Saturday, March 9, 2013

"England is indeed the one country outside Italy to display the most obvious similarities with Venice as far as witchcraft practices are concerned." (from Ruth Martin)

Below are some selected passages from Ruth Martin's book, Witchcraft and the Inquisition in Venice, 1550-1650, (Blackwell, 1989). These quotes from Ruth Martin's book all appeared in an earlier post in this blog: "A Different World"? (Ronald Hutton's Recantations, Part Deux) :
"[t]here is clear evidence of a great deal of interpenetration of 'popular' and 'learned' beliefs throughout this period ... but the actual mingling of these two strands, if they ever were entirely separate, seems to have taken place earlier [that is, prior to 1550] ...."
[p. 225]
"Until more work is done on Venetian social history as a whole it will be hard to draw ... conclusions .... Even so, it seems that witchcraft of one type or another held an interest for people from all levels of society .... Womens' social standing ranged from the gentildonne who would often consult witches or even try the experiments themselves, through wives of retailers and craftsmen, to washerwomen, arsenal workers (making sails or ropes), the wives of boatmen, prostitutes, to some with no visible means of income at all. Witchcraft had in fact become the main craft of many, hence their titles: la Pirotta, la Caballada, l'Astrologo and la medegha."
[p. 234]
"There was also a close degree of contact between the different classes of Venetian society. The rich and poor lived side by side and the flow of ideas and beliefs between them must have been considerable. As we have seen, the distinction between the 'learned' and the 'popular' elements of witchcraft beliefs in Venice was not always easy to define. This distinction has perhaps been overemphasized in the past in any case. Christina Larner's recent work on Scottish witchcraft, for instance, has revealed a considerable degree of interpenetration between the so-called learned and popular beliefs. In Venice this sharing of beliefs by popular and learned elements of society was even closer."
[p. 243]
"It is clear that Venetian witchcraft was by no means unique. Each category of witchcraft in Venice ... paralleled what is known to have existed elsewhere in Europe during the period and, no doubt, outside this period as well ....

"Necromancy, or the practice of the learned tradition of magic, was current throughout a great part of Europe, and certainly throughout Italy during this period. Some records still survive for the Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition which contain copies of certain processi, usually just the sentence and/or abjuration, which were forwarded to Rome from all over Italy. Necromantic exploits feature prominently in these records. The sentence of the 1580 Vicentine trial against Antonio de Franci, for instance, refers to the work of Pietro d'Abbano and to the Clavicula Salomonis being used used in the celebration of a mass as part of a love magic ceremony. There is little doubt that these and other books of magic like them circulated widely in Europe during this period as did the corrupted versions of traditions evident in many of the conjurations and divinatory experiments seen in Venice.

"At a different level of society other forms of witchcraft also were all part of what was presumably a Europen-wide system of popular beliefs. Mary O'Neil describes the same experiments, with some local modifications, being practiced in Modena. The Udine records, and those in Trinity College, Dublin, covering the whole of Italy contain references to similar practices. Indeed, whenever the available records provide us with a glimpse into traditional beliefs and activities, for instance those of the so-called 'cunning folk' in England, we see time and time again what were basically the same types of witchcraft as those observed in Venice.

"England is indeed the one country outside Italy to display the most obvious similarities with Venice as far as witchcraft practices are concerned .... [T]he nature of the records in each area enables us to see beyond the large trails, the epidemics of witch-hunting, to the day-to-day beliefs and attitudes of the population as a whole .... The Venetian records provide us ... with a detailed picture of a way of life ... [W]hat Venice shows us was, broadly speaking, the picture throughout most of Europe."
[pp. 239-241]