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Guardian Spirits or Demonic Pets: The Concept of the Witch's Familiar in Early Modern England, 1530-1712

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... Human societies frequently associated Nonhuman Animals with the natural world, and this association extended to include the supernatural world as well. Indeed, Nonhuman Animals were thought especially vulnerable to demonic possession or association (Serpell, 2002). The shift to capitalism, however, would reduce nonhuman persons to objectified commodities. ...
... Two cases could be classified as phantasms of the living, but doppelgangers, the final ghostly category developed by Evans (2001), did not surface in the sample. Furthermore, I found it necessary to expand Evans' classification system to include evil entities based on Serpell's (2002) observation that Nonhuman Animals are often seen as demonic associates. Thirteen percent of nonhuman ghosts in my sample existed as a result of curses or demonic presence. ...
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Ghosts symbolically represent the social recognition of a subject's personhood as well as the legitimacy of that individual's experience with inequality since many haunting narratives center grievance. Marginalized groups may be so oppressed that they do not warrant acknowledgement, thus protecting the distinctiveness of privileged groups. Nonhuman Animals, for instance, are much less likely to be recognized as ghosts, especially farmed species. To explore the relationship between oppression and the cultural visibility of other animals, this article revisits cultural source theory with a qualitative content analysis of 20 ghost anthologies. Results support human bias in haunting narratives.
... Throughout Western history, nondominant groups-such as Blacks, Jews, indigenous, and other racialized people; women and witches; and spiritualists and visionaries-have been animalized as a means of moral debasement and rational for oppression and enslavement. The pairing of some groups of humans with nonhuman animals, such as the poor with vermin, and woman with bitch, is intended to signify the alleged depravity of the human entity through association with the devalued animal other (Adams, 1990;Adams & Donovan, 2007;Evans, 1906Evans, /1987Patterson, 2002;Serpell, 2002;Spiegel, 1997). In examining the history of petkeeping in its myriad forms and meanings, Serpell (1996) argued that, in the West, there are no reasonable grounds for regarding the mundane majority of pet-owners as potential zoophiles or fanatics any more than there is reason to treat all alcohol drinkers as embryonic dipsomaniacs. ...
... A groundswell of publications, including peer-reviewed articles in academic journals and books, academic and professional conferences, and specialized research institutes in these innovative fields of study, explore the meanings of nonhuman animals in relation to humans and vice versa, as well as to our shared environments. They include a wide range of contributions from virtually all disciplines including in abridged format: sociology and anthropology (Arluke & Sanders, 2009;Flynn, 2000bFlynn, , 2008Noske, 1989Noske, , 1997Noske, , 2008Serpell, 1996Serpell, , 2002, psychology (Levinson, 1969(Levinson, , 1964Taylor, 2003;Walsh, 2009aWalsh, , 2009b, political and moral philosophy (Francione, 2009;Regan, 1983Regan, /2004Singer, 1975Singer, /2009), feminist and ecofeminist theory (Adams, 1994(Adams, , 1995Adams & Donovan, 2007;Besthorn & McMillen, 2002;Glasser, 2011), law (Francione, 1995(Francione, , 2000, ethics (Botes, 2000), nursing (Johnson & Meadows, 2010;Johnson, Odendaal, & Meadows, 2002), social work (Faver, 2009;Hanrahan, 2011Hanrahan, , 2013Hanrahan, , 2015Risley-Curtiss, 2010a, 2010bTedeschi, Fitchett, & Molidor, 2005;Wolf, 2000;Yarri, 2006;Zilney, & Ziley, 2005), veterinary medicine (Arkow, 1998;Catanzaro, 2003;Hart, 2000aHart, , 2000bHart, , 2010Rowan & Beck, 1994), biology and ethology (Bekoff, 2007;Wilson, 1984), and history of science (Haraway, 2003(Haraway, , 2008. ...
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Among health care professionals, veterinarians and veterinarian technicians (VVT) have been largely overlooked in terms of the consequences of preferred coping style, stress management, and care work (e.g., burnout, secondary traumatic stress [STS], and moral distress). STS, often referred to as compassion fatigue, can have serious negative physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual impacts. Although trauma research has begun to shed light on the development of STS as an adverse consequence of care work, a limited understanding exists within the extant literature about the role of other factors such as individual coping style on the development of STS among health care professionals in general, but among veterinarians specifically. This lack of attention on VVT is not surprising when one considers disproportionate lower ranking of veterinarian medicine within the larger medical hierarchy, in which doctors of humans are generally bestowed with greater prestige. Within trauma research, no understanding exists within the extant literature about the relational significance of human-animal bonds in veterinary settings regarding the development of STS, and how they may function as social determinants of health, impacting both professional and organizational well-being. This discussion article seeks to add clarity to the issue as well as challenge current perceptions of veterinary work, its health consequences on VVT, and anthropocentrism in research more generally. Implications for education and research are provided. (PsycINFO Database Record
... During the so-called European witch-craze from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, successive demonologists described witches as consorting with the Devil and his minions in animal form; as being capable of shape-shifting -i.e. transforming both themselves and others into animals -and of employing the services of demonic animal `familiars' or `imps' to carry out their evil designs (Serpell, 2002). ...
Chapter
Religions serve a variety of functions for their adherents, including providing guidance on what constitutes appropriate moral relations between human and nonhuman animals. The peculiarly anthropocentric worldviews propounded by monotheistic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, tend to depict animals as secondary creations designed primarily to serve the interests of humans. Other belief systems offer radically different perspectives on the nature of animals, and on people's duties and responsibilities toward them. The present paper explores some of these other religious viewpoints in search of common themes, and concludes that the monotheistic perspective is simply one extreme expression of an ancient psychological struggle or conflict between the human need (or desire) to live at the expense of other animals, and our propensity to incorporate animals into our social, and hence moral, worlds. This conflict, it is argued, has existed in every human society and has played crucial formative roles in the development of religious beliefs and practices.
