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date: 11 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article discusses the history of witchcraft prosecutions in the Netherlands. Until the final decades of the fifteenth century, witchcraft was not really a concern of the secular authorities. Local bailiffs and sheriffs tended to interpret complaints against supposed witches as reparation claims. People who were believed to have suffered some sort of damage by the magical activities of another individual could ask the judicial authorities to impose a financial compensation. But the interpretation of the demonic pact as the sine qua non of all magical activity, notions of the absolute antisocial character of the witch, and execution as the only possible punishment for witchcraft eventually found their way into the minds of secular authorities. In the middle of the fifteenth century a version of the German lawbook Sachsenspiegel, which was heavily influenced by Roman law, was introduced in the Netherlands. This code prescribed death by fire as the penalty for those found guilty of witchcraft.

Keywords: witchcraft prosecutions, witch trials, Sachsenspiegel, Roman law

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