Witchcraft and Emotion in Early Modern Europe

A Presentation by Charlotte Rose Millar

Thursday November 3 7.30-9.30
The Quaker House, 10 Hampson Street
Kelvin Grove (park on Prospect Terrace)
embers and Concession: $10, Non-members $15

Accounts of witchcraft were common in early modern Europe. Witches were portrayed in popular print, in woodcuts and in plays. They were legislated against and those accused of witchcraft were liable to face pillory, jail or death. In England approximately 500 men and women were executed for witchcraft between 1563 and 1736 – just a small percentage of the 50,000 executed for witchcraft across Europe during this same period.

In this paper, I want to explore the importance of emotions as fundamental drivers of witchcraft acts and accusations. English witches were believed to form deep emotional bonds with the Devil – who most commonly appeared to them as a small domestic animal such as a dog, cat or chicken. Witches were then believed to use their ties with the Devil to hurt or murder their neighbours, to lame or kill cattle, to make men impotent, or to destroy children. Witches were often viewed as men and women who had lost control of their emotions and given into their evil desires. Performing witchcraft was not viewed as a rational act: rather, it was believed to be motivated and sustained by strong emotions such as anger, rage, greed, envy, hatred and, sometimes, love. 

Dr Charlotte-Rose Millar is an Associate Investigator and Research Assistant in the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (1100-1800) and is based at the University of Melbourne. Her recently completed PhD examined the role of the Devil and emotion in all seventeenth-century English witchcraft pamphlets. It will appear as a monograph with Ashgate in 2017. The book will significantly expand the work of the thesis by covering the entire period of state-sanctioned executions (1563-1735). Charlotte-Rose is also the author of eight peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and has been awarded two prizes for her published work.