Marriage or a career? Witchcraft as an alternative in seventeenth-century Venice

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    COPYRIGHT 1995 Journal of Social History
    (I found this article at Raven Grimassi’s website – Enzo)

    Marriage or a career?
    Witchcraft as an alternative in seventeenth-century Venice
    by Professor Sally Scully

    Despite significant changes in the historiography of European witchcraft, the figure of the witch seems to remain the inevitable center of such studies. It is, after all, for his, or most often, her “witchly” qualities that the person, initially and subsequently, is made visible. All other aspects of the individual’s life drop from the historical record as she becomes a piece of data. Absorbed into the documents only because of witchly deeds, real or imagined, the accused is isolated from a personal context. The text upon which the historian depends presents a one-dimensional picture, if a picture at all. The defendant is more likely to become a number, with some court shorthand as to personal characteristics. Only occasionally is a subject troublesome enough to leave an atypical trail in the records. Just as multiple trials over a period of time allowed Carlo Ginzburg to draw a three dimensional Menocchio,(1) two recalcitrant and recidivist women in seventeenth century Venice permit a similarly rounded depiction.

    The trials of these two half-sisters suggest that the witch’s hat was one of many, taken off and put on at will, signifying a vocational choice rather than a permanently assumed role. Moreover, what emerges is that the witch is an identity constructed, not even by contemporaries, but by subsequent historians. In the last two decades, general surveys of European witchcraft, based on printed sources preselected for their shock value,(2) have been superseded by sympathetic and non-sensational statistical and archival studies of particular, local trials.(3) Nonetheless, with the witch a given, elements of volition are still lost; the role of personal choice remains elusive. While the terms “agency” and “empowerment” already threaten to become abused in the nineties, it may be useful to view those accused of witchcraft as active agents in their own destinies rather than passive victims of either social ills or their own marginal belief systems. This can be accomplished if the noun “witch” is retired and this classification considered not nominative, but adjectival, describing an act rather than a person.

    The element of volition can be restored to witchcraft studies using the same records which the new historiography employs: the records of the Roman Inquisition. The Inquisition isolated the individual and treated him or her as a solitary integer, not as part of a social unit. Its painstaking trials can sometimes provide insights into the role that those practices labelled “witchcraft” played in the context of a suspect’s life and can correct for the historian’s neglect of motivation. While the plural of anecdote is not data, gingerly reconstructed biography catches the individual who otherwise falls through the statistical grid. A career option rather than a fate or destiny, witchcraft may be considered as having a place alongside labor and family studies, rather than being an exotic territory or aberrant growth on the social body.

    Many current, local, statistical studies have isolated women accused as witches, considering them a discrete group rather than integrating them laterally with other working women. The survival strategies open to women, marriage among them, also included witchcraft. The Inquisition documents offer an alternative vertical axis to the inevitable dominance of marriage, a horizontal shaft which runs through practically all other documentary trails.(4) In assessments of the choices or lack of choices open to women, that witchcraft may have been a real option, manipulated with varying degrees of skill by various women, merits consideration.(5)

    This tale of two sisters(6) demonstrates that the type of witchcraft chosen and the success with which it was pursued were parallel with other decisions made by or for the two women. Witchcraft practice was an extension of their composite life-pattern. The success with which it was pursued could help determine the desirability of other vocational options. Rather than reflecting a malevolent or exploited life, the women might have seen their witchcraft as part of an economic strategy which could also include marriage and prostitution.(7)

    An examination of the trials of the seventeenth century Venetians Marietta Battaglia and Laura Malipiero(8) – accused, one twice, one four times, of witchcraft – suggests that witchcraft was a role available to women for managing their lives, operating as individual players on the social stage. To call it a career option may not be anachronistic. Marriage was a mixed blessing, playing an ambiguous role in the lives of these two women, as well as in those of their mother and of their children. Witchcraft could offer an alternative: in the case of one sister, a negative alternative, a temporary expedient; for the other sister, a positive way of finally avoiding marriage. Their use of witchcraft and their success therein were in an important sense determined by the market and how well they played it.

    The trials also show that magic could range from the non-specialized incidental to the highly-specialized for which training was, at least in appearance, required. The form which the trials took on reveals a diversity which indicates less commonality among witchcraft charges than most have assumed, which cautions against the practice of isolating and artificially unifying studies of witch trials. Again, the linguistic or epistemological clarity imposed by the category “witch” may obscure diversities and unobserved communalities among those so labelled.(9)

    Maria Battaglia used the most available, least specialized, of the possibilities offered by witchcraft. Laura Malipiero exploited the array of witchcraft practices, moving from the less to the more specialized and pseudo-legitimate types. Although ultimately Laura also fell into the hands of the Inquisition, she combined witchcraft with a diversified professional life and was able to mitigate her sentences. Several of her pursuits were dangerous, but they were also lucrative and in great demand. She died in her own bed, left a sizeable estate, and maintained her final unmarried state. Witchcraft provided her with an alternative to marrying the lover whom she mentioned in her will only should he still be with her when she died.(10) He was.(11)

    Both sisters manipulated the alternatives offered by society. For one, witchcraft was negative, an alternative to a hoped-for marriage; for the other, witchcraft was one of a number of specialities which offered a positive alternative to three negatively-experienced marriages. The use of witchcraft as part of a professional package conforms to current observations of the probability of multiple occupations for working women in early modem Europe.(12) It is time to consider witchcraft as part of labor studies, not of some mysterious realm where nothing is learned about women’s choices and opportunities.(13)

    Marietta Battaglia was first tried for witchcraft in 1637.(14) She was already a moglia relitta [widow] at age thirty-eight.(15) In June of 1645, when she reappears on the stand in a second trial, she is betrothed to Dominico di Georgio of Rovigo.(16) She plaintively says in this trial that charges have been brought against her to prevent her pending marriage.(17) Despite the disadvantages of her first, it is clearly a desirable union for her, both in her eyes and in those of her enemies. Otherwise, her charge that they intended to damage her marital chances would be meaningless. When she is sentenced in 1649, after being named in a third proceeding, along with Laura Malipiero, their mother Isabella, and thirteen others, she is tried as a single woman and sentenced to jail and perpetual banishment.(18)

    In many respects, Marietta Battaglia’s career in magic parallels other aspects of her life. Hers was the relatively nonskilled role of the fortune-teller: predicting the piria, throwing the cordella, using the inchiostra and various types of love-magic, all standard forms of divination.(19) At no point does the plaintiff allude to her professional training or capacity, nor do her customers testify as to the efficacy of her magic, again typical of trials for divination. The extent to which Marietta thought she was in league with the devil is the issue; her only defense is to question the motives of her accusers and to indicate that she was, essentially, a fake.(20) Hers is assumed to be an unskilled trade. She argues that a particular performance of magic was done for love rather than money,(21) both acknowledging the possible profit motive and hoping that this was the only concern of the Inquisitors This desired exoneration may have been a reflection of her values and those of her culture; it was not the concern of the tribunal. She was accused of giving the devil his undue worship.

