Which witch is which?

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Some witches are good and some are bad, but they’re all proficient at casting spells.

Here’s Sabrina the Teenaged Witch hoping to win a race:

Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter tries to defend Hogwarts:

Maleficent meets Sleeping Beauty:

And the Wicked Witch of the West hopes to regain those ruby red shoes:

Which witch is your favorite?

She’s a witch!

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Need to identify a witch? No need to consult your edition of Malleus Maleficarum; just remember the guidelines set out by Monty Python:

Malleus Maleficarum; Or, Thanks a lot, Gutenberg

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Though it sounds like a spell Harry Potter and his gang might have cast, the Malleus Maleficarum has a much less innocent history.

Malleus Maleficarum, Latin for “Hammer of the Witches,” is a witch-hunting manual written in 1486 by a Catholic Inquisitor. Though the author, Heinrich Kramer, was granted a papal bull to prosecute witchcraft, the Inquisition denounced him in 1490 and cautioned others against using his handbook. Theologians at the University of Cologne condemned the Malleus for its unethical legal practices and information contradictory to Catholic teachings.

And yet, the book prospered. Approximately thirty editions of the Malleus were published from 1487 to 1669. Its propagation was helped by two main factors: the recent creation of the printing press (thanks a lot, Gutenberg), and the religious upheaval of the late fifteenth century. As the Protestants and Catholics challenged each other in theology, they also strove to outdo each other in proving the purity of their respective faiths by destroying infidels. Malleus Malificarum provided the necessary guidelines and endorsement of this persecution for it to become all-out hysteria.

The Malleus has three sections: the first sets out to prove that the devil and his servants’ witchcraft are real; the second describes witches’ spells and their remedies; and the third lays out the steps for accusing and convicting a witch, and what to do with her afterwards.

I say her because Kramer’s work is unabashedly misogynist, claiming that women are weaker in faith and more carnal, and therefore more susceptible to witchcraft than men. After all, as Kramer states, “all witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.” He goes on to say, “What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colours.” With that perspective on women, it’s no wonder that even the name of his work implies female guilt: malefica is the feminine form of the Latin word for witch, whereas the malefico is masculine/gender neutral form. Therefore, Maleficarum refers only to women.

On Monday I wrote of my suspicion that witchcraft accusations were convenient ways of getting rid of specific women; one historian agrees, saying that most people who were accused were women with strong personalities who didn’t abide by the conventions of proper female decorum. Midwives were particularly at risk of being accused, as they had supplied contraception and abortions for women, which Pope Innocent VIII condemned as witchcraft in 1484. Historians have estimated that anywhere between 35,000 and 60,000 people were put to death as witches in Europe from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, and about 80% of these were women (the numbers are skewed slightly by Iceland, where 92% of the accused were men).

If only that damned Gutenberg hadn’t invented the printing press…

El Amor Brujo

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Written by Manuel de Falla, the ballet El Amor Brujo (Love, the Witch) depicts an Andalusian gypsy girl, Candela, who is haunted by the ghost of her dead husband, Carmelo. At one point her band of gypsies perform a ritual fire dance to rid themselves of the ghost. The following is a flamenco version of the fire dance, a dance form particularly well-suited to displays of witchcraft. The incredible Cristina Hoyos dances as Candela: