Maleficae et Maledictae Feminae: Fourteenth-Century Sources for Key Feature
of the Learned Interpretation of Witchcraft in Italy at the End of the Middle
By Fabrizio Conti, Central European University
This paper discusses Italian witchcraft in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Demons were invoked for many different reasons, such as protection. Those who invoked such demons contravened the Commandments of God, according to Bernardino da Busti, a Franciscan friar of the 15th century.
Saints vs. witches – There appeared to be some overlap in between the two figures; one good, one evil. Some witches were venerated and consulted for aid, much in the same fashion as saints. Witches flew to people’s aid on broomsticks, whereas saints were carried by angels. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, there was an increased interest in examining women’s powers more closely. Women mystics were then often viewed with suspicion for acts such as veneration of the Eucharist; this could later be used against a women and twisted into an accusation of desecration and witchcraft. Other witchcraft accusations ranged from the eating of children, to changing into animals, to practice of “maleficia”.