    Love, or at least lust, might lead men to Marietta’s house for more than one reason. Not only was she sought after for love magic, she was identified as a meretrice [prostitute] several times, and as a woman of “mala vita”.(22) While one must guard against the possibility that such epithets were intended merely to defame or destroy, or were part of a standard perception of witchcraft practitioners, Marietta’s own testimony confirms the allegations.(23) It was not unusual for prostitutes to supplement their incomes with love magic, and/or vice-versa.(24) Several others named in the sisters’ common trial are identified as both streghe [witches] and as meretrici; a casino [brothel] is identified as located in S. Giovanni Bragora. This parish is specified elsewhere both as a center for magic and for general iniquity.(25) The two professions may have been collated in perceptions of the district; they were combined in reality in Marietta’s life.

    Marietta’s other professions were a reflection of the types of magic she chose. She was a non-specialist – a meretrice, never a cortegiana – who “serviced” a number of men.(26) Three of these men were angry, according to her defense, that she had begun to deny them carnal relations because of a change in heart. In her testimony, she claims that her pending marriage led these men to denounce her to the Sant’Ufficio.(27) A witness identifies himself as having been a customer for seven years. He testifies for the defense that Giacomo Smirno had also been Marietta’s “man” until two months before, and that when she terminated he beat her, demanded money, and, when it was not forthcoming, broke her nose.(28) A stray document in this lengthy file, signed by a parish priest, indicates something never revealed in the trial: Marietta had been pregnant. On 11 September 1649 he was called because she had lost a baby.(29) Her sexual practices and her magical practices, all aspects of economic survival, left her vulnerable in more than one respect.

    Marietta’s sexual and social roles were not unusual ones for a lower-class woman; she did not handle them particularly well. Multiple and undifferentiated magical and sexual activity were supplemented by cooking, as would be revealed when both of her sentences were commuted if she would cook for half-wages at the Arsenale.(30) A marriage would have offered a traditional escape from these roles. She was, she claimed, to have been married the very day she had been taken prisoner. Marietta was condemned for a second time on August 31, 1649.(31) Even her plea against being banned from the city had an eternal ring: she was so poor she had nothing to wear.(32) She did not know how to survive outside Venice. The city offered her various means to survive, but she remained laterally in a fairly low niche. For her, marriage would have been an improvement.

    Laura Malipiero, Marietta’s half-sister, also had a negative experience of marriage. The first of four accusations of witchcraft was brought against her by her Francesco Bonamin, her putative husband of seven years and the father of her only two children.(33) Laura was officially charged with bigamy, polygamy, and witchcraft.(34) Her first husband, Todoro d’Andro, had been taken as a slave by the Turks.(35) Her second husband used both the Patriarchal and Inquisition courts to get rid of her. The latter also, by the testimony of his ex-brother-in-law, beat her and bragged about it, as he had previously beat his first wife.(36) Laura’s third husband, the Bolognese Andreas Salarol, also disappeared.(37) Her daughter, Malipiera, was so maltreated by her own husband that her eye was permanently loose in its socket.(38) Laura’s mother, Isabella, was the illegitimate product of an illicit union;(39) her father died, presumably when she was a child. Laura was his only heir.(40)

    Laura’s experience of marriage was not romantic; she subsequently seemed to use her wits and skills to avoid it. Her final lover remained just that for twenty years. She was able to gain control over her life through a series of career choices of which witchcraft was one. Even within the options which witchcraft offered, she moved from the less-specialized toward a more seemingly normal, prestigious, and better-paid specialty. Here again, the type of witchcraft chosen is a lateral extension of the other facets of a woman’s life.

    The label of business woman may not be either extreme or anachronistic when applied to Laura. At an early date she managed her life, and those of others, as a woman of affairs (affari or business). Francesco Caimus, a lawyer and witness for the defense, informed the court that since 1635 he had been a friend and had represented Laura’s affairs “at the [ducal] palace”.(41) She herself handled the interests of the daughter of patrician Almoro Zane, overlooking the affairs of this noblewoman who lived in a convent outside Venice.(42) That she had business, otherwise not defined, and had a business sense seems indicated by these glimpses of her activity.

    Asked by the Inquisitors to define her trade, Laura replied that her professione was that of managing a rooming house.(43) That she chose this as her professional identity may have been because it was her most neutral role, but it also may have been her main source of support. She rented a building from the pastor of San Biagio,(44) and many witnesses in her trials had lived in her camere, some for a period of years. As someone who dealt in camere locante [rented rooms], Laura could not have been a business innocent. She would have had to have been involved in finance, however low-level, and accustomed to state regulation and dealings with the government.

    The renting of rooms, because of the high probability that the tenants would be foreigners, or forestieri, was under the control of Venice’s Giustizia Vecchia. In the seventeenth century, there was a magistrate aided by a judge, or giudice, especially for foreigners. All innkeepers, “Hosti, Albergatori e Albergatrice”, were required to maintain an alphabetical list of the foreigners staying with them.(45) The Esecutori contra la Bestemmia had fairly standard actions against operators of rooming houses who failed to register their foreign tenants; they might be fined and/or lose their licenses.(46) The camere locante involved continual state surveillance and put the landlady in a fairly visible position.(47)

    Beyond this, however, her camere locante offered both a stage and the players for some of Laura’s more legally marginal activities. These were also good business and offered relatively high potential profits. They, however, would involve her in areas that were of great importance to the Inquisition. While her business sense may have served her well, she took risks when she tapped both the current interest in magic and magic books and the current need for medical help. It was these aspects of her economic life which would involve her in the Inquisition trials through which she can be known. At one point, her lawyer argued that the trial was about money rather than about morality or orthodoxy.(48)

    When Laura’s house was searched by the Capitano of the Sant’Ufficio in 1654, a number of manuscripts were found.(49) Some were rather crudely written scongiuri [spells]; others were sophisticated herbals and copies of the Clavicle of Solomon, a magic book which had achieved popularity only in the previous decade. It is in this book that the Inquisitors were interested, as they had been especially since the late 1630’s, when they first directed their attention to it.(50) Laura’s says in her defense that a roomer had left the books and that, in any event, she cannot read.(51) The presence of multiple copies in various stages of completion, however, indicated that a copying and production operation may have been going on in her house.

    Booksellers had been dealing in copies of the Clavicle, and had been prosecuted for it in Inquisition trials for libri prohibiti [prohibited books], during the 1640s and 1650s.(52) Those involved in the trials were as often bookdealers as they were practitioners of the occult arts; there was a market for these texts in Venice. Laura’s business sense rather than her interest in the magical arts was probably responsible for the presence of the manuscripts in her house. The multiplication of editions of the Clavicle of Solomon had been a real concern of the Inquisitors. It was in the transmission, social and intellectual, not the mere possession, that they were interested.(53) A defense of illiteracy was irrelevant to them.

    Laura’s traffic in magical manuscripts and in practices labelled stregarie [witchcraft], postdated her general involvement in business. Yet even within her career in witchcraft there was an evolution from the amateur to the professional, from the less-specialized to the more specialized, from non-lucrative to high-paying magic. In moving from superstitious domestic exercises to a practice which both aped and mirrored medicine, Laura moved through several realms of magical operations. Her final trial, in 1654, had a pattern unlike that of her earlier trials. This trial had more in common with those of other so-called healers, guaratrice, before and after the Inquisition. She seemed, finally, to have transcended the earlier categories of witchcraft. In an unrelated trial a witness said, gratuitously, that Laura Malipiero [is] the “strega famosissima” [the most famous witch] in Venice.(54) She had plied her trade well, perhaps too well.

