witchcraft with the Dark Arts. Ultimately, gender issues in the Harry Potter series are reviewed, important female witches are characterised in terms of their personality, appearance and goodness/badness compared to the historical witch. In a final step, Chapter IV provides a resume of the findings.[7]

II. Theory on Witches

1. “Which witch is which?”

Everybody has a certain image of a witch in mind. This image is probably created or highly influenced by the Brothers Grimms' fairy tale witch and her numerous illustrations in children's picture books and adaptations into Walt Disney cartoon films. However, even the Grimms' image of a typical witch is not a fabrication of their imaginations, but rather underlies certain associations with older images of witches and witchcraft of folklore and an actual, historical foundation.

It is remarkable that though most laymen would situate witchcraft beliefs and persecution in the Dark Medieval Times,[8] they actually took place in the Early Modern Times. The Early Modern Era, specifically the years between 1450 and 1750[9], approximately constitutes the period of the European witch-hunt, also labelled as the European “witch-craze”,[10] witch-scare or witch-panic.[11] During these times, thousands of alleged witches and wizards were being persecuted and fated to die at the stake. Specially created occupations such as witch-doctors, witch-hunters and -finders or “witch prickers”[12] facilitated “for three centuries from 1450 to 1750, the shocking nightmare, the foulest crime and deepest shame of western civilization, the blackout of everything that homo sapiens, the reasoning man, have ever upheld.”[13]

The British historian Trevor-Roper characterises this period as a “bizarre but coherent intellectual system”[14] which is composed of the common belief that the alleged witch works in cooperation with the Devil against the State and God. In the next chapters, the concepts of religion, magic, witchcraft and sorcery will be delimited and the amply defined term of the historical witch will be summarised so as to be able to compare it with the witchcraft image in the Harry Potter series.

2. Religion, Magic, Sorcery or Witchcraft?

What is a witch? The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term witch as a “female magician, sorceress; in later use esp. a woman supposed to have dealings with the devil or evil spirits and to be able by their co-operation to perform supernatural acts.” The term is derived from the Old English word wiccian, 'to witch'.[15] This official definition of witchcraft includes several others, like magic and sorcery. But how can we distinguish between all these different labels? Or are they all the same?

People have always tried to influence nature to their advantage and control their destiny by using purposeful magic, forces beyond their own earth-bound meagre powers.[16] The common folk attempted to protect themselves, their families and property from disease, theft, misfortune and death by means of total understanding of nature, necromancy, farmers' almanacs and fortune-telling.[17] Healing, blessing, treasure seeking and even defence against demons and evil witchcraft were also part of popular magic.[18] Besides common magic, there was also scholarly magic (magia naturalis) that was concerned with ancient visions of the upper class like demons, cosmology and alchemy. Both forms, folk and scholarly magic, were based on the belief of spirits and a magic of nature.[19]

In general, magic is a ritual practice of influencing matters on the physical level by purposeful actions on spiritual level,[20] not unlike the practices of religion. Dillinger suggests that religion evolved from failure of magic. Magic was used to cope with daily and practical problems. However, as it neither guarantees assured effects nor responds to greater issues or human core experiences like mortality, people had the necessity of something stronger with fixed rules and dogmas.[21] Even though religion and magic enjoy different levels of social prestige, they certainly have a common ground. For a long time, religion and popular magic coexisted,[22] because how is using holy water and recite prayers and blessings by appealing to God and invoking angels any different from calling spirits and using herbs and spells to protect one's homes from disease and natural disaster?[23] Levack differentiates between religion and magic on the basis of power. If people invoke Gods, spirits or even demons and pray for them to help, it is religion. However, if people invoke Gods, spirits or demons and try to control and manipulate power themselves, then it is magic.[24]

As people have the need to create polar dualisms, one can distinguish between white or black witchcraft. White magic is supposed to protect, help and heal. In contrast, dark or black magic is used to perform harmful, ominous acts by means of mysterious, occult or supernatural powers. Black magic was also called Maleficium, the “deliberate harm through conjuring up of evil powers by a curse of the manipulation of objects (sorcery)”.[25]

During the period of the European witch persecutions, people ceased to differentiate between white and black magic, but saw all magic as a pact with demons and thus as heretical and criminal. Larner therefore discriminates between three types of witchcraft: white, black and demonic witchcraft, the crime of the fifteenth to eighteenth century that resulted in hundred thousands casualties.[26]

Magic and witchcraft are universal phenomena that occur in all societies at all times, that is they are not specified to a certain time and place.

