chapter  11
18 Pages

Motivation and the Village Community: I, The witch

People labelled as witches received this designation from within a village community. Certain attributes predisposed individuals to such an accusation. This stereotype of the witch suspect broke down in periods of panic, changed over time and place, rarely applied in total to anybody and in a few cases was completely irrelevant. Above all, it has been wrongly drawn. Nevertheless, villagers who were dependent, deviant, different and whose traits were durable were most vulnerable to community suspicion. Women were likely to be suspected more because of the aspects and implications of these characteristics than because they were innocent victims of an irrational misogyny. The emphasis on dependence was misplaced. It was a major precondition for accusation in normal periods, usually a necessary prerequisite, but never sufficient on its own. The key elements in dependence were age, isolation, poverty and gender. The old, lonely, poor woman was the traditional victim. Monter emphasised gender, and Thomas poverty. Both were wrong: age was the critical element in this complex of factors.'