    Laura’s practices can be seen to change and evolve from trial to trial; this unusually lengthy record allows the historian to trace the professionalization of a specialist. Ironically, it was a husband who first began Laura on the road which would ultimately provide her with a citywide reputation and a possible alternative to marriage. In his attempt, in 1629, to dissolve their marriage, Francesco Bonamin added the charge of magic to more traditional grounds for annulment;(55) before the tribunal of the Sant’Ufficio, he accuses her of witchcraft. Labelled thus were acts of magic performed within her own household: a token in a shoe, a spell in a purse, holy water in the soup.(56) One after another, in suspicious accord, five of Laura’s step-children testify to the truth of these charges. Although Laura claims her intentions were beneficent? the abuse of sacred things was, in the eyes of the Inquisitors, a heresy. She was sentenced to one year in prison.(58)

    In 1630, Laura’s witchcraft was of the domestic, private and amateur variety. When she surfaces in the historical record again, in her second trial in 1649, it is for public and professional acts of a variety of undifferentiated magic. Along with fourteen others, among them her mother and sister, she is accused of various standard types of love magic, divination and other of the practices which were clearly and frequently labelled “stregarie”.(59) Her magic has evolved, and she is part of a group which exchanges techniques and shares customers. One might speculate on the role which her year in prison played in her associations and professionalization. This could be the source of whatever training Laura had; she alludes to none other.(60) And it is only now that she pursues publicly the role of strega.(61)

    In 1654, when Laura appeared for her third time before the Tribunal, she was alone and was tried for a more specific form of witchcraft. Her practice of magic had acquired focus and the appearance, if only through mimickry, of a profession. She was charged with using witchcraft to medicate, and her trial took a form which had more in common with other trials for medical offenses than with her earlier processi [trials]. Whether heard before the the Sant’Ufficio, as actions against witches, or before other tribunals, as dealings with charlatans or healers, proceedings had certain similar features.(62) In her third trial, Laura’s defense differed from her previous two. Alvise Zane, her lawyer in this new trial, chose to cast the defense in the mold of a medical rather than a witchcraft trial. He argued that this was a trial about business concerns. Other Sant’Ufficio processi for medical offenses tended to follow similar outlines, indicating that this charge was handled differently. Again, the idea that all witchtrials, and by extension “witches”, are essentially similar, may be more a perception of historians than of either the practitioners or their prosecutors.

    The ways in which Laura’s third trial differed from her previous ones, and from those of her sister, were several. She was presented as someone with a tradition of training behind her. The legitimacy of her methods was addressed and defended. Witnesses from the recognized health professions were called upon to testify to these matters. Also, testimonials from successful cases were forthcoming. All these intended to imply the legitimacy of her practices by analogy; the charge that she invoked the devil or abused the sacraments was not directly addressed. Rather she was covered with the garments of professionalism. In assuming the appearance of quasi-or pseudo legitimacy, the trial appropriated the forms of earlier traditions. In the other witchcraft trials, the issues of training, validity of methods and efficacy of results had not been addressed; by implication they were meaningless categories. In the medical trials, they became relevant. The Inquisitors had to be convinced that “real” medicine, and not some misapplications of holy processes and procedures, had been practiced. Not incidently, these trials offer a view of official and lay perceptions of medicine’s legal and spiritual boundaries.

    In her third trial, initiated essentially as a malpractice suit, Laura was presented as someone trained in a legitimate, if marginal, field of healing. She had learned her trade from pharmacists and barbieritonsori [barbers], both arte [guilds] licensed and controlled by the state to perform medical functions.(63) Laura herself indicated that she was licensed, a possibility which cannot be discounted.(64) Her methods were presented as thereby supervised and professional. Again, this feature of her defense is analogous with other trials of those specifically accused of magical healing. Satisfied customers also attested to the normalcy of her treatments, as well as to their effectiveness.(65)

    Laura’s customers would have been hard put to discern the difference between what she was doing and medical practice as they perceived it,(66) Medicine as implemented in Venice, as distinct from that taught at the nearby University of Padua, had much more in common with the recipes in her handbooks and the treatments reported by her customers than might be now apparent. Both the Paracelsan treatments, which had become a competitor in the medical marketplace,(67) and the more traditional medicine as popularized for a general audience, emphasized herbs, oils and potions.(68) The most desirable herbs had always come from Crete and Corfu.(69) Recipes given for diet and various mixtures were the standard feature of medical advice in popular manuals. The difference between these and those attributed to Laura and other guaratrici was one of degree rather than kind.(70)

    Pharmacists, who dispensed both the advice and the mixtures, were at the center of most patients’ lives. During these plague-ridden years, pharmacies multiplied so greatly in Venice that a limit had to placed on them: no pharmacy could be within 100 paces of another.(71) The barbers performed what mechanical operations were necessary. Even the state, which requisitioned medical knowledge as part of its defensive arsenal of survival against both the plague and possible enemy tactics, referred to the information thus obtained as “secret recipes”.(72) Such medical lore was treated as a valuable political asset and maintained as a secret of state. Whatever contrived mystery surrounded the cures of streghe, it would not have seemed remarkable in the environment of seventeenth century Venetian perceptions of medicine and medical legitimacy.

    The Inquisitors were concerned only to see if any magic, implicit or explicit worship of the devil, had crept in the interstices of these treatments. It seems that it had; Laura, like her sister, faked the various divinatory aspects of her operations.(73) The use of magic by both women tapped into the perceived credulity of their customers rather than any primal belief system which the women shared. Recent studies on witchcraft see women using love magic in an effort to control men, which assumes that they themselves believed in it. These two sisters knew it did not work; when they had an alternative source of control, they used it. The difference between the two sisters is that Laura found a lucrative trade which addressed the current universal concern with health and post-plague survival and therefore afforded her a degree of economic and social mobility unknown to her sister. Marietta Battaglia never performed medical magic; for this she herself turned to others.(74) The sisters were equal in recognizing witchcraft as a survival strategy, unequal in their ability to use it to their advantage.

    Marietta would have preferred marriage to the expedients which life otherwise offered her. Laura was able to die in her own bed, with her last and faithful lover of twenty years in final attendance on her body. The terms of her will indicate the control she had over her life; the amounts involved show that she was fairly successful at her pursuits. The practices labelled witchcraft were not the same, nor was the role they played in the two sisters’ lives, and, by implication, in other practioners’ lives.

