Between the devil and the host: imagining witchcraft in early modern Poland

Ostling, Michael Between the devil and the host: imagining witchcraft in early modern Poland. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2011. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587902.001.0001

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Author Ostling, Michael
Title Between the devil and the host: imagining witchcraft in early modern Poland
Place of Publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Oxford University Press
Publication year 2011
Sub-type Research book (original research)
DOI 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587902.001.0001
Open Access Status
Series Past and Present
ISBN 9780199587902
Language eng
Start page 1
End page 296
Total number of pages xiv, 279
Abstract/Summary Witches are imaginary creatures. But in Poland as in Europe and its colonies in the early modern period, people imagined their neighbours to be witches, with tragic results. This book tells the story of the imagined Polish witches, showing how ordinary peasant women got caught in webs of suspicion and accusation, finally confessing under torture to the most heinous crimes. Through a close reading of accusations and confessions, the book also shows how witches imagined themselves and their own religious lives. Paradoxically, the tales they tell of infanticide and host desecration reveal to us a culture of deep Catholic piety, while the stories they tell of diabolical sex and the treasure-bringing ghosts of unbaptized babies uncover a complex folklore at the margins of Christian orthodoxy. Caught between the devil and the host, the self‐imagined Polish witches reflect the religion of their place and time, even as they stand accused of subverting and betraying that religion. Through the dark glass of witchcraft the book attempts to explore the religious lives of early modern women and men: their gender attitudes, their Christian faith and folk cosmology, their prayers and spells, their adoration of Christ incarnate in the transubstantiated Eucharist and their relations with goblin-like house demons and ghosts.
Q-Index Code A1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Additional Notes Print publication date: 2011. Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

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Created: Thu, 31 Jan 2013, 19:33:58 EST by Michael Ostling on behalf of Centre for History of European Discourses