The publication of early witchcraft texts created witches by creating controversy about them. Witch-dramas, pamphlets, testimonies about witch-encounters, sermons, and accounts of trials published the anxieties, recounted the long standing suspicions, and sensationalised the physical manifestations that made women into witches. Sometimes accompanied by woodcuts, many texts insisted on the reality, materiality, and immediacy of witches and their familiars. In these, the early modern witch was represented as both a perpetrator of violence and the victim of it.
The early modern witch is a fascinating enigma: a legal entity and a neighbourhood resource or nuisance, she purportedly engaged in natural and supernatural forms of wisdom with the potential to heal or harm others, or even herself. The words she spoke, mumbled could become malefic by intent, if not by content. According to the sensationalist constructions of witchcraft, her body was contaminated by the magics she used: she fed familiars with blood, grew spare parts, could not weep, and would not sink. In accounts focused on bewitchment and possessions, the witch vomited pins or personified pollution and a culturally legitimate cunning-person such as a physician or minister or exorcist acted as curative. Despite the skepticism about witches that followed Reginald Scot’s assertions and the decline of legal examinations trials, the early modern witch has remained a vital force in the cultural imagination. Witchcraft remain the focus of academic articles, scholarly volumes, digital resources, archaeological digs, children’s and teenage fiction, popular media and museum studies.
This issue of Preternature, in association with the ?Capturing Witches’ conference, invites contributions from any discipline that highlight the cultural, literary, religious, or historical significance of the early modern witch. Contributions should be roughly 8,000 – 12,000 words, including all documentation and critical apparatus, and adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (style 1, employing endnotes). Contributions must be submitted through the Preternature CMS. Deadline for final submissions is Novermber 30, 2012.
Queries about journal scope and submissions can be made to the Editor, Dr. Kirsten C. Uszkalo. Queries concerning books to be reviewed can be made to the Book Reviews Editor, Dr. Richard Raiswell. Queries concerning this special volume can be sent to Professor Alison Findlay and Dr. Liz Oakley-Brown Full journal style guides are available at http://preternature.org. Information on the early English witch can be found at the WEME project at http://witching.org. Details on the ?Capturing Witches’ conference can be found at http://www.transculturalwriting.com/?page_id=1535
Preternature is a bi-annual publication, published through Penn State Press, and available in print or electronically through JSTOR, Project Muse, and as a Kindle e- book.