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U-M HISTORY 375 - Unit #2 Prompt - Krupa Patel

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1During the 1400s-1700s, both trials and documents discussed the idea of sex and its connection to witchcraft, primarily the actions of women. The female body was often presented as one in need for sex that is fulfilled by doing magic. Examples from the Malleus Maleficarum, Castanega’s “Treatise on Superstition and Witchcraft,” Lyndal Roper’s Witch Craze, and the trial of Marie Cornu support the notion of women who confess to acts of witchcraft and also of sexualrelations to gain this power. Focusing on the portrayal of sex within these sources exemplifies the idea that women were seen as more sexual and lustful in nature than men.The idea that women cannot restrain themselves is presented through the following quote,“A woman which know[s] no moderation in goodness or vice; and when they exceed the bounds of their condition they reach the greatest heights and the lowest depths of goodness and vice...when they are governed by an evil spirit, they indulge the worst possible vices” (Kors 181).The Malleus Maleficarum exemplifies the idea that women cannot stop themselves from acting on their desires because they don’t have the restraint that men do, and thus, “it is not surprising that they should come more under the spell of witchcraft” (Kors 184). As the document continues, there are three identified gendered body differences that are used to justify why women are swayed into acts of witchcraft and magic. The first of these is that women are less intelligent than men because of their “instability of spirit, because they are better understood by demons, and because of their talkativeness” (Kors 238). The second states that the lusts of women motivate them to act improperly because it is one of “inordinate affections and passions [which] they search for, brood over, and inflict various vengeances, either by witchcraft, or by some other means” (Kors 186). The final point that discusses women’s lack of control states, “To2conclude. All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable” (Kors 188). This quote illustrates that women are incapable of controlling themselves and that, due to this, they cannot control their desire for sex. In Martin de Castanega’s “Tratado Muy Sotil y Bien Fudado,” he depicts similar ideas to that of the Malleus Maleficarum, suggesting women are more carnal and desperate for sex than men. The treatise states that “there are more women than men consecrated and dedicated to the devil” which further supports the gendered body differences presented during roughly the same time period (Darst 304). Castanega suggests that older women are more drawn to the devil’s magical temptations to fulfil their sexual desires: “Most of the women are old and poor rather than rich and young, because after they become old the men don’t pay any attention to them. They therefore have recourse to the devil, who satisfies their appetites. This is especially the case if the women were inclined and given to vices of the flesh when they were young. The devil deceives this kind of old woman by promising to satisfy her appetites, and he actually keeps his word...” (Darst 305). Furthermore, while Castanega’s work focuses more on how older women are in more control of magic, it still asserts the idea that women’s lust for sexual gratification, even just their sex in general, motivates their want to connect with the devil. Additionally, the power being contained within menstrual blood is used as a means to discuss the sexual nature of witchcraft. Martin Luther, another prominent German writer at the time, states, “They have unions with incubi and succubi of the demons...I omit here mention of women’s menstrual blood, used to make philtres of insane sexual passion” (Kors 264). The idea that menstrual blood can assist in the making of sexual magic further supports the idea that women are more sexual than males in the eyes of the men during this period. Lyndal Roper’s3Witch Craze provides more evidence stating, “if the man was not impotent, a fruitless marriage, itwas believed, was caused by the woman’s infertility” (148). This suggests that the dutiful role of a woman’s body to maternally provide is honored and respected whereas elements of femininity such as lust and beauty outside of marriage and childbirth are regarded as sinful (138).Furthermore, the held belief of a woman’s bodily thirst for lust is what contributed to the course of the trial of Marie Cornu that took place in France in 1611. Cornu is said to have confessed that she has been in the presence of the devil, Belzebub, who she declared to have beenher lover after having given him her soul and a token of some hair which she had taken and removed from her shameful parts (Kors 346). This aspect of her confession depicts the idea of her having had sex with the devil even though it isn’t explicitly stated; the reference to him being her lover and her token of pubic hair to him exemplifies this idea. In the document, Marie Cornu also confessed to having attended Sabbaths with the devil where she “danced, assisted at table, and there adored the said Belzebub, prince of the devils, being in the form of a black and stinkinghe-goat, and of being placed on her knees and of having kissed his posterior” (Kors 347). This part of the confession emphasizes a sexual nature to the relationship between Marie Cornu and the devil. In order to show her reverence to the devil, she kissed him, despite the fact that it is in an unconventional place. She still showed a sign of affection because this is her womanly lustful nature; to be a woman is to be more carnal, further justifying her as a devil worshipper, and thereby, a witch.There is no doubt that the documents and trials during this time period support the idea that women were charged with witchcraft due to the belief that they were more carnal in their sexual nature throughout Europe. The men who were writing during this time, even those who4questioned the validity of the existence of witches, still presented the belief that women cannot control themselves and were, thus, more easily swayed by the devil to do improper things. The constant appearance of sexual confessions as well as the ideas presented by writers during this period, emphasized the carnal nature of women. Thus, sex outside of the bounds of fertility in marriage for a woman translated to an allegiance to witchcraft and the devil as evident


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