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Fri, 07 Sep 2012 11:51:53 EDT by admin, 117806 views
City University of New York
History paper by Gazda, Angela K. (all papers)
Witch Trials in Transylvania in the Early Modern Period
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Transylvania was known as Fairyland (Tündérország), a name that is today evoked in praise of the region’s natural beauty. However, it was not Transylvania’s natural splendor that had earned it this moniker, or even a belief in the eponymous mythical beings, but rather the principality’s reputation for political inconstancy and internal feuding. It is against this backdrop of mercurial politics owing to the Habsburg dynasty’s expansionist aspirations and Turkish dominion in parts of Hungary and its neighbors in the Balkans that the first witch trials and executions took place in Transylvania. The witch persecutions began in the Kingdom of Hungary in the mid-16th century, a good century later than in Western Europe, and began to reach their peak toward the end of the 17th century, although never taking on the horrifically formidable dimensions they did in the French and German regions. What prompted the wheels of the judicial system to spring into action against accused witches? What led people to make such allegations in the first place? How did the accused fare once formally charged and convicted? I aim to address these questions and more by examining individual cases as well the social and cultural context in which these trials took place, with a special focus on the rich system of magical beliefs and rituals in a world in which witchcraft was a fundamental reality and permeated every aspect of daily life.
Brief Professional Bio:
Angela K. Gazda (City University of New York) is an anthropologist specializing in East-Central Europe and the Balkans. Her broad research interests include ethnicity and minority cultures, citizenship and transnationality, immigration and globalization, cities and modernity, sexuality and gender.