The belief in magic and witchcraft has existed in every recorded human culture; a way to explain the inexplicable, to turn random acts of nature into conscious acts of mortal or supernatural beings, and to allow desperate communities to take revenge against the suspected perpetrators. This podcast attempts to understand the cultural motivations behind these beliefs, as well as the actions taken against witches.
While this might sound like a particularly morbid subject, I aim to present it in an entertaining, but informative, way. Of course, there are cases of genuine tragedy in this history of witchcraft, but with a gap of several hundred years, it's ok for us to find humour in the image of, for example, an Anglo-Saxon witch attempting to ward off the Norman invasion of England by exposing her buttocks. That didn't work very well, if you're wondering. When we discuss particularly graphic events, which there sadly are in this topic, I will always try and give a warning at the start of the episode.
If you're curious about me, I am Samuel Hume, a post-graduate student in the final stages of my MLitt in Modern History. I've listened to history podcasts for years, binging through the History of Rome and the History of England, both of which made me appreciate podcasting as a way to entertain and educate. As the range of podcasts I was subscribed to grew, I wondered whether I had what it takes to join their ranks, so here you are!
To write the podcast I make use of the extensive library provided by my university, and when I cover a new period or region I make sure to immerse myself in the historiography of the topic. While I mainly use secondary literature, since these academics have often done the hard part of researching for me, for key texts or for certain subjects I will refer to the primary documents. In the show notes of each episode, you should find a list of some of the main publications I've used in writing it, and I often refer to them in the episode itself. A full bibliography can be found below.
001 - Hammer of the Witches
Others think that, after she has been consigned to prison in this way, the promise to spare her life should be kept for a time, but that after a certain period she should be burned. Another opinion is that the Judge may safely promise the accused her life, but in such a way that he should afterwards disclaim the duty of passing sentence on her, delegating another Judge in his place.” Malleus Maleficarum, Henricus Institoris and Jacobus Sprenger
“For how many of the blind, of the lame, of the withered, of those ensnared by diverse infirmities, legally swear that they strongly suspect that infirmities of this kind both in general and in particular have been caused by witches?” - from the writings of Henricus Institoris
002 - Sparks and Kindling
“Do not fight against these harmful spells. For you do not know what God wants with them. You do not know the greater divine plan behind it all." – Martin Luther
“Everywhere they are punishing witches, who are multiply remarkably. Their outrages are terrible… Never before have people in Germany given themselves over to the Devil so completely… They send many out of this world with their devilish arts, excite storms and wreak terrible havoc among our countryfolk and other Christians. Nothing seems safe from their horrid wiles and power.” – Peter Canisius, after the 1563 persecutions
“if anyone, forgetting his Christian faith, sets up a pact with the Devil or has anything to do with him, regardless of whether he has harmed anyone by magic, he should be condemned to death by fire.” – the 1572 Criminal Constitutions in Electoral Saxony
003 - Heartland of the Witch Craze
“So many kinds of magic and demonic apparitions are gaining the upper hand in our time that nearly every city, market and village in all Germany… is filled with vermin and servants of the Devil” – Anonymous pamphlet, 1590
“The executioner rode a blooded horse, like a noble of the court, and went clad in gold and silver; his wife vied with noble dames in the richness of her array. The children of those convicted and punished were sent into exile; their goods were confiscated;” – Excerpt from the Gesta Treverorum, on the Trier witchcraft trials
“My dear servant, we have seen from our own eyes… how inclement weather, snows and hail spoiled these poor people’s dear fruits of the field… as the Almighty has allowed them to be so sorely afflicted by the Devil and his damnable agents, and we order that you should secretly pay close attention to evil persons and witches and in case any should come under suspicion, you should stealthily nab them and immediately search their lodgings.” – Duke Ferdinand of Bavaria, initiating the Schongau Witch trials of 1589
004 - Reigns of Terror
005 - "I have forgiven the Devil"
006 - The Synagogue of Satan
“Just as masters, when they examine their stewards accounts, are strict to punish any negligence, so also when the Demon inquires into the affairs and actions of his subjects at his Sabbats, he terribly vents his wrath upon those who cannot show proof that they have gone on increasing in crime and wickedness. For none escapes punishment if the cannot report himself guilty of some new crime since the last meeting; but to retain his Master’s favour, he must always show that he has steeped himself in some new sin.” – Nicolas Remy, in his Demonolatry
007 - To Kill a King
008 - James Stuart - The Cradle King
“I should ill fulfill the office of a faithful cousin or an affectionate friend if I did not ... tell you what all the world is thinking. Men say that, instead of seizing the murderers, you are looking through your fingers while they escape; that you will not seek revenge on those who have done you so much pleasure, as though the deed would never have taken place had not the doers of it been assured of impunity. For myself, I beg you to believe that I would not harbour such a thought." - Elizabeth, Queen of England, to Mary, Queen of Scots, on rumours of her involvement in the death of her husband, Lord Darnley
009 - James Stuart - The Devil's Greatest Enemy
Primary Documents and Contemporary Publications
General / Non-Region Specific
Germany/Holy Roman Empire
France and Switzerland
Sound Effects and Music attributions, used under the Creative Commons license.
Art of Escapism: