Witchcraft Narratives in Germany
Alison Rowlands
Literature & Fiction
Witchcraft Narratives in Germany

Given the widespread belief in witchcraft and the existence of laws against such practices, why did witch-trials fail to gain momentum and escalate into 'witch-crazes' in certain parts of early modern Europe? This book answers this question by examining the rich legal records of the German city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a city which experienced a very restrained pattern of witch-trials and just one execution for witchcraft between 1561 and 1652. The author explores the factors that explain the absence of a 'witch-craze' in Rothenburg, placing particular emphasis on the interaction of elite and popular priorities in the pursuit (and non-pursuit) of alleged witches at law. By making the witchcraft narratives told by the peasants and townspeople of Rothenburg central to its analysis, the book also explores the social and psychological conflicts that lay behind the making of accusations and confessions of witchcraft. Furthermore, it challenges existing explanations for the gender-bias of witch-trials, and also offers insights into other areas of early modern life, such as experiences of and beliefs about communal conflict, magic, motherhood, childhood and illness. Written in a lively narrative style, this innovative study invites a wide readership to share in the compelling drama of early modern witch trials. It will be essential reading for researchers working in witchcraft studies, as well as those in the wider field of early modern European history.

Map: Place of origin of the sixty-five people involved as accused, self-confessed or reputed witches in witch-trials in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1549–1709
1 ‘An honourable man should not talk about that which he cannot prove’: slander and speech about witchcraft
2 The devil’s power to delude: elite beliefs about witchcraft and magic
3 ‘One cannot … hope to obtain the slightest certainty from him’: the first child-witch in Rothenburg, 1587
4 ‘When will the burning start here?’: the Catholic challenge during the Thirty Years’ War
5 Seduction, poison and magical theft: gender and contemporary fantasies of witchcraft
6 ‘God will punish both poor and rich’: the idioms and risks of defiance in the trial of Margaretha Horn, 1652
Appendix: trials for witchcraft in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1549–1709
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