Start Date

10-4-2021 9:00 AM

End Date

10-4-2021 10:00 AM

Disciplines

History

Subjects

Trials (Witchcraft) -- Massachusetts -- Salem, Witchcraft -- Massachusetts -- Salem -- History -- 17th century, Trials (Witchcraft) -- Massachusetts -- Salem -- History -- 17th century, Familiars (Spirits)

Description

Abstract: During the English witch trials of the mid-sixteenth century to 1735, more was on trial than just the accused humans before the bar. Witch trials also threatened an entire mental landscape, the beings that inhabited it, and their relationships with both the accused and the general populace. This ecological ontology coalesced in the other party on trial: the intersectional helpers known as familiar spirits. Spirits animated the natural world, intermingled with flora and fauna, and impacted many aspects of everyday life, representing a keystone species in popular conceptions of nature in early modern England. The assumption of malevolence present in witch trials and the use of familiar spirits as evidence of witchcraft slowly warped these ambivalent creatures from domestic helpers, companions, and sources of knowledge into malevolent, demonic servants. Drawing from the fields of historical ecology, anthropology, and philosophy, this paper focuses on the conception of the familiar spirits as intersectional beings, environmental agents, and bearers of ecological knowledge, arguing that their demonization marked a turning point in how many English men and women viewed their relationships with other organisms and the environment they shared.

PART OF SESSION 5B. WITCH TRIALS

Comment: Theresa Earenfight, Seattle University
Chair: Charity Urbanski, University of Washington


Strangely Doesburg, Western Washington University, undergraduate student
“Allotrioemeis: Or, a Preposterous Preponderance of Pins Produced”

Ryan P. Mealiffe, University of Washington, undergraduate student
“Familiar Ecology: The Demonization of Spirit Knowledge in Early Modern England and its Ecological Ramifications”

Brooke Nicole Nicholson, Eastern Washington University, graduate student
“A ‘Confessed’ Witch: Tituba and Salem Witchcraft, 1692–1693”

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Persistent Identifier

https://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/35243

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Apr 10th, 9:00 AM Apr 10th, 10:00 AM

Familiar Ecology: The Demonization of Spirit Knowledge in Early Modern England and its Ecological Ramifications

Abstract: During the English witch trials of the mid-sixteenth century to 1735, more was on trial than just the accused humans before the bar. Witch trials also threatened an entire mental landscape, the beings that inhabited it, and their relationships with both the accused and the general populace. This ecological ontology coalesced in the other party on trial: the intersectional helpers known as familiar spirits. Spirits animated the natural world, intermingled with flora and fauna, and impacted many aspects of everyday life, representing a keystone species in popular conceptions of nature in early modern England. The assumption of malevolence present in witch trials and the use of familiar spirits as evidence of witchcraft slowly warped these ambivalent creatures from domestic helpers, companions, and sources of knowledge into malevolent, demonic servants. Drawing from the fields of historical ecology, anthropology, and philosophy, this paper focuses on the conception of the familiar spirits as intersectional beings, environmental agents, and bearers of ecological knowledge, arguing that their demonization marked a turning point in how many English men and women viewed their relationships with other organisms and the environment they shared.

PART OF SESSION 5B. WITCH TRIALS

Comment: Theresa Earenfight, Seattle University
Chair: Charity Urbanski, University of Washington


Strangely Doesburg, Western Washington University, undergraduate student
“Allotrioemeis: Or, a Preposterous Preponderance of Pins Produced”

Ryan P. Mealiffe, University of Washington, undergraduate student
“Familiar Ecology: The Demonization of Spirit Knowledge in Early Modern England and its Ecological Ramifications”

Brooke Nicole Nicholson, Eastern Washington University, graduate student
“A ‘Confessed’ Witch: Tituba and Salem Witchcraft, 1692–1693”