... 100-12;Herzig 2010). The use of 'watching' in the mid-seventeenth century trials often led to accusations that the witch possessed a mouse as a familiar, a pattern identified by James A. Serpell (2002), and interpreted as a result of natural causation. Sitting and observing a prisoner during the day and night, a 'watcher' was highly likely to find their attention caught by a rodent. ...
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This article explores the role played by the relationship between witch and familiar in the early modern witch trials. It positions animal familiars at the intersection of early modern belief in witchcraft and magic, examining demonologies, legal and trial records, and print pamphlets. Read together, these sources present a compelling account of human-animal interactions during the period of the witch trials, and shed light upon the complex beliefs that created the environment in which the image of the witch and her familiar took root. The animal familiar is positioned and discussed at the intersection of writing in history, anthropology, folklore, gender, engaging with the challenge articulated in this special issue to move away from mono-causal theories and explore connections between witchcraft, magic, and religion.
... In some cases, this association presented women's power as threatening and necessary to suppress. In Europe and America, for instance, cats were believed to serve as witches' familiars, complicit in executing women's evil deeds (James Serpell 2002). Medieval texts similarly employed cat metaphors to describe suspiciously lustful and disobedient women. ...
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The women’s march on Washington on January 21 2017 and its more than 600 sister marches across the world was characterized by its distinctly feline theme. Most notable were the pink pussy hats and a multitude of signs that played on the historical association between women and cats to resist the crude remarks made by US presidential nominee Donald Trump who bragged of grabbing women “by the pussy.” This article explores this feline counterframing from a vegan feminist perspective. A content analysis was performed on photographs that were published in Why I March (2017) and uploaded to the Women’s March on Washington Archives Project, the Georgia State University Women’s Marches 2017 Collection, and Instagram in Spring 2017. Results illustrate the persistent role that animality plays in feminist politics, but they also point to a critical intersectional failure exhibited by an ultimately anthropocentric collective.
Article
The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of nine weekly sessions of Donkey-Assisted Therapy ( DAT ) on the functional status of 37 adults with an intellectual disability (ID) and to analyze the moderator role of the duration of sessions on the expected positive outcomes. A new tool based on the International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health ( ICF ) was employed to measure functional changes in subjects undergoing DAT . The tool was administered at three different times (T0, T1, T2) by health care professionals and instructors who rated participants’ performance during DAT . Findings showed a significant improvement in the psycho-social functioning of patients undergoing DAT , especially for participants provided with longer sessions. The results of this study provide further evidence that DAT may be considered as a suitable therapeutic option for people with ID.
Book
https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003019008 Between 1645-7, John Stearne led the most significant outbreak of witch-hunting in England. As accusations of witchcraft spread across East Anglia, Stearne and Matthew Hopkins were enlisted by villagers to identify and eradicate witches. After the trials finally subsided in 1648, Stearne wrote his only publication, A confirmation and discovery of witchcraft, but it had a limited readership. Consequently, Stearne and his work fell into obscurity until the 1800s, and were greatly overshadowed by Hopkins and his text. This book is the first study which analyses Stearne's publication and contextualises his ideas within early modern intellectual cultures of religion, demonology, gender, science, and print in order to better understand the witch-finder's beliefs and motives. The book argues that Stearne was a key player in the trials, that he was not a mainstream 'puritan', and that his witch-finding availed from contemporary science. It traces A confirmation's reception history from 1648 to modern day and argues that the lack of research focusing on Stearne has resulted in misrepresentations of the witch-finder in the historiography of witchcraft. This book redresses the imbalance and seeks to provide an alternative reading of the East Anglian witch-hunt and of England's premier witch-hunter, John Stearne.
Chapter
In this chapter, Johnston considers the links between contagion and the devil in Dekker, Ford, and Rowley’s The Witch of Edmonton (1621). This chapter outlines how the play exhibits a complex model of infection in which pollution and disease are linked inextricably with moral corruption, with the devil serving as the pathogenic transmitter of both. The spread of evil follows a clear pattern of contagion, of infection, treatment, and eradication, in which all transgressions are triggered by touch. Focusing on the demonic agency given to infection, Johnston argues that the devil enables a synthesis of etiologies. The play follows a Frascatorian exogenous model of pathology but it does so within the bounds of an endogenous understanding rooted in the idea of galenic humours.
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Matthew Hopkins, England’s most notorious witch hunter, rested his reputation on his experience in confronting the supernatural. To this end, he greatly exaggerated the intensity of his first encounter with an accused witch, Elizabeth Clarke. In Hopkins’ account, Clarke mentioned a familiar named Grizzel Greedigut. But earlier publications show that this did not happen, and that Hopkins appropriated the name from the dubious confession of another woman, Joan Wallis. Today, we have largely accepted Grizzel Greedigut as a bizarre, nonsensical name, but it would not have been all that absurd at the time. Grizzle often described grey animals, and Grissel was a fairly popular name, an abbreviation of Grisilde. Greedigut meant ‘glutton,’ and was the name English colonials used for the American anglerfish. Without knowing more about the name’s historical context, we fall for Hopkins’ cynical ploy to maximize the strangeness of his encounter.
Chapter
This introduction to the volume surveys the history and anthropology of Christian conceptualizations of fairies, nature spirits and other “small gods.” It does so through a consideration of two tendencies of the fairies: their recession or vanishing into the pagan past and their survival as Christian demons or superstitions. The chapter argues that “small gods” are constructed as pre-Christian survivals but are best understood as objects of Christian metacultural reflection: they function to define but also trouble the margins of Christendom.
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