In January 1816, Mathurin Viel was despairing of his health.* He had seen several doctors, but nothing had worked to cure his ‘nerves’. It was at this point that he was introduced to a man known as ‘Lacroix’, whose real name was René Bodin. Lacroix told him his illness ‘came from a spell that had […]Read more "Good Victims"
Julie Langois, femme Vigneux told investigators in 1846 that she had called on the healing services of Jerôme Nicolas Lenfant to treat the ringworm her two children were suffering from. Lenfant’s cure included putting boiled onions on the children’s heads, rubbing them with butter, and blowing in their ears. Although this method had nothing in […]Read more "nonsense matters"
It’s impossible – I think – to work on modern European witchcraft without engaging with the challenges Jeanne Favret-Saada laid down in a series of publications from the 1970s onwards. Favret-Saada’s drew on her fieldwork in western France in a series of articles and three books. I won’t do her ideas the disservice of trying […]Read more "Noting Witchcraft"
I have been thinking about what it feels like to feel cursed. It’s so easy when writing about cases of witchcraft to emphasize the external phenomena of bewitchment: butter that won’t churn, animals that don’t thrive, tools that can’t be found. It’s a lot harder to give a picture of what this felt like to […]Read more "Cursed Feelings"
‘Start writing sooner than you think!’ is one of those pieces of advice that are easier to give than to take. Like advice to write ‘little and often’, everyone knows that it is universally applicable, except in this very specific situation in which I find myself, where it would just be so much better to […]Read more "Being late to being early"
When was the last ‘witch’ executed in Europe? I have come to think that this question itself is unhelpful. Unhelpful in that – as specialists have long known – it corresponds very poorly to the shifting legal status of witchcraft between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. ‘Witches’ were still being prosecuted for witchcraft in Russia […]Read more "The Logic of Last"
In 1908, a regional newspaper carried a story about the criminal prosecution of a Parisian magician who had sold clients, among other things, a ‘fatal magnetic water’. One client wrote to the police: He sold me a bottle of ‘Fatal Water’ for fourteen francs so that I could kill the Emperor of Russia, against whom […]Read more "Fool’s Cunning"
This is a post for students. Many of you will recently have learned that the UCU – the union representing university staff – has called strike action starting in just a couple of weeks, in December 2021. I know some of you already support and understand the union position (in fact, a survey from the […]Read more "The Real Disruptors"
The votes are in, and I am delighted to inform you: no, that is not a witch hunt! Great news! This is the correct response to all discussion of ‘modern witch hunts’. To every example from your life and from public debate that you want to point to. Well, every example except the actual witch […]Read more "No, That is Not a Witch Hunt"
I’ve been looking for online tools to help students with writing. There’s some brilliant stuff out there for free already. I’ll certainly be recommending the Hemingway app, which looks at how complex and difficult blocks of text are. To be honest I may need to get used to using it myself: it scored a sample […]Read more "I AIn’t Worried About Human Redundancy Just Yet…"