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Chapter Nine

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Chapter Summary

The debate between Johann Weyer and Thomas Erastus on the punishment of witches came at a timely juncture in the history of witchcraft and witch-hunting. Protestants were more adamant than humanists like Erasmus had been in their desire to root out the perceived unbiblical magic of medieval Catholicism. A simple definition of magic undergirded Erastus's demonology: magic was the attempt to produce an effect that would have been impossible to achieve using natural powers. In Erastus's demonology, the devil started out with a marked disadvantage since he could do nothing that was genuinely miraculous. The special talent of demons consisted of making illusions and tricks. The controversy between Erastus and Weyer was focused chiefly on the punishment of witches. It was because Weyer argued so boldly that the crime of witchcraft was impossible that intellectuals like Erastus found his arguments so implausible.

Keywords: Johann Weyer; medieval Catholicism; Thomas Erastus; witchcraft



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