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Le Moyen Age

2003/1 (Tome CIX)


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Fr. COLLARD, Veneficiis vel maleficiis. Reflections on relations between poisoning and witchcraft in the medieval Western world.
Both narrative and legal sources in the medieval Western world provide us with a number of cases combining witchcraft and poisoning. Indeed associating the two has been common practice in the history of witchcraft. The present study aims at assessing to what extent this linking rests on actual criminal practices or on popular representations. It first establishes in which cases and in what ways the two practices converge. The legal and lexical roots of the association and how they intersect in culture and people’s perceptions are examined next. Veneficium and maleficium are both connected to the occult, which explains the parallel in the chart tracing their repression in the late Middle Ages. We note, however, that there is a simultaneous attempt at uncoupling the two practices in that « common » poisoning is distinguished from the use of satanic powders mentioned in witchcraft trials. This process of « dis-spelling» criminal poisoning extended into the 17th century.

Key words

  • Criminal poisoning
  • witchcraft
  • veneficium
  • occult
  • beliefs

Plan de l'article

  1. Réflexion sur les relations entre le crime de poison et la sorcellerie dans l’Occident médiéval

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