The idea of the witch and her (his) craft, is something that has been seen as far back as antiquity, if not even before that.
In order to come to a sound understanding of any aspect of the thought of Albert the Great insofar as it pertains to the adjective “mystical”, great care must be taken to avoid importing into Albert’s ideas any of the modern connotations of that term which may have been alien to his time and culture. And the best way to achieve this goal is to try to learn how Albert used the term.
In medieval thought, the concept of witchcraft held a place in the moral cosmology as a necessary evil receptacle of the hierarchically contrasting good of the community of Christians, God, piety and virtue. Still, the contents of the concept of witchcraft were dependent on the contents of its superior counterparts — and vice versa. In medieval and early modern thought, there could be no Christianity without the Devil and without witchcraft. This gave witchcraft an inherently unstable place on the threshold between orthodoxy, heterodoxy and heresy.
In 1488 during the reign of Henry VII, one year after the Dominican Heinrich Kramer wrote his notorious witch-finding manual ‘Malleus Maleficarum’, an adolescent girl named Agatha Soothtell gave birth in a cave among the dales and moors of Yorkshire to her daughter Ursula, supposedly conceived by the Devil himself.
The present chapter resumes the physiological theme of the previous chapter, and explores in more detail how and why the body became the locus of Gothic horror in the last decades of the century, and how the fields of psychiatry, criminology, and sexology helped determine the focus of Gothic representation.
Work on the history of witchcraft has come to a point at which we both can and must rethink this and other basic assumptions about the rise of these trials. We must reconsider how far the concept of witchcraft was consolidated into a single imaginative construct during the fifteenth century, and how the mythology of witchcraft functioned in distinct places. Most basically, we must ask anew how useful standard models of historical explanation are for understanding the early witch trials.
The figure is that of a man clothed in the skin of a stag and wearing on his head the antlers of a stag. The hide of the animal covers the whole of the man’s body, the hands and feet are drawn as though seen through a transparent material; thus conveying to the spectator the information that the figure is a disguised human being. The face is bearded, the eyes large and round, but there is some doubt whether the artist intended to represent the man−animal with a mask or with the face uncovered.