[Der] Glaube an Magie, die Moglichkeit, mit geheimnisvollen Mitteln, und Kunsten Ergebnisse und Wirkungen zu erzielen, die den menschlichen Erfahrungshorizont und den einzelnen Menschen naturgegebenen Krafte und Fahigkeiten bei weitem ubersteigen [ist eine] Universalkonstante des menschlichen Denkens.[27]

The European witch-hunt, on the other hand, when common magic “transformed into systematic demonology and persecution”[28], has clear regional and periodical boundaries.[29] It occurred in central and western Europe from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century.

Since many scholars use them interchangeably or synonymously, it is not without difficulty to define clear-cut outlines between the terms magic, witchcraft, sorcery or wizardry. Blauert defines sorcery as the world view of a magic nature, whereas the term witchcraft incorporates various elements that merged into one cumulative meaning in the Middle Ages.[30] In compliance, Robbins' Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology defines sorcery as the universal attempt to control nature by the aid of spirits, and witchcraft as an occurrence limited to Europe and to three centuries.[31]

In this paper, the terms magic, sorcery, wizardry and witchcraft will be used synonymously, meaning the art or attempt to influence and control the environment by means of spirits, natural or magical equipment or supernatural powers.[32] Witchcraft as it was persecuted in Europe in Early Modern Times, will be labelled historical witchcraft and defined in conformity with Dillinger's pentagram of witchcraft (see Ill.l).[33] It combines the crucial elements that represent the common witchcraft belief, namely that witches made a pact with the Devil so as to receive magical powers, with which they could perform harmful magic. Witches lived in amour with the Devil (marital and sexual relations). With the powers given by him, the witch could fly to nightly meetings, the Sabbaths, to meet with other witches, celebrate orgies and conspire against the State and God.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Ill.l: Pentagram ofWitchcraft (Dillinger, 2007:20)

In spite of magic and witchcraft being universal phenomena, “magic is not equally available to the population, it is only available to special people.”[34] Pursuant to Christian doctrine, only by associating with the Devil could a witch receive the “perverted way of the soul which we call magic”[35] and not everyone was willing or tempted to make a pact with the Devil.

3. A History of Witchcraft Persecution

3.1. Once Upon a Time... or How it All Began

In pagan times, people believed that Lucifer, God of the sun and moon, his sister and wife Diana and their daughter Aradia (Herodias), would come down to earth, teach magic and create witches and witchcraft, elves and goblins. Aradia would appeal for people to assemble at full moon and worship their queen Diana.[36] Diana and other gods and goddesses of fertility and the underworld were later classified as demons.[37] Beliefs of night-riding with Diana survived since primitive times into early Christian centuries.[38] Witches and sorcerers lived in secret anarchy and rebellion against the State and Church after the downfall of the Holy Roman Empire until the thirteenth century without persecution. Peasants, in ancient times until the late Middle Ages, were mostly pagan. At these times of scientific ignorance, people could not yet properly distinguish between reality and imagination.[39]

Other pagan/heathen traditions and beliefs such as animism, demons, witchcraft, rituals, prayers and oracles survived in popular belief which was later called superstition.[40] Dillinger incorporates superstition as a part of popular belief:

[Aberglaube bzw. Volksglaube ist] die Gesamtheit dessen, was die Mehrheit der Bevolkerung uber eine Welt jenseits der Alltagserfahrung imaginiert. [...] Der Volksglaube umfasst religiosen Glauben im modernen Sinn ebenso wie Schicksalsglauben, Geisterglauben, Glauben an die Wirksamkeit von Magie.[41]

Conceptions like the Diana cult, superstition and pagan popular beliefs in spirits and demons conflated into one alarming image of evil witchcraft, which was elaborated by theologians, philosophers andjurists and propagated by magistrates, clergymen and manorial lords.[42] The alleged pact with the Devil and organised conspiracy of witches supervened around 1250[43] - Thomas Aquinas was the one who reintroduced St Augustine's dogma concerning Satan.[44] There has always been fear of evil magic, but only when these elements were united into one cumulative term of historical witchcraft in the middle of the fifteenth century, was the large-scale persecution of witchesjustifiable.[45]

Prior to this, the Church only punished magic and fortune-telling as sinful with penance and since the eleventh century persecuted heretics,[46] especially the Waldensians and Catharists in the Alpine regions. They were supposed to have formed secret societies that meet at nights for sexually promiscuous orgies, Satanism and performing evil magic.[47] The Christian Church has always been frightened of losing their power,[48] hence it started to persecute and punish those who would fall away from faith and practise “obstinate persistence in a particular opinion against the known authority of the Church”.[49] Images like nightly sexual orgies emerged from the Christian church's negative attitude towards sex. The Church has also frowned upon poor, unmarried, sexually experienced and independent women,[50] and society was threatened by women who started to work because their men died of diseases or in wars.[51] The image of the witch was easily imposed on women. Women were directly linked to nature and magic because of their fertility and childbearing ability.[52] For these reasons, most of the persecuted victims were women.

