CLIO 7 (1) - page 49

'Witches', 'Witchcraft', 'Black Magic': all
arguably loaded words with an apparently ugly his-
tory. When we think of witchcraft and black magic,
the infamous SalemWitch trials, scapegoating,
torturing, killing and burning of individuals comes
to mind. But it can be reasoned that witchcraft was
not always considered evil, and the mere belief in
the presence of black magic can be argued to be of
benefit to more marginalised societies, like that of
the peasants of Franconia.
For Franconian peasants, witchcraft dictat-
ed their lives. The peasant tradition of Franconia
included a fervent belief in black magic, which
served as not only their egalitarian judicial system,
but their personal judicial system as well, which was
thought as an alternative to their official judicial
system, and did not stop to consider social or ma-
terial power. This form of black magic was known
to be specific and believed to control those who
wronged, and thus, the sheer fear of becoming a
victim to this witchcraft was thought to encourage
people to be polite and helpful, which subsequently
contributed to social justice. The fear that the poor,
destitute and aged could retaliate with witchcraft, if
treated unkindly, gave these people of society pow-
er that they would not normally have. So why did
such a prevalent idea eventually disappear from the
Jura mountains, and could such low levels of crime
and such passivity of the peasants consequently be
merely because of the fear of becoming a victim to
The Franconian peasants inhabited the Jura
Mountains, a secluded area fromGermany, which
blindly followed and incorporated features of medi-
eval life for many hundreds of year. It can be argued
that the area's longevity with its roots in medieval
traditions can be explained by the area's particular
delay in entering Germany's mainstream culture,
modern advancement and also being unable to
be included in Germany's technological advance-
ment. It could also possibly explain why the belief
of witchcraft remained so prevalent for so long in
that area. For these reasons, the citizens of this
small village were peasants, usually poor farmer
who owned meagre farms of around 10-12 acres.
No major highways or railroads served the area and
they were keen to retain old customs and traditions
such as following simple farming techniques and
practising folk Catholicism. The delay in incorporat-
ing modern technology into their lives was matched
by the delay in medical knowledge and scientific
understanding, and it could suggest the desire to
as ‘Justice Magic’?
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