Primary Sources


I chose to include the above woodcut, titled Witches by Hans Baldung Grien (1510), as one of my primary sources because it includes a few of the superstitions I talked about in my introduction.  This is one of the earlier depictions of witches during the Renaissance.  The four people in the picture are old women who are far from attractive, which is congruent with the common idea of a witch to most Europeans during the time.  One of the witches is flying on a broomstick, which is yet another superstition.  All of the women are naked, which suggests they are sexually deviant creatures, which is a common belief about witches as well.  This would be a good source for anyone studying how art in Renaissance England was influenced by society and culture of the era.

Hoak, Dale. “The European Witchcraze Revisited: 2. WITCH-HUNTING.” History Today (1981): 22-26. Print.


This painting is called Witch Riding Backwards on a Goat by Albrect Durer.  I found the painting in an article that reviewed various witch paintings of the Renaissance and offered interpretations of them.  We studied this engraving in my Art History class this semester, and talked about some of the superstitions that are present in the work.  For example, the cowering children below the witch could represent infanticide in the Renaissance, which witches were heavily blamed for.  Goats are commonly presented as familiars and demons in witch-themed art.  Goya’s Witches Sabbath is another example of a depiction of a goat devil, although it was completed in the 1800s.  The witch appears to be conjuring a storm, because it was believed that witches could change the weather by way of back magic.  Art analysis is a great way to think differently about literary works and cultural ideals.

Sullivan, Margaret A. “The Witches of Durer and Hans Baldung Grien.” Renaissance Quarterly 53.2 (2000): 333-401. JSTOR. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. <http://;.


The title and artist of this painting are unknown.  However, it is known that this image originated in the 17th century, and it is a representation of a male witch and his familiar, a black cat.  Black cats were very popular as familiars, and that is why black cats are viewed as bad luck in our culture today.  However, male witches were very uncommon in the Renaissance.  The male witch in this painting has a very smug look on his face, which suggests that he is very pleased with the power that he holds over others.  He is still depicted as a somewhat old and unattractive figure, but he is fully clothed, which suggests that he is not considered to be sexually deviant.  The woman who wrote about this piece of artwork claimed that male witches were every bit as common as female witches, but every other source I consulted was adamant that witches were almost always old women.  Someone who is interested in the idea of male witches and their prevalence in Renaissance culture would enjoy studying this piece of art and reading what the author of the art review has to say, and then comparing their findings to the previous sources I posted.

Murray, M. A. “A Male Witch and His Familiar.” Folklore 63.4 (1952): 227. JSTOR. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. <http://;.


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