To secure the Church's power, heretics, which were already being persecuted and punished, were convicted and executed by inquisitorial courts in the eleventh century.[53] At the end of the thirteenth century, witchcraft became essentially the same as heresy or even worse because of the witches' reputed secret gatherings, sexual orgies and conspiracy against God.[54] So, the witch-hunt began with the persecution of heretics on Alpine borders, particularly regressive and rural areas.[55] Sporadic persecution and small-scale fear of Maleficium became general,[56] secular authorities were encouraged to use methods of the Inquisition - “Rome had spoken”.[57] Subsequently, “Europeans engaged in a systematic and furious assault upon men and women believed to be witches manipulating the forces of the supernatural to effect evil in the world and bring Satan's kingdom to a complete and terrible fulfilment.”[58]

Once established, the cumulative comprehension of historical witchcraft was propagated and circulated notably among the upper class on account of the invention of the letterpress printing in the fifteenth century.[59] This was a crucial factor, especially since the Church claimed monopoly on printing and interpreting the Bible.[60] Many pagan peasants were Christianised at the latest by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.[61] Peasant everyday life was not that easily compatible to Christian concepts; nevertheless, the Church partially assimilated magic, but exchanged pagan incantations with blessings and prayers and thus assigned all the (magic) power to God and the clergy.[62]

It was a time when the Plague killed millions of people, others were ruined by economic crises or savage wars and peasants had a life expectancy of 20 years. Urbanisation, price increase and the emerging agrarian and merchant capitalism entailed famines, epidemics, bad harvests and tension in communities and neighbourhoods.[63] People were afraid of revolts. The State and Church found the witch to be the perfect embodiment of rebellion - “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” (1 Samuel 15,23)[64] - which could easily be extinguished.[65] In the late Medieval and Early Modern Times - in “Pre-industrial Europe: The Age of Faith”[66] - at a time of fear, inflation, competition, hunger, land shortage and politic as well as religious upheavals, people needed someone to blame, a scapegoat.[67] The concept of the enemy was born: the “diabolical witch”[68] who works both through and for the Devil on earth and is responsible for all crises and disasters, from impotence to damage by weather to deaths.[69]

It is a popular prejudice of history to associate witch-burnings with the dark, barbarian Middle Ages. The image of the devil loving, flying, evil witch might have been established in late Medieval times, however, extensive witch­hunting took place during the Early Modern Era, a supposedly progressive time - “the Age of Reason” and “the Age of Scientific Revolution”.[70] Also, the witch­hunt was not spurred by uneducated, illiterate peasants, but the academic and clerical upper class, who indoctrinated the common people through its institutionalization, bureaucratization, public readings of confessions, sermons and public accusations and executions.[71]

3.2. Hunting for Witches

As already indicated above, there is no one reason for the extensive witch-hunt in Europe during the Early Modern Era. Levack summarises contributing factors and general conditions that led to the persecution and execution of thousands of alleged witches. In his view, influential factors were the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Inquisitorial Courts for heretics, the use of torture, religious wars, emerging capitalism, social and cultural conflicts, disapprobation of birth control, general fear of sexually independent women and Christian hate of women, nation state building and religious diligence of the clergy - just to name a few. By the fifteenth century, a fixed definition of the historical witch was established, and professional witch-hunters arrested suspects as a cause of mere denunciation, suspicion and accusations from annoyed neighbours, other witches or even children.[72]

“One of history's ironies is thejustification of witchcraft on Biblical texts, written originally for a religion which had no devil.”[73] The Bible text “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22,18)[74] was a mistranslation, because -witch meant originally 'poisoner' in Hebrew.

However, during the spread of Christendom, paganism was incorporated into Satan's kingdom; therefore, all pagan traditions were subsumed under Satanism and denunciated. “The Church, in fact, had begun to need an opponent whom it could divinely hate.”[75] Long existing superstition, paganism and popular magic were no longer means of coping with daily life but redefined as evil witchcraft destroying the State and Church by associating with demonic and diabolic powers. The witch was supposedly “a member of an international movement, a powerful subversive force working day and night to destroy true religion and to prevent the establishment of God's kingdom.”[76] The Canon Episcopi in 1234 stated that:

Bishops and their officials must labor with all their strength to uproot thoroughly from their parishes the pernicious art of sorcery and malefice invented by the Devil, and if they find a man or women follower of this wickedness to eject them foully disgraced from their parishes.[77]

