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IMC 2015: Sessions

Session 805: Beyond the Ordinary?: Witches, Madmen, and Kingly Impairment

Tuesday 7 July 2015, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Helen Frances Smith, School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures, University of Edinburgh
Paper 805-aAlfred the Great, Æthelred Unraed, and Edward the Confessor: Kingly Impairment and the Anglo-Saxons
(Language: English)
Marit Ronen, Department of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Medicine, Social History
Paper 805-bNew Findings on the Origins of Witchcraft in Europe: The Pyrenean Paradigm
(Language: English)
Pau Castell-Granados, Departament d'Història i Arqueologia, Universitat de Barcelona
Index terms: Archives and Sources, Historiography - Medieval, Mentalities, Sermons and Preaching

Paper -a:
The idea that 'Germanic' and 'Celtic' traditions demanded the kings be 'unblemished' is no longer taken at face value. Anglo-Saxon attitudes were particularly inclusive of impairments in the political sphere, and even, in some cases, went as far as considering them to be enabling. I will examine these attitudes through the cases of three late Anglo-Saxon kings - Alfred the Great, Aethelred Unread, and Edward the Confessor – and present the different ways kingly impairment was understood – from a hindrance to proper rule, to an enhancement of royal authority.

Paper -b:
The new sources gathered along our yet unpublished PhD, devoted to the 15th-century witch-hunts in the Pyrenean area, show the emergence of the so-called witch stereotype as soon as the 1420's. Explicit references to the nocturnal gatherings, the apostasy, and the homage paid to the Devil, the use of ointments and formulas to fly to the sabbat, the practices of poison and maleficent magic and the entering of houses by night to kill new-born babies are common in an area comprised between Toulouse and Barcelona during the central years of the 15th century, as shown by both judiciary and literary sources.