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“Charming Sorcerers” or “Soldiers of Satan”? Witchcraft and Magic in the Eyes of Protestant/Calvinist Preachers in Early Modern Hungary

Institute of Ethnology, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest 1097, Hungary
The present study is the translation of Chapter 3 of my book entitled “Ördögi mesterséget nem cselekedtem.” A boszorkányüldözés társadalmi és kulturális háttere a kora újkori Debrecenben és Bihar vármegyében (“I have not done any diabolic deeds.” The Social and Cultural Foundation of Witch-Hunting in Early Modern Debrecen and Bihar County) published in Debrecen (Hungary) in Hungarian in 1998. The book examines the witch-hunting in Bihar county and its largest city in Eastern Hungary between 1575 and 1766. During this period, 217 trials were conducted against 303 accused, and my study explores the social and religious foundations of the accusations. The witch-hunts in Bihar county were of rather small size (1–3 accused per annum) and intensity (only 32% of the trials concluded in death sentence). A possible explanation for this relative mildness could be provided in my view by a complex consideration of legal, religious, and local social circumstances. Chapter 3, published here in English, discusses Hungarian Calvinist demonology which remained rather sceptical about the concepts of diabolical witchcraft. Consequently, the magistrates of Debrecen and Bihar county were not inclined to identify masses of witches, alleged representatives of a sect directly associating with the devil. The text is a result of a thorough archival exploration that I carried out twenty-one years ago in the special collections of various libraries in Budapest. I still find the conclusions included in it relevant and sound, so I decided to leave the argumentation as it was in 1998. I am grateful to Gyöngyvér Horváth PhD for the English translation. Chapter 5 of the same book on the macro- and micro-scale social contexts of local witch-hunting is also available in English, see (Sz. Kristóf 2017; an earlier version Kristóf 1991/1992). For a survey of the research of witchcraft and witch persecution in Hungary in general, see (Sz. Kristóf 2013), mentioning further details about Debrecen and Bihar county witch trials.
Religions 2019, 10(5), 328; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10050328
Received: 13 April 2019 / Revised: 27 April 2019 / Accepted: 28 April 2019 / Published: 16 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Witchcraft, Demonology and Magic)
The present study is the translation of Chapter 3 of the book of Ildikó Sz. Kristóf, entitled “Ördögi mesterséget nem cselekedtem.” A boszorkányüldözés társadalmi és kulturális háttere a kora újkori Debrecenben és Bihar vármegyében (“I have not done any diabolic deeds.” The Social and Cultural Foundation of Witch-Hunting in Early Modern Debrecen and Bihar County) published in Debrecen, Hungary in 1998. The book examined the witch-hunting in Bihar county and its largest city, the headquarters of the Calvinist church in Eastern Hungary between 1575 and 1766. During this period, 217 trials were conducted against 303 accused, and the book explored the social and religious foundations of the accusations. The witch-hunts in Bihar county were of rather small size (1–3 accused per annum) and intensity. A possible explanation for this relative mildness could be provided by a complex consideration of legal, religious, and local social circumstances. Chapter 3, published here in English, discusses Hungarian Calvinist demonology which remained rather sceptical about the concepts of diabolical witchcraft (e.g., the “covenant” or pact with the devil, the witches’ attendance at regular meetings (sabbath), etc.) throughout the early modern era. The author has studied several Calvinist treatises of theology published between the late 16th and the early 18th century by the printing press of Debrecen, those, for example, of Péter Mélius (1562), Tamás Félegyházi (1579), Péter Margitai Láni (1617), János Kecskeméti Alexis (1621), Mátyás Nógrádi (1651), Johannes Mediomontanus (1656), Pál Csehi (1656), István Diószegi Kis (1679; 1681), Gellért Kabai Bodor (1678) and Imre Pápai Páriz (1719). According to her findings, Calvinist demonology, although regarded the wordly interventions of the devil of limited scope (excepting, perhaps, the Puritans of the 1650s/1680s), urged the expurgation of the various forms of everyday magic from urban and village life. The suspicion of witchcraft fell especially on the practitioners of benevolent magic (popular healers/”wise women”, midwives, fortune-tellers, etc.) who were presumed to challenge and offend divine providence. The official religious considerations sometimes seem to have coincided with folk beliefs and explanations of misfortune concerning, among others, the plague epidemic in which witchcraft played an important role. View Full-Text
Keywords: Protestant demonology; Calvinist demonology in Hungary; witch-hunting in Hungary; witch-hunting in Debrecen/Bihar county; popular/vernacular magic in Hungary; witchcraft and sorcery in Hungary Protestant demonology; Calvinist demonology in Hungary; witch-hunting in Hungary; witch-hunting in Debrecen/Bihar county; popular/vernacular magic in Hungary; witchcraft and sorcery in Hungary
MDPI and ACS Style

Sz. Kristof, I. “Charming Sorcerers” or “Soldiers of Satan”? Witchcraft and Magic in the Eyes of Protestant/Calvinist Preachers in Early Modern Hungary. Religions 2019, 10, 328. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10050328

AMA Style

Sz. Kristof I. “Charming Sorcerers” or “Soldiers of Satan”? Witchcraft and Magic in the Eyes of Protestant/Calvinist Preachers in Early Modern Hungary. Religions. 2019; 10(5):328. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10050328

Chicago/Turabian Style

Sz. Kristof, Ildiko. 2019. "“Charming Sorcerers” or “Soldiers of Satan”? Witchcraft and Magic in the Eyes of Protestant/Calvinist Preachers in Early Modern Hungary" Religions 10, no. 5: 328. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10050328

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