    The documentary trail which Marietta and, especially, Laura left is rare. The latter sister’s record is the fourth longest in the Venetian Inquisition’s records, the longest for witchcraft. Full biographies of accused witches are few, although historians who follow archival leads will surely find more. It seems inevitable that LeRoy Ladurie, one of the earliest to show how Inquisition records might be mined for social history, should have found a French “witch”, although even he arrived at her through a literary record.(75) In Ireland a fourteenth century witchcraft trial lets one know Alice Kyteler,(76) yet it is hard to see what aspects of her life and trial may be typical, as it is well outside of the chronological parameters, 1550-1650, of the general European witchcraze. Marisa Milani, and her students of popular literary tradition at the University of Padua, have carved similar biographies out of Venetian records.(77) In Germany the Pappenheimer family’s trial in 1600 occasioned an historical novel, but it has yet to be dealt with as the non-fiction it was.(78)

    How representative these few biographies are cannot be evaluated until historians work through the records and add to these isolated pictures of the accused. As reviews of recent general studies on witchcraft indicate,(79) it is too early for syntheses; much spadework remains to be done before a crop can be contemplated, much less harvested. As historians read across the records, it might be time to relinquish the coherence which they, following the lead of the tribunal, have in turn imposed upon the documents. Only as the details of individual lives are recovered can they be understood and interpreted; only then can a pattern, if it exists, reveal itself. Wresting the individual from the general record is the job of the microstoria. There are no microstorians, only those whose research has been interrupted by the archival discovery of a compelling personal story.

    Distinctions among the accused can and will be made. Laura and Marietta are urban, they are Venetian, they are seventeenth century. Other conditions may have pertained in rural areas, on the Italian mainland, earlier. In sixteenth century Modena and Friuli, Mary O’Neill and Carlo Ginzburg found the practice of enduring local folk beliefs treated as witchcraft.(80) Using the Venetian Sant’Ufficio archive, Marisa Milani and Guido Ruggiero have created biographical sketches of mainland and sixteenth century women.(81) Here the historians tend to assume their subjects’ sincerity, even when the latter themselves protest their duplicity. This attitude of respect is a laudable attempt to avoid demeaning the subjects or alternative systems of belief. Still, the author of a classic study of contemporary gypsies, while discussing whether they believe in their own powers to predict, points out that they do not tell each other’s fortune.(82) Initial skepticism might be a useful analytical attitude, as well as showing respect for the ability of the women to exploit, as survival mechanisms, the opportunities available to them. The sympathetic urge to take seriously the folkways of an area or an era is understandable, yet the examples of Laura and Marietta offer grounds for an intellectually healthy suspension of belief.(83)

    Until many more individuals’ stories are found and evaluated, these unusual biographies permit speculation: the word “witch” was and is an interpretive category which may not be useful and could, in fact, obscure historical investigation and understanding. The acceptance, application and repetition of the word paves the way for a single-field theory, reducing many and perhaps irreconcilable phenomena through a false intellectual economy. The identification of “witches” by historians might mask real diversity, as well as important commonalities, among those accused. The label and the accusation itself played an undiscovered role in the social intercourse and discourse of the time; the lay rhetoric of accusation, admission and denial encodes a whole conversation to which we are not yet privy.(84) In a Kuhnian sense, if witchcraft trials are read for significant deviances, not only as to time and place, but nature of offense, a new order may offer itself, but not until the older paradigm is abandoned.

    “Witches” existed, then as occasional and diverse personifications of a category of offense, and now in the eye of the historian. Caught in the historical spotlight for only a moment, the accused subjects can present no more than that image of themselves which was deemed witchly. Language imposes the need for a single unifying structure not necessitated by the phenomena under investigation. This suggestion flies in the face of Carlo Ginzburg’s latest work, Ecstasies, which sees in the literary sources a pattern indicating the persistence of a universal subculture of witches or shamans.(85) Ironically, the historian who initiated microstorie has created a macrostoria which deals with images rather than with the recovered realities of individual lives. That practices so widespread and deeply entrenched should be so simply and singly explained seems to make the European witchcraze once more a chapter in intellectual history.

    The clear-cut distinction which pits the essentialist against the constructionist in studies of homosexuality(86) is more murky here: “witch” is used as a noun, however occasionally. Yet a stance borrowed from their dispute is useful. The noun strega is rarely used in the trials surveyed and never by the prosecutor or the defendant; it designates a trade, like “baker” or “prostitute”, not an identity. It is vocational, occasional and external, not an internal, dominant and determining characteristic. It has become the essence of these women only because they are frozen in a particular kind of historical document; they are isolated in the transcript of a witch trial.

    The use of the noun by historians too often assumes an identity and reification which cannot be proved to exist. By retiring the nouns “witch” and “witchcraze” as remnants of an earlier marginalizing sensationalism, these categories can be integrated in a new and more socialized synthesis. Liberated from the isolation imposed, first by history and then by historians, these women can indeed be seen as agents, more or less successful, in their own destinies.


    1. Carlo Ginzburg, Il formaggio e i vermi: Il cosmo di un mugnaio del 500 (Turin, 1976) trans. John and Anne Tedeschi, The Cheese and the Worms (Baltimore, 1980).

    2. Reference is made here to most studies of witchcraft before the last two decades. These works dealt with exceptional, if not exotic, cases. They culminated, in a sense, in Norman Cohn’s Europe’s Inner Demons (New York, 1975), essentially a work in intellectual history. He examines only printed, literary texts and subsequently argues that the witch craze was the product of the intellectuals. Cohn’s was the last of the non-archival studies, except for the idiosyncratic work of Carlo Ginzburg [see following note]. It is ironic that one of the methodologically newer studies, Ruth Martin’s Witchcraft and the Inquisition in Venice, 1550-1650 (Oxford, 1989) should rely on Cohn for its general categories and parameters.

    3. Examples of this newer trend in witchcraft studies: Scotland, Christina Larner, Enemies of God (Baltimore, 1982); France, Robert Mandrou, Magistrats et Sorciers en France au XVIIe siecle (Paris, 1968), E. William Monter, Witchcraft in France and Switzerland (Ithaca, 1976); Robert Muchembled, Les Derniers Buchers: Un Village de Flandre et ses Sorcieres sous Louis XIV (Paris, 1981); Germany, H. C. Erik Midelfort, Witch Hunting in Southwestern Germany, 1562-1684 (Stanford, 1972); Estonia, Sweden, Norway, inter alia, Bengt Ankarloo and Gustav Henningsen, Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centers and Peripheries (Oxford, 1990); Spain, Gustav Henningsen, The Witches’ Advocate: Basque Witchcraft and the Spanish Inquisition (Reno, 1980); Italy, Carlo Ginzburg, I Benandanti: Stregoneria e culti agrari tra Cinqucento e Seicento (Florence, 1966) translated by John and Anne Tedeschi as Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Baltimore, 1983), Giovanni Romeo, Inquisitori, esorcisti e streghe nell’Italia della Controriforma (Florence, 1990); and Martin, Witchcraft and the Inquisition.

    Essays on the Spanish Inquisition, in Mary Elizabeth Perry and Anne J. Cruz, eds., Cultural Encounters: The Impact of the Inquisition in Spain and the New World (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1991), by Noemi Quezada, Maria Helena Sanchez Ortega and Stephen Haliczar, suggest important comparative studies between it and the Roman Inquisition. The records of both Inquisitions have begun to be surveyed for patterns and possibilties: John Tedeschi leads the way in The Prosecution of Heresy: Collected Studies on the Inquisition in Early Modern Italy (New York, 1991), with an excellent bibliography; see also William Monter, “The Mediterranean Inquisitors” in his Ritual, Myth, and Magic (Athens, OH, 1983), pp. 61-77.