Christianity as a political ideology used witch-hunting as a form of control.[78] Witchcraft as a religious crime was finally included into secular law after the Reformation[79] and secular authorities assumed churchly, inquisitorial criminal procedure.[80] Secular and religious courts received expenses from the accused and could confiscate their property, so that witch hunting virtually became an industry.[81]

3.2.1. Legal Basis for Witch-Persecution

At the point when witchcraft became political, a formal accusation was enough to arrest, interrogate, torture and execute a supposed witch. The possibility of innocence was not even contemplated. Later, the invention of letter press printing entailed an expansion and consolidation of the witchcraft conception. Many pictures and books on how to recognise and convict witches were published during the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Demonologists turned rational thinking on its head and refined popular belief of witchcraft with trial records, anecdotes and supposedly scientific arguments.[82] One of the most influential books was the Malleus Maleficarum - the Hammer of Witches - published in 1487 by Institoris & Sprenger[83] preceded by a papal bull from Pope Innocent VIII that justified witch persecution and inquisitorial trials.[84] This significant book served not only as a model for witch trials but accused everyone of heresy who would not believe in witchcraft.[85] As many others, the Malleus Maleficarum also identified witchcraft as the possibly worst sin and crime and therefore suggested a sentence of physical death.[86]

Inquisitorial, Roman law which was applied in witch trials meant that the accused had to prove themselves innocent; however this was impossible as “the chances of escaping death were almost nil”[87]. In addition, the accused were allowed neither witnesses to speak in their favour nor legal counsel.[88] “Were it not for the Inquisition, the Catholic tribunal charged with exposing and punishing religious unorthodoxy, not one person would have died for witchcraft.”[89] Contradicting voices say that the Church, while surely having had a huge impact on witch persecution, is not to bear the blame.[90]

3.2.2. Trapping Wicked Witches: The Witch Trials

A witch trial usually started with denunciations, gossip or accusations of neighbours, enemies or previously tortured putative witches. In most witch trials, prosecutors could not find sufficient evidence for witchcraft and a pact with the Devil, therefore, the best proof of witchcraft was, of course, a confession of the witch.[91] Interestingly, there was no use of torture in England, and there were almost no confessions of a pact with the Devil, only of performing magic.[92] Confessions of relations with the Devil on the European continent were not reliable either, as they were enforced by torture or threat of torture and there were never any eye witnesses. If an alleged witch could not endure torture and inquisition any longer, she would commit suicide in court by pleading guilty, seeing as a confession led to execution in almost all cases.[93]

Even though witchcraft conceptions differed from one region to another, they were bequeathed from one generation to the next and further extended by details drawn from confessions under torture. Torture led to a conformity in many confessions, which supposedly proved the existence of the European witch cult.[94] Furthermore, avowals of paramour with demons might have been a result of imaginations and hallucinations of senile and confused, old women, women who suffered from melancholia or mental illness, dreams and hallucinogenic drugs.[95]

During witch trials, the accused would be interrogated, unclothed, shaved and tortured[96] with thumbscrews, strappados, sleep deprivation, flogging or burning[97] - just to name some of the cruel methods. Inquisitorial law and torture have their origin in Roman Law, for Romans used to torture people guilty of high treason against the State. Later, the Roman Catholic Church adopted this practice to heretics for high treason against the Church.[98] Evidence for witchcraft was the witch's resistance to pain and that they were not able to cry.[99] However, torture was not only used to convict accused witches, but also to enforce names of accomplices, other witches who allegedly attended Sabbaths.[100] For this reason, torture generated momentum. “Folter war die Seele des Hexenprozesses.”[101]

The Malleus Maleficarum served as a reference book for judges for the examination of witnesses and interrogating, torturing and executing the accused.[102] “But did this campaign against witches in fact reduce them in number? Not at all. The more fiercely they were persecuted, the more numerous they seemed to become.”[103]

3.2.3. Burning of Witches

Levack's estimation accounts for about 110 000 convictions, 60 000 executions and many more suspects. Given these numbers, Levack notes there should have existed over 1 800 000 witches in Europe.[104] Burr estimates 100 000 convictions in Germany alone, double as much in Europe all together.[105] The dark figure is probably limitless.[106] Convicts were usually beheaded, burnt, mutilated or strangled then burnt; they were not burnt alive very often, though. Many judges thought witches could only be killed properly by burning them to ashes. Sometimes different punishments were applied, like placing people on breaking wheels, drowning, bleeding to death, eviction, pillory and many more.[107]

