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Witch-hunting in Scotland: A Gender-Based Analysis - Research Paper Example

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Undoubtedly, in Europe, a witch is traditionally believed to be a female. It is also unquestionable that most of the suspected, hunted, tortured, and executed witches in 16th- and 17th-century Scotland and England were in fact women…
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Witch-hunting in Scotland: A Gender-Based Analysis
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Witch-hunting in Scotland: A Gender-Based Analysis

Download file to see previous pages... It requires more than sufficient evidence to prove that witchcraft convictions were manipulated in an effort to oppress and retain power over women. This paper explores the theme of gender in the process of witch-hunting in Scotland. Basically, this paper tries to determine whether witch-hunts in Scotland were inherently gendered or they were merely a reaction to the growing presence of women in Scottish society. Gender was indeed a specific characteristic shared by suspected, prosecuted, convicted, and executed witches. Most of the witches also belonged to the lower class, and almost all were more impoverished than their alleged victims.2 Majority of these witches were old, and practically none were too young. The witchcraft in question almost always happened immediately after a disagreement between victim and witch, and the involved individuals were often neighbors. Those who were widely known as witches were also known for being unkind and vulgar.3 Christina Larner, in her study of Scottish witch persecution, substantiates the report that most of the persecuted witches were women: The Scottish witch-hunt was arguably one of the major witch-hunts of Europe. During its peaks it was matched only by those of the German principalities and Lorraine. As in Germany its effects were local and highly concentrated. There were periods in 1649 and 1661 when no mature woman in Fife or East Lothian can have felt free from the fear of accusation.4 Larner claims that the severity of the witch hunt in Scotland was not the greatest in Europe. Yet, Montague Summers believes that Scotland was the most severe.5 Larner associates the relationship between women and witchcraft with the traditional perception of women based on the Aristotelian image of a woman as defectively human and the Judaeo-Christian image of a woman as the reason for the Fall of Man and a root of sin. And so Larner argues, “Since witchcraft involved a rejection of what are regarded as the noblest human attributes, women were the first suspects”.6 Philomathes: What can be the cause that there are twentie women given to that craft, where ther is one man? Epistemon: The reason is easie, for as that sexe is frailer then man is, so is it easier to be intrapped in these grosse snares of the Devill, as was over well proved to be true, by the Serpents deceiving of Eve at the beginning, which makes him homelier with that sexe sensine.7 The above conversation clearly answers the question why most of the persecuted witches in Scotland were women— it was women’s weakness. Gender and witch persecutions were inseparably connected. The traditional image of a witch is a woman, and practically all alleged witches in Scotland were females. A recent investigation has tried to interpret this as a mixture of men’s fear of women’s sexuality with the influence of the Reformation’s pursuit of moral restraint.8 Fornication was the leading moral crime in Scotland9; that is, female witches were successfully fornicating with evil. Overview and History of Witch-Hunting in Scotland Witch-hunts in early modern Scotland can be completely appreciated with regard to the Reformation movement. When the bases for archaic beliefs are consolidated from the entire continental Europe, they show a fixation with the traditional image of the witch. It is a notion largely resembling that in early modern Europe.10 The punishment for killing a person through witchcraft was, both in ancient and early modern Europ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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