Fire Burne & Cauldron Bubble: Witchcraft at the Dawn of Modernity
30 May—8 August 2014
Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, a specter was haunting Europe, the specter of witchcraft.
Far removed from today’s droll fictions, witches between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries inspired the same horror that would greet modern-day terrorists and serial killers. Feared for their sorcery and devil worship, witches were the embodiment of all that Christian society reviled.
Across Europe, authorities executed tens of thousands of people who were allegedly part of this vast satanic conspiracy. Several cultural trends from the Middle Ages—including hostility to magic and institutionalized persecution of heretics—coalesced in a theory of witchcraft that became the locus of profound societal anxieties. These apprehensions climaxed during the Reformation, as Catholic and Protestant communities alike strove for identity through the turmoil of the period.
Among the largest repositories of early printed books in the country, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library is home to a rich collection that chronicles the European witch hunt, which still perplexes and captivates us even after all these centuries. The exhibition is curated by RBML graduate assistant, David Morris.
A printed guide and a website accompany the exhibition.