3.3. The Historical Witch

3.3.1. The Usual Suspects

In ancient times, magic was used by almost everybody in their daily lives to cope with ordinary problems like diseases, theft or crop yields. People believed in a magical nature and in spirits and demons for whose mercy they prayed. However, there have always been these special, chosen people who had more magical powers then others. Village healers and counsels used to help the whole community with herbal remedies, prayers, magical rites and spells. First medicine chests contained “spider's web, ants eggs, snakes skin, extract of wood lice, extract of foxglove, beetles blood”[108] and others. Healers were sought out because of their knowledge of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medicine and supposed ability to obtain benevolence from spirits and demons.[109] Yet only God and chosen clergymen were to heal and invoke spirits.[110]

Village healers were considered to be good witches; nevertheless, they were empiricists. Empiricism and science posed a betrayal of the true Christian faith. The Church devalued common healers by labelling them quacks, charlatans and evil witches.[111] Moreover, the distinction between white and black magic dissolved in the late Middle Ages; people who were able to influence other's health, couldjust as well effect disease and death.[112]

Another common suspect of witchcraft was the wise woman or midwife. Similar to healers, she knew about contraceptive, pain-relieving, anti­inflammatory and anticonvulsant remedies, and was believed to have power over fertility, life and death. Because midwives knew how to prevent pregnancies and due to their gynaecological knowledge, they did not believe in the virgin conception ofMary and thus posed an enormous threat to the Christian Church.[113]

Most commonly, accusations of witchcraft stem from neighbourly or familial conflicts, concerning envy, money, inheritance, property, land use, marriage or reputation.[114] Long before witchcraft-persecution became a political and religious ideology, neighbours already used to accuse each other of Maleficium, whenever they had a quarrel and there has been misfortune. They would either reconcile, counter-curse and bewitch each other, or conjure protective enchantments to secure themselves from further harm.[115] So, initially the most common suspects were neighbours, relatives, enemies, associates of known witches, criminals, beggars and strangers, aggressive or vindictive women,[116] but also young women who were envied for their beauty.[117] As a consequence, almost anybody could be accused of witchcraft, which produced an atmosphere of insecurity, suspicion and observation.[118]

3.3.2. Witch-hunt = Woman-hunt?

As mentioned before, women have always been connected to magic and nature. They are the source of life and therefore seem to be an irrepressible part of nature themselves, also suggested by the assumed relation between the nuclear and menstrual cycle. Furthermore, there has always been hate and discrimination against the biologically inferior women.[119] Also, even in pagan times female magic was considered mysterious, powerful, demonic and supernatural, whereas male magic was straightforward and responsible for daily issues like food security, money, inheritance and tilling the fields.[120]

Since the Early Modern Times, female healers and midwives have been undermined by the emerging male medical fraternity. Having the monopoly over medicine meant political and economic power, profit and prestige for men.[121] Yet this was not the crucial reason for persecution, as “the masculinization of healing was only beginning during the period of the witch-hunt. By the eighteenth century, when professionalization was rapidly increasing and midwifery also taken over by men, the witch-hunt was already finished.”[122] Still, wise women and midwives were regarded as potentially evil, as they had the power to evoke miscarriages and abortions and had easy access to eat, kill or sacrifice newborns to the Devil. The witch was portrayed as the anti-mother par excellence.[123] “Niemand schadet dem katholischen Glauben mehr als die Hebammen.”[124]

At a time of social riots, peasant complots and religious wars, in some regions, witchcraft was regarded as a women's peasant revolt.[125] Women were depicted as especially rebellious. The most common reason for witchcraft accusations were arguments among neighbours, since earlier magic was used as a means of conflict resolution. Maleficium, magic performed to harm, was said to be typically female, because women were rebellious and vengeful.[126] Women had also easy access to food supplies, which is why they were frequently accused of poisoning others.[127]

Witches were supposed to commit sex offences against men: “Ihnen wird schlicht und einfach die weibliche Sexualitat 'vorgeworfen'”[128] Especially single, independent women, being non-conformist to the Christian female virgin ideal,[129] were considered to be sexually aggressive and voracious. The sexually explicit witch became the institutionalised antagonist of the virgin and devoted mother. The archetype of the woman as sex monster, the new embodiment of Eve, was both oppressed and feared. Sexuality - particularly female sexuality - has always been a thorn in the flesh of the Church. Penitential books reflect this view: suggested crimes of women are masturbation, prostitution, birth control, abortion, child murder, love potion, superstition, pagan rituals and neglect of children.[130]

Besides, single or widowed women in the Middle Ages had hardly any means to earn money, which is why there were more likely and tempted to enter a pact with the Devil in exchange for magical powers and prosperity.[131] In general, women were weak and easily tempted. The word femina derives from fe (faith) and minus (less), which according to Institoris & Sprenger proves that women easily doubt faith and are light-headed and superstitious.[132]