    4. The documents reinforce this centrality of married life, especially in Venetian studies where participation in political life was determined by lineage. Wills, dowry records, genealogies, all pressed into service to reveal women’s lives, all present women as spouses. The career options for women have been enlarged by Guido Ruggiero (The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice [New York 1985], e.g. pp. 146-147) to include prostitution as an extension, rather than parallel, of marriage. See also, Thomas Kuehn, Law, Family, and Women; Toward a Legal Anthropology of Early Modern Italy (Chicago, 1991), passim, for the centrality of family in legal documents.

    5. Martin does acknowledge the role of money in witchcraft practices, but gives it one page (Martin, op. cit., pp. 238-9). Although Guido Ruggiero, in Binding Passions: Tales of Magic, Marriage, and Power at the End of the Renaissance (New York, 1993), p. 138, does allude to love magic as a profession, he tends to see reliance on it for reasons of sexual and social security, not the economic survival of the perpetrator.

    6. The women are identified on three occasions as having a common mother, Isabella: Archivio di Stato, Venezia (hereafter ASV) Sant’Ufficio (hereafter SU) Busta 104, sp.comp. Anzola, 40v. 26 April 1649; Ibid., spine of 26 January 1646; Ibid., 41r. n.d.

    7. There have been few new studies of prostitution in Venice. Ruggiero, see above, n.4, is best in considering the social and economic nature of prostitution but treats it as a sexual strategy and extension of marriage. A third category is required to look at it as an economic strategy. An article by Achillo Olivieri, “Eroticism and social groups in sixteenth-century Venice: the courtesan” (Phillippe Aries and Andre Bejin, Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times [Oxford, 1985], pp. 95-102) talks about sexual specialization as a variety of the rationalization of economic life in the 16th century (p. 97), which is provocative in the context of the present paper. Studies of figures such as Veronica Franco and other exceptional courtesans do not aid the study of the occupation as an economic ploy for lower class women. On Franco, see Margaret F. Rosenthal, The Honest Courtesan: Veronica Franco, Citizen and Writer in Sixteenth Century Venice (Chicago, 1992).

    Elizabeth Cohen, working in Rome, sees no distinction between “meretrice” and “cortegiana”: E. Cohen, “‘Courtesans’ and ‘Whores’: Words and Behavior in the Roman Streets,” Women’s Studies 19 (1991): 201-208. Rosenthal and Ruggiero (e.g., Binding Passions, pp. 38-48) assume a Venetian distinction. The words are not used interchangeably in the records surveyed for this article; the word “cortigiana” is never used.

    8. Marietta Battaglia is also called Elisabetta Battaglia. Her trials, one initiated in 1637, the other in 1645, are both in ASV, SU, Busta 94.

    Laura Malipiero was tried in 1630, in 1649 and in 1654. She was again accused in 1660, but her death, apparently, forestalled a fourth trial. Her record is contained in ASV, SU, Busta 87 (1630) and Busta 104 (1649, 1654, and a transcript of the 1630 trial). Busta 104 is entirely occupied by proceedings against Laura Malipiero, and in the case of the 1649 trial, co-defendents. It contains over a thousand loose folio pages. Although there is random pagination, given the unbound status of the materials and the multiple trials, to use page or folio numbers would be confusing. All citations must, therefore, be by date.

    9. This alternate reading is proposed in the nature of a Galilean thought-experiment and is not intended to be ideological or contentious; utility and clarity are its only subtext. Kathleen Biddick, in “Genders, Bodies, Borders: Technologies of the Visible,” Speculum vol. 68, (April, 1993): 389-418, performs a similar experiment with an infinitely more elaborate and theoretical intellectual superstructure.

    10. Laura Malipiero’s will, first unsealed in 1988 for the author, is noted in the work of her notary, Ludovico Angaran (ASV, Notarile, Testamenti, Busta 8-9, no. 26, dated 2 October 1645). In it, she makes provision for Luca da Parisi, with whom she has lived for many years, only should he still be living with her when she dies.

    11. ASV, Busta 104. Laura died mid-trial, after the testimony of 18 December, 1660. Capitano Michael Cataneo, of the Sant’Ufficio, testifies that she died in bed while he was guarding her. Dr. Petrus of the San Marco Prison and Luca di Parisi, “agent” of Laura, testify to this. On 11 January, 1661, she was buried at S. Giovanni Nuova, in the “sepoltra della Madona” ordered by Luca and Pietro Bonamin, her step-son.

    12. Barbara Hanawalt, in her introduction to Women and Work in Preindustrial Europe, which she edited (Bloomington, 1986), repeats this generalization, p. ix. Although focussing on the north, Martha C. Howell, Women, Production and Patriarchy in Late Medieval Cities (Chicago, 1986) and Merry E. Wiesner, Working Women in Reformation Germany (New Brunswick, 1987) concur. Again, Italian working women have not yet received their due. It is interesting that even here, women are first and foremost part of the family economy. It seems hard to get them out of the house.

    13. If witchcraft is looked at, for the moment at least, as an occupation motivated by essentially economic ambitions and necessities, the reason a preponderance of women were accused becomes clearer: it was their class, rather than their gender, which made them dependent upon such expedients. That their class may have been a function of their gender goes without saying, but too many megatheoretical issues befog some cultural/social analyses of the practitioners (not victims, if choice was involved). To remove the offense to the economic arena also allows the inclusion of men in the temporarily genderless category, as they were included in reality. On this theme: Stuart Clark, “The ‘Gendering’ of Witchcraft in French Demonology: Misogyny or Polarity?,” French History, vol. 5, no. 4, (December, 1991): 426-437.

    14. Charges were brought in 1637; she was condemned on 16 November 1638 (ASV, SU, Busta 94).

    15. loc. cit. Mariettta was said to be “naturalis” (Ibid., 2 September 1638), as was Isabella herself.

    16. Ibid., 22 June 1645.

    17. Ibid., 7 August 1645.

    18. Marietta had been condemned to a year in prison in 1638 (16 November 1638). She was now condemned to lashing in front of S. Pietro in Castello, ten years in prison and perpetual banishment from Venice (31 August 1649). The usual banishment would have been either five or ten years (Martin, Witchcraft and the Inquisition, p. 220, n. 7).

    19. Marietta’s second trial in 1645 is essentially about her divination in predicting the piria. The piria was Venice’s reigning form of popular gambling, equivalent to betting on the outcome of a sports event. Here, however, the event was characteristically political. Bets were placed as to which of thirty-six Venetian patricians would be electors in the fortnightly elections to the Maggior Consiglio. To have prior access to the outcome would make one relatively rich. See Fiorin, Alberto, “Lotto, Lotterie e Altro Ancora” in Tanti e Denari: Sei Secoli di Giochi d’ azzardo (Venice, 1989), pp. 126-127: “Le Pirie”. The role of the fortuneteller was to predict the winners; the Inquisitors’ concern was that the devil might be called upon to produce this result.

    20. Ibid., 22 June 1645.

    21. Ibid., 1 September 1638. The next day, when Marietta again testified, she again disclaimed the profit motive. She said she did these things “per simplicita et non per malitia, ne per soldi” (Ibid., 2 September 1638). It is interesting to speculate that she may have guiltily perceived her fault as taking ill-gotten gains, and have had no sense of the Inquisitors’ interest in her actions, perhaps underlining the economic essence of her activity.

    22. Marietta is identified on several occasions as being a meretrice and a woman of “mala vita” (Ibid., sp. comp. Vicentus, 2 March 1645; Ibid., sp. comp. Jacobus Modena, 9v).

