Gender and the Identity of a Witch

  • Created by: mld_00
  • Created on: 15-05-19 16:01

Patriarchy and the Body

It was common belief that all life was given and deemed by God, with God at the top and following by importance, in this case women appeared significantly low in the scale. 

There was a general fear and hatred towards women, and this was rooted in the perception of the female body through historical perception and religious depiction. E.g Eve submitting to temptation in the first story of the Bible. 

by 1600, 1/5 of women in society were unmarried and lacked economic opportunity thus falling out of society's general consensus of what women should do. Therefore, those women who did fall out the social structure contributed to fears of uncertainty within society. 

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The Female Witch

Women accused of witchcraft made up 80% of the accusations and in some European countries this was even higher. 

In documents like the Malleus Maleficarum, Kramer and Sprenger documented how women were more 'credulous' and were also more likely to 'waver' in their faith and succoumb to the Devil and its temptation. 

Women were supposedly more sexually provocative and curious and a witch was asscoicated with this type of behaviour as well as being more disobedient. 

Lyndal Roper argues that mother accused were more likely to be 'post menopausal' and sometimes infertile women who cared for children before they died were also likely to be accused. 

In addition, Wyporska also argued that most witchcraft accusations revolved around the domestic sphere, as maleficia was also associated with health, food, disease, fertility and productivity. These were all seen as women's responsibilities, hence the rise of accusations. Appoline Belz case, Helen Gray! 

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The Male Witch

1 in 5 men were accused of being witches. In Finland this was split 50/50.

It was typical for a man to be accused if he did not follow the normal status quo, a good example is that of John Godfrey, who remained unmarried and had no children, he was often accused of witchcraft throughout the 1650s and 1660s but was never brought to trial. 

However, it is important not to assume that this followed the same pattern throughout the whole of Europe. In Russia, Kramer and Sprenger had virtually no impact with Malleus Maleficarum and the image of Eve had a similar effect. In the Lukh case of 1657, all accused witches were male. Thus showing that there was no coherent witch craze pattern in terms of gender in this case.

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