In the infamous reference book Malleus Maleficarum, Institoris & Sprenger explain “warum bei dem so gebrechlichen Geschlechte die Art der Verruchtheit mehr sich findet als bei den Mannern”[133]. Interpreting Bible texts, they argue that women are greedy, possessive, intolerant, envious, jealous and vain. Furthermore, they describe women as very emotional and passionate, therefore ruthless and vengeful. No secret is safe with a women, for she is slippery, suggestible, stupid and foolish. In addition, women are inherently vicious and evil, deceitful, cheating and liars by nature. In compliance with the popular Christian view, Institoris & Sprenger depict women as sexually aggressive, insatiable and thus adulteresses, mistresses, whores and worse than death.[134]

Was ist das Weib anderes als die Feindin der Freundschaft, eine unentrinnbare Strafe, ein notwendiges Ubel, eine naturliche Versuchung, ein wunschenswertes Ungluck, eine hausliche Gefahr, ein ergotzlicher Schade, ein Mangel der Natur, mit schoner Farbe bemalt? Wenn sie entlassen Sunde ist, wenn man sie einmal behalten mufi, dann ist notwendig Qual zu erwarten, darum dafi wir, entweder sie entlassend, Ehebruch treiben, oder aber tagliche Krampfe haben.[135]

For all these reasons witches were thought to be female. Approximately over 75 percent of all convictions had been women.[136] Larner even applies the number of 92 percent in England and 80 percent in Germany, Scotland or France. In some parts of Europe, for example Russia, the words witch and woman became interchangeable.[137] Men were convicted at an average of less than 20 percent.[138] After decades of witch-hunting, however, the stereotype of the witch began to crumble and more and more men were convicted as well. Due to the momentum and mass hysteria of witch persecution, people began to accuse others at random. Therefore, it should be stressed that witch persecution in Early Modern Times was highly sex-related, but not sex-specific.[139] “Die Geschichte der Hexe wird zum Symbol fur die Geschichte der Frau.”[140] [141]

3.3.3. The Pentagram of Historical Witchcraft

The image of the Historical Witch consists of five crucial elements: the witch concluded a deal with the Devil (1) in exchange for magical powers. Using these demonic forces she could commit evil magic (2) against God, the State and other people in the name of the Devil and fly (3) at nights to secret gatherings, the so- called Sabbaths (4), to meet other witches and fulfil amour with the Devil (5).

Basically, witches were persecuted for associating with the Devil and other demons, the natural enemies of Christendom. Witchcraft was therefore technically

Satanism.[142] In contrast to earlier views, the concept of the Early Modem Era binds magical powers and abilities to dealings with demons. Only by concluding a pact with the Devil could someone acquire magical powers.[143] Before the political crime of witchcraft, magic was thought to be passed on at death.[144] Previously believed and used powers to heal, protect or help by popular magic were transferred to the powers of God and clergymen. Both white and black magic were obtained by consorting with the Devil, and therefore sinful and criminal, no matter the purpose.[145]

The witches' Sabbath was evidently an invention of the Church, investigators and judges by the sixteenth century.[146] Ancient images of witches' night-riding and gatherings to worship fertility goddesses like Diana and Herodias[147] combined with common erotic imaginations, men's fear of competition and impotence[148] and the Church's and State's fear of rebellious, sexually independent women and an underground conspiracy resulted in a fixed image of the witches' Sabbath. Through torture they tried to enforce confessions, because theologians thought by finding the cultural centre of the witches they could thwart the Devil.[149]

Hundreds, even thousands of witches were supposed to have met at these organised, nightly gatherings[150] to celebrate obscene and disgusting feasts, dance and indulge in indiscriminate intercourse with the Devil, sexually promiscuous orgies, sodomy, incest, child murdering and cannibalism[151] - like “Sodom and Gomorrah”.[152] At Sabbaths, which were held on great festivals of the year, the Devil admitted new witches to the secret conspiracy by making them kiss his behind, renounce God and Christian faith, get rebaptised by the Devil and promise allegiance and sacrifices.[153] In exchange for their obedience on earth and their soul


[1] Rowling (2007:579).

[2] Cherian & Vyas (2007).

[3] Cf. Dillinger (2007:9-12).

[4] Cf. Wiedemann (2007:12).

[5] Kors (1973:5).

[6] Cf. Karg & Mende (2010:67).

[7] Neger (2009:16).

[8] Cf.Schock (1978:9).

[9] Levack (1995:7).

[10] Cf. Levack (1995:11), Trevor-Roper (1969:9).

[11] Cf.Larner (1984:36).

[12] Larner (1984:36).

[13] Robbins (1964:1). italics by author.

[14] Trevor-Roper (1969:9).

[15] OED Online (2013).

[16] Cf. Kors & Peters (1973:3).

[17] Cf. Dillinger (2007:26,31).

[18] Cf. Dillinger (2007:32ff.,37), Labouvie (1987:72).

[19] Cf. Dillnger (2007:25,38), Daxelmuller (1993:71).

[20] Cf. Neger (2009:32).

[21] Cf. Dillinger (2007:14f.), Rabanser (2006:16).

[22] Cf. Behringer (1987:17), Rabanser (2006:17).

[23] Cf. Dillinger (2007:14,16), Labouvie (1987:56), Williams (1980:80).

[24] Cf. Bovenschen (1977:280), Levack (1995:16).

[25] Cf. Levack (1995:14ff.), Larner (1984:37).

[26] Cf. Larner (1984:3,35).

[27] Labouvie (1987:49).

[28] Cf. Kors & Peters (1973:6).

[29] Cf. Levack (1995:13).

[30] Cf. Blauert (1990:242).

[31] Cf. Robbins (1964:471).

[32] For the purpose of this paper, we must take magic and witchcraft as a given, at least to that extent to which people in medieval and early Modern Times believed in it.

[33] Cf. Dillinger (2007:20)

[34] Larner (1984:144).

[35] Williams (1980:XIX).

[36] Cf. Leland (1979:9,13,17,29).

[37] Cf. Levack (1995: 54).

[38] Cf. Trevor-Roper (1969:40), Borrmann (2000:140).

[39] Cf. Opitz (1995:124).

[40] Hiller (1986:292f.).

[41] Dillinger (2007:18).

[42] Cf. Levack (1995:38f.).

[43] Becker etal. (1977:318).

[44] Cf. Kors & Peters (1973:7), Daxelmuller (1993:41).

[45] Cf. Levack (1995:59).

[46] Becker etal(1977:317).

[47] Cf. Robbins (1964:244), Levack (1995:50).

[48] Cf. Levack (1995:49), Trevor-Roper (1969:112).

[49] Williams (1970:84).

[50] Cf. Levack (1995:140ff.).

[51] Cf. Becker et al. (1977:63), Thompson (2000:2).

[52] Cf. Brackert (1977:179), Brenner & Morgenthal (1977:195).

[53] Cf. Behringer (1987:21).

[54] Cf. Williams (86), Bovenschen (1977:278), Becker et al. (1977:319), Trevor-Roper (1969:113).

[55] Cf. Blauert (1990:16), Trevor-Roper (1969:28).

[56] Cf. Lamer (1984:49).

[57] Trevor-Roper (1969:25)

[58] Kors & Peters (1973:4).

[59] Cf. Levack (1995:61).

[60] Cf. Larner (1984:120).

[61] Cf.Larner (1984:117).

[62] Cf. Becker et al. (1977:87), Rabanser (2006:16).

[63] Cf. Larner (1984:114), Levack (1995:127), Bovenschen (1977:276f.), Thompson (2000:1).

[64] Nelson (1970:216).

[65] Cf. Levack (1995:71f.), Thompson (2000:6).

[66] Larner (1984:114).

[67] Cf. Levack (1995:153), Trevor-Roper (1969:35).

[68] Kors & Peters (1973:8).

[69] Cf. Brackert (1977:179).

[70] Kors & Peters (1973:4).

[71] Cf. Borst (1990:43), Schade (1983:11), Kors & Peters (1973:4), Schock (1978:60).

[72] Cf. Levack (1995:12), Robbins (1964:94).

[73] Robbins (1964:46).

[74] Nelson (1970:57).

[75] Williams (1980:37).

[76] Robbins (1964:4).

[77] Williams (1980:72).

[78] Cf. Opitz (1995:119), Larner (1984:124).

[79] Cf. Larner (1984:128), Levack (1995:91), Kors & Peters (1973:193).

[80] Cf. Levack (1995:77f.).

[81] Cf. Robbins (1964:15f.).

[82] Cf. Robbins (1964: 123), Borrmann (2000:141).

[83] See Brackert (1977).

[84] Cf. Robbins (1964:263ff.).

[85] Cf. Institoris & Sprenger (1982:part 1,14), Kors & Peters (1973:12).

[86] Cf. Institoris & Sprenger (1982:part 1,186f.), Labouvie (1987:83).

[87] Robbins (1964:270).

[88] Cf. Robbins (1964:13,268f.).

[89] Robbins (1964:266).

[90] Cf. Dillinger (2007:92).

[91] Cf. Robbins (1964:100f.,174f.).

[92] Cf. Levack (1995:23).

[93] Cf. Levack (1995:26f.), Robbins (1964:270).