    23. Cf. footnote 27 below.

    24. See infra, the trials of both Marietta and Laura. Martin discusses this connection (Witchraft and the Inquisition, pp. 234-5). See also Mary O’Neill for the connection between love magic and prostitution: “Magical Healing, Love Magic, and the Inquisition in Late Sixteenth Century Italy”, in S. Haliczar, ed., Inquisition and Society in Early Modern Europe (London and Sydney, 1987), pp. 88-114, and Ruggiero’s Binding Passions, esp. Chapter Three. Love magic and love medicine will be an important consideration of my monograph on Laura and her circle.

    25. Thus, Busta 104, f. 41r, co-defendant Menega is called a meretrice, as is Andriana. The implication is that they work out of a casino (Ibid., sp. comp. Anzola, 26 April 1649). Again, although these might be simply subjectively connected in the mind of the witness, the objective geographical detail of the location of the brothel mitigates against this cautious reading. It should be noted, however, that Laura Malipiero is called many things, but never a meretrice.

    26. cf., above, n.7. See Ruggiero, Boundaries, e.g. 146-7, for a statement of the normal, normative and useful role of prostitution at an earlier date. That prostitution was also an extension of the economic strategies open to women is acknowledged in current studies, e.g., Ruth Mazo Karas, “The Regulation of Brothels in Later Medieval Europe,” Signs, 14 #2 (Winter, 1989): 400-01. That the meretrice-strega is a further, lateral extension of this career choice, another economic strategy, is the argument here.

    27. SU, Busta 94, Marietta Battaglia (7 August 1645). Defensiones, #5; pending marriage, #7.

    28. Ibid., 17 August 1645. Sp. Comp. Aloysius (Alvise).

    29. Ibid., 10 September 1649.

    30. Ibid, undated paper. Marietta Battaglia worked at the Arsenale from 27 April 1639 until 18 November 1639, at half pay. On 10 February 1654, after five years in prison, she volunteered to work again at half pay. She had been condemned to jail for ten years on 31 August, 1649, and to subsequent banning from the city.

    31. Ibid., 7 August 1645. The condemnation is dated 31 August 1649. The date seems to be correct, and not that of the copy, because five years after her incarceration, i.e. in 1654, she requested half-way amnesty.

    32. Ibid., 10 February 1654.

    33. That neither party mentions the children in what was, essentially, a divorce trial is an indication of how individualistic and non-family-oriented these Inquisition documents are. The children are mentioned incidentally in the later trials, and the daughter is on the stand in one subsequent trial (cf., infra, n. 38). Yet that two children were born of the Bonamin-Malipiero liaison is never noted in the proceedings, either before the Patriarchal Court in 1629 (the file is in the Patriarchal Archives, Filci. Causarum ancea Nullitatis, beginning 2 May 1629) or the Inquisition in 1630.

    34. The trial is contained in ASV, SU, Busta 87; see e.g. May 8, 1629 for the list of charges. She was charged initally with having been previously married to Todoro d’Andro (charge #3) and with having slept with brother Lorenzo Bonamin before marrying Francesco (charge #2). They had been married seven years according to witnesses and the documentation in the Patriarchal Archives (cf. Liber Matrimonium pro forensibus Incipiens: 18 Jan 1622 to 21 June 1623 [begins 26 March 1623]). After reciting these charges, Bonamin adds “e di piu aggiungo come la sudetta Tarsia e strega . . .” (SU, Busta 87, 15 January 1630) The latter charge may have been incidental to his wish to be relieved of this marriage (he was remarried within a year; his next wife was widowed before 1643), but it was the prime interest of the Inquisitors, the area of their proper concern.

    35. Todoro or Todorino had been taken by the Turks (ASV, SU, Busta 87, testimony of witness, Ibid., 24 September 1629), made a slave, and recently liberated. Several witnesses (17 September 1629) attest that he was seen back in town. He is, nonetheless, never called by the tribunal.

    36. Ibid., 27 April 1630, testimony of Antonio Regazzoni. Laura herself alleges, in her defensiones (Ibid., 9 April 1630, #2), that Franceso wanted to kill her, treated her cruelly and one time wounded her at least fourteen times.

    37. At one point Laura is called a widow after her marriage with Salarol, but she herself says simply she does not know what became of him (Busta 104, 20 November 1646).

    38. Malipiera’s name also changes within these trials. She also is called Helena (Busta 104), Laura Malipiero testifies 25 February 1649: “Ho una figlia chiamata Malipiera Bonhomina, che e’ orba di un’occhio havuta colpo marito, e’ puta de 24 anni.”

    39. Isabella, described as Corcyran, or from Corfu, was the illegitimate child of nobleman Giovanni Paolo Malipiero who had been stationed on Corfu. She next appears married to Laura’s father at Candia on Crete, where Laura was born. How and when they came to Venice is not clear, but Laura is said to have grown up in the Greek monastary in Venice (Busta 87, 28 February 1630; Busta 104, 26 June 1649), and reappears on the historical scene at age fifteen (Archivio della Scuola di S. Giorgio dei Greci, Venice, Capitol di San Zorzi de Greci, No. II [old shelf mark, 189, 1601-1618] 187). Isabella is 80 in 1650 and therefore presumably was born ca. 1570. Her father died on Corfu in 1598. (ASV, Barbaro, Arbori, Misc. Codici I. Storia Veneta. p. 414).

    40. ASV, Notarile, Testamenti 8-9, #26.

    41. ASV, SU, Busta 104, 11 August 1654.

    42. She handled the affairs of Suora Zane; according to Caimus the convent was at Verona (loc.cit.). Franco Moroni says that Laura medicated the same nun at Piove di Sacco (Ibid., undated folio before 21 April 1654).

    43. Laura Malipiero. Ibid., 25 Feb 1654: “La mia professione e d’affitar camere, e letti a persone foreste.” In an undated, loose, signed document, Busta 104, the parish priest of San Basio confirms this.

    44. This seems to have been commonly understood, cf. Busta 104, f.18r, 18v, 36r, sp. comp. Catharina, 20 November 1646, etc.

    45. On the landlady as an occupation, cf. a brief mention by Peter Burke, “Classifying the People” in Historical Anthropology of Early Modern Italy (Cambridge, 1987) (hereafter Historical Anthropology), p. 37. In the Venetian census, generally conducted by the Provveditori alia Sanita’ after particularly severe plagues to count, literally, souls, too few are listed as occupation landlord or lady [cf. ASV, Provv. alla Sanita’, Busta 568, Decime, where there are only one or two landladies in all of the Castello]. As Burke points out, the census was taken by the parish priest, who may not have considered some occupations worth mentioning: “The presence of the mediator is most obvious, however, in the case of . . . women providing services . . . the priests may not always have considered landlady to be an occupation” (P. Burke, Ibid.).

    That the laws regulating the renting of rooms existed is evident throughout the sources. Cf. ASV, Compilazione Leggi, Busta 210.F. for a collection of decrees dealing with forestieri. Also, ASV, Consiglio Dieci, leg, 15 April 1578 was the standard text reissued periodically on the illicit housing of foreigners. See Giorgio Fedalto, “Stranieri a Venezia e a Padova, 1550-1700” (Girolamo Arnaldi and Manlio Pastore Stocchi, Storia della Cultura Veneta, 4-5: Dalla Controriforma alla fine della Repubblica [Vicenza, 1984], II, pp. 251-279) for a discussion of the foreign communities in Venice.

