Johann Weyer and the Emotions of Witchcraft

Thursday Lecture Series, Supernatural

  • Heidi Hausse
  • Audience open exclusively to Columbia faculty, students, and invited guests
  • All others interested in attending, please email SOF/Heyman at [email protected].

In this talk, Tom Robisheaux explores the emotions of witchcraft in sixteenth-century Europe through one of the most astute and critical commentators on witchcraft and the witch trials: Johann Weyer. A German Protestant-leaning physician who often visited women accused of witchcraft, Weyer was the first to treat the emotions of witchcraft comprehensively as witch trials began to surge in the last half of the sixteenth century. In a magisterial and widely read treatise on witchcraft, Weyer argued that human emotions were porous, and resulted from both natural and medical causes as well as preternatural manipulations by demons. An individual’s feelings could therefore never be understood as internally generated or self-contained, but instead were connected to forces that saturated the natural and preternatural world. Weyer’s views sharply challenged jurists, magistrates and theologians with simpler views on the emotions of witchcraft.