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4 Listening to Witches: Bodin’s Use of Confession in De la Démonomanie des Sorciers

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Chapter Summary

Across early modern Europe, thousands of those accused of witchcraft confessed to attending nocturnal assemblies where they danced, feasted, and fornicated with demons. Thousands of accused 'witches' produced these first-person narratives that sealed their fate, for documents reveal that defendants almost inevitably abandon their initial denials and confess to having attended the sabbat. For Jean Bodin and other realists, the witches' sabbat was a very real event posing the greatest threat imaginable to humanity. Although it took place in the shadows, in very dark places, it was not invisible to God who could only be angered by the proliferation of witchcraft and the laxity of judges and princes who ignored what Bodin took to be unambiguous commandments regarding magic, most notably in Exodus xxii.17: "Thou shalt not suffer the witch to live", a verse quoted repeatedly in De la Démonomanie des sorciers.

Keywords: De la Démonomanie des sorciers; early modern Europe; Jean Bodin; witchcraft



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