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Revista Estudos Feministas

Print version ISSN 0104-026X

Abstract

ZORDAN, Paola Basso Menna Barreto Gomes. Witches: figures of power. Rev. Estud. Fem. [online]. 2005, vol.13, n.2, pp. 331-341. ISSN 0104-026X.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0104-026X2005000200006.

The women whom history and popular imagination mythicized as "witches" constitute figures that purge the phobias of the Counter Reformation. Witches were tortured and burned to signal the dangers of practices and knowledge in the margins of the Church and other dominant institutions in the Modern Age. Midwives, healers and weepers, the witches blend in their large kettle the mysteries of life and death inherited from pagan traditions. This paper examines some historians' texts, especially that of Jules Michelet, who created the witch's romantic and martyred image, and the inquisitors' manual Malleus Maleficarum, that describes the witch's powers, her alliance with the demon and her threat to Christianity. These texts establish, through their different discourses, two opposing images: one that glorifies witches and another that execrates them, in order to show the transforming potential of their practices and their connection with sexuality.

Keywords : witches; the body; sorcery; paganism; the Inquisition.

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