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Jennifer Farrell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Flying through the skies on a broomstick, the popular image of a witch is as a predominantly female figure — so much so that the costume has become the go-to Halloween outfit for women and girls alike. But where did this gendered stereotype come from? In the 11th century, Bishop Burchard of Worms said of certain sinful beliefs :.

Some wicked women, turning back to Satan and seduced by the illusions and phantasms of demons, believe [that] in the night hours they ride on certain animals with the pagan goddess Diana and a countless multitude of women, and they cross a great span of the world in the stillness of the dead of night.

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According to Burchard, these women were actually asleep, but were held captive by the devil, who deceived their minds in dreams. But by the end of the 15th century views of magic had changed considerably. While many beliefs about women flying through the skies persisted, the perception of them had transformed from one of scepticism to one of fear.

This suggests that what was originally considered to be a belief held only by women and foolish men was now being taken much more seriously. So what happened to cause such a transformation? One explanation offered by historian Michael D. The common kind of magic required no formal training, was widely known, could be practised by both men and women, and was usually associated with love, sex and healing. Interestingly, descriptions of humans in flight do appear in these manuals — but in relation to Women want sex Burchard rather than women.

Two key differences between this and the ones associated with women are that the person flying is an educated male and demons are now explicitly involved in the act. By conflating popular beliefs about the night flights of women with the demon-conjuring magic of the clerical underworld, medieval inquisitors began to fear that women would fall prey to the corruption of demons they could not control. While men also feature in the infamous 15th century witch-hunting manual Malleus Maleficarum The Hammer of the Witchesthe work has long been recognised as deeply misogynistic.

One section re:. Wherefore it is no wonder that so great a of witches exist in this sex.

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By the end of the Middle Ages, a view of women as especially susceptible to witchcraft had emerged. The notion that a witch might travel by broomstick especially when contrasted with the male who conjures a demon horse on which to ride underscores the domestic sphere to which women belonged. The perceived threat to established norms inherent in the idea that women were moving beyond their expected societal roles is also mirrored in a of the accusations levelled against male witches.

In doing so, they were seen to become effeminate, subverting the natural laws believed to govern sexuality. Magic was then, in many ways, viewed by the church as an expression of rebellion against established norms and institutions, including gendered identities. The idea that women might have been dabbling with the demonic magic ly associated with educated males, however inaccurate it may have been, was frightening.

Neither men nor women were allowed to engage with demons, but while men stood a chance at resisting demonic control because of their education, women did not.

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Be Curious — Leeds, Leeds. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Jennifer FarrellUniversity of Exeter. In the 11th century, Bishop Burchard of Worms said of certain sinful beliefs : Some wicked women, turning back to Satan and seduced by the illusions and phantasms of demons, believe [that] in the night hours they ride on certain animals with the pagan goddess Diana and a countless multitude of women, and they cross a great span of the world in the stillness of the dead of night.

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12 The Conceptualisation of Men and Women by the Authors of Penitentials