    46. Actions against noncompliant landlords were common: e.g., ASV Esecutori contra la Bestemmia, Raspe, Busta 69, p. 81r, 2 Dec 1651; against a camerante for allowing a forestiero to lodge incognito. See also ibid., 83v, 22 Dec 1651, for similar charges and loss of license; also 100v., Margarita.

    47. Her tenants were often, by definition, not only foreigners, but businessmen. They identify themselves as such when testifying at her trials. E.g., Dimitri Manopoli of Candia, a merchant of caviar and oil, lived in Laura’s rooms. He introduced his friend from Florence, Lanfredino Capelli, who had business near S. Giovanni in Bragora, and the latter stayed for four years (ASV, SU, Busta 104, 23 July 1654). Signor Paolo Paidi from Zante also lived there for an extended period (ibid., 9 July, 1654; ibid., Dimitri Ferrantes, n.d.). Not only was husband Bonamin a silk merchant and husband Salarol a Bolognese, but Laura was surrounded by men subsequent to these liaisons who were international businessmen. Although in some ways socially marginal, the role of landlady offered Laura a range of associations, both political and commerical, which were legitimate and included her in the mainstream of enterprise and its regulation in the city.

    48. Defense counsel Alvise Zane says the trial is about asking for money for treatment and that the interests of the accusers are “pecuniario e bursale”, not issues of “heresia o miscredenza” (Ibid., unbound sheets, n.d.).

    49. Ibid., Inventario, not dated. The books are also present in the Busta, labelled “Scritti di Laura Malipiero”. Captain Zuanne Greco of the Sant’Ufficio had confiscated the books by order of the tribunal; he describes them in detail (Ibid., 15 February 1654).

    50. A survey of the trials in the decades preceding Laura’s reveals an increasing interest in the Clavicle of Solomon on the part of bookbuyers and sellers, and, active or reactive, the Inquisitors. It begins to be mentioned in the last years of the 1630s; cf., ASV, SU, Busta 90, contra Fra Antonio Balbi, a reference 11 June 1639 (the earliest?), but the intrigue surrounding the work in this trial does not build up until 1646. Alo in Busta 90 is testimony that the Clavicle was translated from the Latin (sp. comp. Dominicus de Michelis, 1 December 1640). Subsequently there is a quickening of references and, presumably, interest, on both sides.

    51. ASV, SU, Busta 104, Defensiones, 11 August 1654. Francesco Caimus related that another lawyer’s mother had to read and write letters for Laura. On 9 July 1654, barbiertonsor Louis Marin testified that Laura was illiterate. The extensive illiteracy defense may indicate that the lawyers understood the seriousness with which the Inquisitors took the magic books and especially tbe Clavicle.

    52. Dealers in books were clearly involved in the transmission of this text. Thus, Boniface Cabiana (ASV, SU, Busta 103, 27 May 1647) sells magic books near the Rialto, and “deals in C. Agrippa and a book with little signs and secret circles”; Giacomo Batti (Ibid., 15 February 1648), who has a librero on the Frezzeria, deals in magic books with the corone Adonoi, from the Clavicle. Carlo Ponti, Pittori is accused of having had the Clavicle open to the commentary (ASV, SU, Busta 105, 26 January 1645), and there are many charges in his trial concerning the book. Fra Marco Pio Pini (Ibid., 27 January 1656, sp. comp. Ludovicus) is accused of reading the Clavicle. The whole of Busta 102, 695 folios, is against monks accused of using the Clavicle.

    53. Cf the trial of Fra Verigola above, n. 50, where the copying of the text is clearly the issue. The multiplication and transmission of the work, not just the reading of same, seems often to be the Inquisitor’s concern.

    54. Laura is called this in the trial of Laura Corner, Busta 103, 1 April 1648: “. . . Una altra chimata Laura Malipiero strega famosissima . . . “. The woman had been searching for someone to help her and had bypassed Laura in favor of the accused.

    55. cf. above, footnote 31.

    56. Stepdaughter Antonia gives the most complete rundown of this household magic (Busta 87, 5 February 1630); the four other children concur in remarkable precision.

    57. Five stepchildren testify: Antonia (20 years old, 5 February 1630), Horatio, Margarita (also 20, loc. cit), Niccolo and Lucretia Bonamin. Horatio, 16 years old when he testifies (14 February 1630), remembers in detail events from seven years earlier. Although Laura is worried that another son, Pietro, will testify against her (Defensiones #7, 9 April 1630), he does not and it is he who assists Luca di Parisi in retrieving Laura’s body after her death. The cittadino family is listed in Teodoro Toderini, Genealogie, v.I, but only the male children are accounted for.

    58. Laura’s sentence was recorded on 7 September, 1649 (Busta 104).

    59. Laura’s sentence (7 September 1649) refers generically only to “maioribus criminibus” and does not list them, as sentences usually do.

    60. It is her second experience of institutionalization, the first being her stay in the Greek monastery. It is interesting to speculate on Laura’s prison experience there and its possible “educational” value. It is likely that Laura did not learn her magic from ancient rooted folk traditions or at her mother’s knee, as more romantic historians would like it. Rather, her knowledge of standard practices was received in prison. Twentieth-century parallels on the negative value of prisons in creating criminals present themselves. See Giovanni Scarabello, “La Pena del Carcere. Aspetti della Condizione Carceraria a Venezia nei Secoli XVI-XVII:L’Assistenza e L’Associazionnnismo” in Gaetano Cozzi, ed., Stato, Societa’ e Giustizia nella Repubblica Veneta (sec. XV-XVII) Vol. I (Castelfranco, 1980): 317-376, where he does talk about the associations, formal and informal, formed in prisons. In vol. II of the same work, Scarabello discusses eighteenth-century prison reform and its recognition of the negative cross-fertilization in jails “Progetti di riforma del diritto veneto criminale nel settecento,” Stato, Societa’ et Giustizia, vol. II (Castelfranco, 1985), pp. 379-415.

    61. Laura’s last husband has, by this point, come and gone. As of at least 1644, she is with Luca di Parisi. She is, and will be, on her own economically. Laura’s defense, handled by lawyer Alvise Zane, begins 6 June 1649 and ends 12 August 1649 (Busta 104, separate sheets). Her sentence is 7 September 1649; she is to be pilloried, whipped and jailed for ten years. The sentence is suspended on 17 May 1650. Isabella was condemned on 9 September 1649 to be pilloried and jailed; her sentence was suspended 24 May 1650 because of her “decrepita state.”

    62. It can only be suggested that the form of “the medical trial” conforms across venues and tribunals. The trial of a woman for medical charlatanism in Paris (Pearl Kibre, “The Faculty of Medicine at Paris; Charlatanism and Unlicensed Medical Practice in the Later Middle Ages,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 27 [1953]: 1-28), and another in Provence (Joseph Shatzmiller and Rodrigue Lavoie, “Medecine et gynocologie au moyen-age: Un example provencal,” Razo: Cahiers du Centre d’Etudes Medievales de Nice 4 [1984]: 133-143, for a malpractice trial from 1326), have similarities with the trials of those the inquisition tried as guaratrice, or healers. Such analogies indicate that when major research will be conducted on both individual medical and witchcraft trials, there will appear to be a conformity of approach when the charge is medical.

