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Confessional Identity and Magic in the Late Sixteenth Century: Jakob Bithner and Witchcraft in Styria

Edmund Kern
The Sixteenth Century Journal
Vol. 25, No. 2 (Summer, 1994), pp. 323-340
DOI: 10.2307/2542884
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2542884
Page Count: 18
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Confessional Identity and Magic in the Late Sixteenth Century: Jakob Bithner and Witchcraft in Styria
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Abstract

This essay examines the efforts of Jakob Bithner to stamp out witchcraft within the Austrian Habsburg duchy of Styria in the late sixteenth century. Bithner's reports as an estates' official in the duchy provide insight into the relationship between confessional identity-Catholic or Protestant-and witch-hunting, because they chronicle the activities of a Lutheran witch-hunter in a territory subject to a concerted attempt to reintroduce Catholicism. At the time in Styria, both Catholics and Lutherans prosecuted those accused of witchcraft because of their shared understanding of public security and order. Although historians' conceptions of distinctly Catholic or Lutheran doctrines on magic seem to have little relevance given this fact, confessional differences did become manifest in witch-hunting since the trials occurred locally within a matrix of political forces that included significant religious tensions. Despite the absence of specifically Lutheran or Catholic doctrines on magic, Bithner's confessinal identity informed his actions, just as the Habsbug court's religious preferences informed its politics.

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