Between the Devil and the Host: Imagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland

Hardcover | January 15, 2012

byMichael Ostling

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Outside the imagination, witches don't exist. But in Poland and in Europe and its colonies in the early modern period, people imagined their neighbours to be witches, with tragic results. For the first time in English, Michael Ostling tells the story of the imagined Polish witches, showing howordinary peasant-women got caught in webs of suspicion and accusation, finally confessing under torture to the most heinous of crimes. Through a close reading of accusations and confessions, Ostling also shows how witches imagined themselves and their own religious lives. Paradoxically, the talesthey tell of infanticide and host-desecration reveal to us a culture of deep Catholic piety, while the stories they tell of demonic 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 Ostling explores the religious lives of early modern women and men: theirgender 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.

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Outside the imagination, witches don't exist. But in Poland and in Europe and its colonies in the early modern period, people imagined their neighbours to be witches, with tragic results. For the first time in English, Michael Ostling tells the story of the imagined Polish witches, showing howordinary peasant-women got caught in webs o...

Michael Ostling grew up in northern California. He fell in love with Poland while teaching English in that country during a break from university. He did his graduate work at the Centre for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto, and currently teaches witchcraft, Christianity, mythology and related subjects at Central Michi...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:296 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.98 inPublished:January 15, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199587906

ISBN - 13:9780199587902

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Table of Contents

Introduction: At the crossroadsPart I. History1. Contexts2. Imagining witchcraft in literature and law3. A winding road to the stake4. Mechanisms of justicePart II. Religion5. Healing and Harming6. Stealing the sacred7. Broken bodies8. Piety in the torture chamberPart III. Demonology9. A candle for the devil10. Demon lovers11. Translating the DevilConclusionAppendix: Polish witch trials 1511-1775Bibliography