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PostSubject: Witchcraft   Fri 07 Sep 2012, 15:30

Watched a programme on Channel 5 last night called "The Kings war on witches" about King James VI & I attacks on witchcraft. Up until about 1590, witch hunts in the British Isles were practically non existent, but James managed to convince himself that a storm during his return voyage from Denmark was the work of sorcerers intent on assassinating him. Thereafter, he started a drive against any forms of "Magick", first in Scotland then in England. The persecution outlived the King himself, reaching a peak during the Civil Wars before finally dying out in the late 17th century.

One aspect the programme covered was the excavation of votive pits in Cornwall, surprisingly the newest was dated to the 1970's

http://www.archaeologyonline.org/

James' publications Daemonologie and Newes from Scotland are available to read online;

http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/kjd/
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PostSubject: Re: Witchcraft   Sat 08 Sep 2012, 11:22

Quote :
James managed to convince himself that a storm during his return voyage from Denmark was the work of sorcerers intent on assassinating him.
The Danish connection seems quite relevant.

The accusation of witchcraft against Agnes Sampson in North Berwick after the storm in the spring of 1590 followed on from a similar accusation against Anna Koldings in Copenhagen made after another storm a few months earlier in the fall of 1589. In that earlier storm James' bride Anne of Denmark had had to abandon the planned journey to Scotland and put into the Norwegian coast with the intention of overwintering in Oslo. James, however, had then decided to make an unscheduled winter voyage to Oslo to pick up his bride and bring her to Scotland. It was the storm during the return leg which resulted in the accusation against Agnes Sampson.

Denmark-Norway was a united kingdom at that time and was also engrossed with the contemporary witch-trial of Anne Pedersdotter a rich widow in Bergen. It seems that James VI of Scotland was himself heavily influenced by 'Newes from Denmark and Norway'. A study of what the causes were of the witch-hunts in Denmark-Norway at that time could be quite revealing.
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PostSubject: Re: Witchcraft   Sat 08 Sep 2012, 12:23

Nils Gilje has written a very good book about Anne Pedersdotter, the first part of which outlines the mounting tensions between the two competing power structures which ultimately resulted in her execution, a case of revenge by proxy against her dead husband, Absalon Pederssøn Beyer, the renowned humanist and Lutheran priest (whose "dagbok" is still probably one of the best sources of information regarding life in the latter half of the 16th century to be found anywhere). There had been one attempt to accuse her of witchcraft while Absalon was still alive, and although it was patently ludicrous it had taken the intervention of the king in Copenhagen to eventually quash it. During this incident the battle lines had become clearly drawn for all to see. On the one side was the ascendant reformation-inspired Lutheran priesthood who enjoyed patronage of no less than the Danish crown itself, and on the other were the "burgher" class of merchants and town councillors who bitterly resented any intrusion into their domain. In Bergen this bitterness was enhanced to a large degree by the city's long-held stature as a Hanseatic League port with the ability to generate (and dispose of) great wealth hitherto independent of royal interference. Absalon and his reformation-inspired allies represented an ominous death knell for this cosy arrangement.

After Absalon's death his widow Anne, despite having been granted liberty from all taxes and duties and the choice of the entire kingdom to set up an estate in her own name by Frederick II, chose to remain in Bergen. The accusation against her had made her bitter indeed and it was obvious that she wished to remain a thorn in the side of those who she quite understandably considered had done her wrong. For their part the burgher class in Bergen became fixated on the woman as their wealth and power were systematically whittled down by her royal protectors. When Frederick II died in 1588 there was a short period while they judged what way the wind was blowing under the new king Christian IV and, when it became obvious that the 11 year old's advisors were focused more on solidifying trust in the junior regent within Denmark, struck while the going was good. The nature of the charges brought against her this time were even more ludicrous than before, evidence probably of the speed with which they were concocted (murder of a pear tree being one of them) and the indecent haste in assembling "witnesses" to testify against her also smacked of desperation on her accusers' part. When her son - also called Absalon - failed in an attempt to invoke royal intervention all pretence of a trial dissolved immediately. Within two days of his failure she had been convicted and burnt.

Even the location of her execution betrayed the politics behind the action. Nordnes, a small peninsula visible from the entire surrounding city, meant that witnessing the execution was almost unavoidable for the entire citizenry on the day. This was the burghers making a point regarding their power, and it was not to be lost on anyone, especially the priesthood. They and Anne's family started a protracted campaign to exonerate her which itself triggered huge social unrest and reform over the next few decades and which spilled over into Norwegian society as a whole. The burgher class ultimately lost this fight as Christian's dominion over their affairs slowly tightened, but not before they had employed similar scare tactics - especially in Finnmark - to emphasise their control and power. Many innocent women were to suffer in other towns and villages before eventually the practise could be successfully stopped through an enforceable royal decree.
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PostSubject: Re: Witchcraft   Sat 08 Sep 2012, 14:36

The opportunity to use witch hunts for powerplays would just to good to resist. One thing the programme didn't mention was the implication of the Earl of Bothwell during the North Berwick trials. Bothwell would eventually be driven into exile. Though to be fair on James, the number of real assassination attempts, kidnappings and plots he had to endure, it's little wonder he was paranoid.
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PostSubject: Re: Witchcraft   Fri 21 Sep 2012, 15:40

The Hammer of Witches, for anyone who wishes to read it;

http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/mm

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