Johann Weyer and Melancholy Witches
The period between 1350 and 1780 in Europe is called “the Age of Witch Hunts”. The witch hunts peaked between the years 1580 and 1630. Demonic possession and melancholy are the central elements of the later period witch hunts. One of the classic accusations against women persecuted for witchcraft was that the devil was choosing the bodies of these women as his victims. The phenomenon of demonic possession was one of the main themes in Johan Weyer’s (1515-1588) important work De Praestigiis Daemonum (1563). Weyer, being a physician and inspired by the ideals of Christian charity, he takes a firm stand in favor of the possessed and the witches, most whom he regards as melancholics manipulated by the devil. Following the classical doctrine of the four humoral temperaments, he describes melancholy as a pathological disturbance of the equilibrium of the bodily fluids. Since he identified some medical causes for being witch, Weyer presented death penalty for witches as an unjustified and unjust practice.
Witch Hunts, Age of Witch Hunts, Melancholy Witches, Demonic Possession. Johann Weyer, Early Modern