[94] Cf. Trevor-Roper (1969:42), Levack (1995:60), Robbins (1964:107).

[95] Cf. Levack (1995:28), Simon (1993:51).

[96] Cf. Brenner & Morgenthal (1977:233), Robbins (1964:498).

[97] Cf. Rabanser (2006:144f.).

[98] Cf. Robbins (1964:13), Levack (1995:83).

[99] Cf. Institoris & Sprenger (1982:part 3,90), Brackert (1977:171).

[100] Cf. Levack (1995:89).

[101] Behringer (1987b:149).

[102] See Institoris & Sprenger (1982:part 3), Robbins (1964:106).

[103] Trevor-Roper (1969:18).

[104] Levack (1995:34ff.).

[105] Cf. Robbins (1964:180).

[106] Cf. Larner (1984:37).

[107] Cf. Williams (1980:177), Robbins (1964:178f.), Rabanser (2006:151-155).

[108] Larner(1984:142).

[109] Cf. Ehrenreich & English (1980:18f.), Larner (1984:143), Ahrendt-Schulte (1995:178).

[110] Cf. Becker et al. (1977:94).

[111] Cf. Ehrenreich & English (1980:19f.), Becker et al. (1977:82).

[112] Cf. Williams (1980:53), Ehrenreich & English (1980:15).

[113] Cf. Levack (1995:137), Ehrenreich & English (1980:7), Becker et al. (1977:90ff.).

[114] Cf. Levack (1995:125), Ahrendt-Schulte (1995:190), Dillinger (2007:117,133).

[115] Cf. Larner (1984:131).

[116] Cf. Dillinger (2007:123,129-132).

[117] Cf. Borrmann (2000:14).

[118] Cf. Labouvie (1987:93).

[119] Cf. Becker et al. (1977:19,32,85), Brenner & Morgenthal (1977:237), Bovenschen (1977:284).

[120] Cf. Labouvie (1995:220-224), Labouvie (1987:52ff.,78).

[121] Cf. Ehrenreich & English (1980:7), Opitz (1995:14).

[122] Larner (1984:152).

[123] Cf. Institoris & Sprenger (1982:157), Thompson (2000:83).

[124] Institoris & Sprenger (1982:159).

[125] Cf. Ehrenreich & English (1980:12).

[126] Cf. Ahrendt-Schulte (1995:177).

[127] Cf. Ahrendt-Schulte (1995:185).

[128] Ehrenreich & English (1980:15).

[129] Cf. Lamer (1984:84), Becker et al. (1977:12), Schock (1978:63).

[130] Cf. Bovenschen (1977:293,304), Blocker (1995:104,113), Simon (1993:6).

[131] Cf. Levack (1995:146), Blocker(1995:123).

[132] Cf. Institoris & Sprenger (1982:part1, 99).

[133] Institoris & Sprenger (1982:part 1,93).

[134] Cf. Institoris & Sprenger (1982:part1,97-107), Simon (1993:4f.).

[135] Institoris & Sprenger (1982:part 1,96).

[136] Levack (1995:133), Burghartz (1995:152).

[137] Cf. Larner (1984:61).

[138] Dillinger (2007:127).

[139] Cf. Larner (1984:62), Levack (1995:135).

[140] Schade (1983:15).

[141] see Dillinger (2007:20).

[142] Cf. Levack (1995:20), Robbins (1964:369).

[143] Cf. Levack (1995:17), Institoris & Sprenger (1982:part1,65).

[144] Cf. Schock (1978:10), Ahrendt-Schulte (1995:184), VanDulmen(1987:106).

[145] Cf. Institoris & Sprenger (1982:part1,21), Levack (1995:23).

[146] Cf. Robbins (1964:414f.), Dillinger (2007:64,73).

[147] Cf. Leland (1979:13,24), Bovenschen (1977:285), Trevor-Roper (1969:40), Thompson (2000:65).

[148] Cf. Brenner & Morgenthal (1977:229), Robbins (1964:416).

[149] Cf. Van Dulmen (1987:94).

[150] Cf. Ehrenreich & English (1980:17).

[151] Cf. Levack (1995:20), Summers (1970:132), Robbins (1964:416), Van Dulmen (1987:122f.).

[152] Summers (1970:157).

[153] Cf. Levack (1995:37), Summers (1970:132), Larner (1984:3), Robbins (1964:373f.).

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"Harry Potter" and the Modern Witch?
The Depiction of Witchcraft and Witches in the "Harry Potter" Series
Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
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harry, potter, modern, witch, depiction, witchcraft, witches, series
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Dorothea Wolschak (Author), 2013, "Harry Potter" and the Modern Witch?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/275977


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