Battling Demons: Witchcraft, Heresy, and Reform in the Late Middle Ages

Paperback | October 18, 2002

byMichael D. Bailey

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The fifteenth century is more than any other the century of the persecution of witches. So wrote Johan Huizinga more than eighty years ago in his classic Autumn of the Middle Ages. Although Huizinga was correct in his observation, modern readers have tended to focus on the more spectacular witch-hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Nevertheless, it was during the late Middle Ages that the full stereotype of demonic witchcraft developed in Europe, and this is the subject of Battling Demons.

At the heart of the story is Johannes Nider (d. 1438), a Dominican theologian and reformer who alternately persecuted heretics and negotiated with them—a man who was by far the most important church authority to write on witchcraft in the early fifteenth century. Nider was a major source for the infamous Malleus maleficarum, or Hammer of Witches (1486), the manual of choice for witch-hunters in late medieval Europe. Today Nider's reputation rests squarely on his witchcraft writings, but in his own day he was better known as a leader of the reform movement within the Dominican order and as a writer of important tracts on numerous other aspects of late medieval religiosity, including heresy and lay piety. Battling Demons places Nider in this wider context, showing that for late medieval thinkers, witchcraft was one facet of a much larger crisis plaguing Christian society.

As the only English-language study to focus exclusively on the rise of witchcraft in the early fifteenth century, Battling Demons will be important to students and scholars of the history of magic and witchcraft and medieval religious history.

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The fifteenth century is more than any other the century of the persecution of witches. So wrote Johan Huizinga more than eighty years ago in his classic Autumn of the Middle Ages. Although Huizinga was correct in his observation, modern readers have tended to focus on the more spectacular witch-hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth c...

Michael D. Bailey is Visiting Scholar at the Medieval Institute of the University of Notre Dame.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:216 pages, 9.25 × 6.11 × 0.56 inPublished:October 18, 2002Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271022264

ISBN - 13:9780271022260

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments

Abbreviations

Introduction: Witchcraft, Heresy, and Reform in the Fifteenth Century

1. The Life of Johannes Nider

2. Witchcraft in the Writings of Johannes Nider

3. The Threat of Heresy: Hussites, Free Spirits, and Beguines

4. Reform of the Orders, Reform of the Religious Spirit

5. The Reform of the Christian World: Johannes Nider's Formicarius

6. Witchcraft and Reform

Conclusion: Witchcraft and the World of the Late Middle Ages

Appendix One: Chronology of Nider's Life and Datable Works

Appendix Two: Dating of Nider's Major Works Used in this Study

Appendix Three: Manuscript Copies of Nider’s Treatises

Select Bibliography

Editorial Reviews

“In this valuable, accurate, and engaging volume, Michael Bailey investigates the ‘prehistory’ of the early modern concept of witchcraft through the writings of Johannes Nider, a Dominican whose fundamental treatises—in particular, the seminal Formicarius—are still ‘remarkably understudied.’”

—Armando Maggi, Journal of Religion