    The citing of legitimate training, methods and satisifed testimonials will dictate the form of the defense, whether of a charlatan or witch. The medical witchcraft trials of the Venetian Sant’Ufficio share these common features which differentiate them from other stregarie trials. An exhaustive list of references is not approriate here, but cf. the Sant’Ufficio trials for healing of Maria Colonnna (Busta 90), Gerolama Biglioni (loc. cit.), Angela Greca (loc. cit.), Marietta Greca (Busta 74), and Bellina Loredana (Busta 77), where education and efficacy are always discussed.

    Although Martin discusses the healers at some length, and her citations are useful, she does not differentiate their arena from the others (Martin, passim and esp. 139-147), nor does she realize that the trials continued after the 1640’s. While historians such as Giovanni Romeo may be tired of hearing that witches were healers, he gives this aspect its due (cf. Romeo, Inquisitori, p. 233) when he discusses “medicina empirica”. It is not argued here that all witches were misunderstood healers, but that those that were guaratrice drew on a different tradition for their defense and prosecution.

    Monica Green’s article, “Women’s Medical Practice and Health Care in Medieval Europe,” Signs, (Winter 1989): 434-473, touches briefly on the guaratrice-witch confusion, and, more important to her argument, the levatrice or midwife figure and historians.

    63. Barbers, pharmacists and surgeons testify as to Laura’s training and the orthodoxy of her methods. E,g, Antonio Gallo, barbiero, who also says she was an excellent medical practitioner (Ibid, 30 July 1654); Louisi Gallo, barbiero, and Andrea, chyrurgus or surgeon, both testify that they trained her (loc. cit). On 9 July 1654, Laura herself had said she never medicated anyone without getting the opinion of the barbieri first, a clear nod to her perception of medical expectations.

    64. When Laura is on the stand, she says she would not have performed the illicit acts, for fear of losing her license. That the Sant’Ufficio and/or the Provveditori alla Sanita’ (or Guistizia Vecchia?) licensed empirics at certain times in Venetian history is agreed upon by most historians. Reference is made to them in a number of trials and their existence seems assured; to this day, however, they have not been found. Busta 77, contra Bellina Loredana, Defensiones, 10 Dec. 1624: #3, “Che Madonna Bellina con la licenza dell’Illmi. Proveditori all Sanita’, dispersa certo oglio. . . .”, seems to indicate that the Provveditori handled such licensing. In Busta 90, Maria Colonna is said to have possessed a “licenza all’Inquine. di ongere o’medicare.” That the Inquisitors viewed Laura as a medical professional may be indicated by the language of their commutation of her sentence (17 August, 1656), when they stipulate that she not practice her “art of medicine.” For an ingenious discussion of what such references to licenses may have meant, see Ruggiero, Binding Passions, pp. 163-166.

    65. Satisfied customers abound in the third trial: e.g., Anzola and her family (16 July 1654); Emmanuel Stamatis on behalf of Captain Scioppi (30 July); and a succession of witnesses in the last two weeks of July. In Laura’s 1649 trial, only when the category of medical magic is addressed are there testimonials as to her effectiveness: 26 June 1649, Defensiones, #20; 10 June 1649, et al. But these are in the minority in this earlier trial.

    66. Seventeenth-century perceptions of good health and proper medical care were more important to these testimonials and evaluations of the guaratrice/streghe than than the state of academic medicine. Lucinda McCray Beirer’s Sufferers and Healers: The Experience of Illness in Seventeenth Century England (New York, 1987) points the way to a new line of investigation which may have more to do with social realities than have previous studies. The “reader response” approach to health-care could be written for Venice if the Inquisition trials were used carefully. Reactions to guaratrice as healers rather than witches (cf. Giacomo Garzoni, in Busta 75, who experiences Serena, not as a witch, but as a healer), may help us understand the medical concerns and preoccupations of the general public. See also E Burke, “Rituals of Healing,” Historical Anthropology: 207-220.

    67. There is no good history of medicine, popular or learned, for Venice. Loris Premuda, “La Medicina e l’Organizzazione Sanitaria,” in Girolamo Arnaldi and Manlio Pastore Stocchi, eds., Storia della Cultura Veneta: Il Seicento (4/II, Vicenza, 1984), pp. 115-150, approaches a beginning, but its administrative interest is evident in the text as well as the title. He does, in this respect, discuss the pharmacists (pp. 139-143). See Richard Palmer, “Pharmacy in the Republic of Venice in the Sixteenth Century,” in A. Wear, R. K. French and I. M. Lonie, eds., The Medical Renaissance of the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 100-117, for the success of the Paracelsus underground in Venice. Paracelsus, of course, had been in the employ of Venice in the 16th century.

    68. The trial of Bellina Loredana (SU,Busta 77) offers a particularly rich picture of the use of special oils and unguents and their assumed medical effectiveness.

    69. Here as elsewhere, Laura’s Greek background may have enhanced her reputation. See Palmer, “Pharmacy”, p. 101, on the general importance Venice played as an herb center and on the particular importance of Crete and Corfu to this trade.

    70. Medical handbooks such as Girolamo Manfredi’s Il Perche (Venice, 1567) begin and end with injunctions about food, characterizing the general alimentary approach to health which is characteristic of popular medicine at the time. Prospero Alpiano, De Balsmao Dialogo (Venice, 1591) focussed almost exclusively on balsam; by the time of Don Silvio Boccone’s Il Museo (Venice, 1697) there are many more herbs, substances and recipes. In the medical field, Laura’s herbals, found among her manuscripts, would have earned her more credibility than her editions of the Clavicle.

    71. Palmer, op. cit., p. 103.

    72. The language of these official medical holdings, with references to “secret recipes”, could not help but condition popular perceptions of medical propriety. Cf. Secreto predervativo et curativo di arcani olivieri medico alla sanita’ (Venice, 1567) and “Secreti in Materia di Medicar la Peste dato per Scipion Paragatta in Stampa. 1576. 3 sett.” in ASV, Capi di Consiglio de’Dieci, Ricordi o Raccordi, 1480-1789 (3 September 1576).

    73. Laura instructed her helper, Gerolama, to lie about a vision (Busta 104, 27 January 1654 and passim). Part of the modem witch lore seems to assume that the women accused of witchcraft believed in what they were doing. Thus Sanchez Ortega says women used love magic to control men and Ruggiero, despite acknowledging that the women knew their magic didn’t work, sees them providing themselves and others with social security. Although Ruggiero (Binding Passions, p. 138) does allude to love magic as a profession, he tends to see reliance on it for sexual and social security, not the economic survival of the perpetrator. He goes on to assume that the Latisana women believed in their lore, a role which would seem romanticized if they were non-believers seeking a professional niche. He deals with the possibility of charlatanship, but not its implications, on pp. 155ff.

    74. Thus barbertonsor Zuremus went to Marietta’s house daily to medicate someone there (SU, Busta 94, 9 March 1645). This was her only “brush” with the medical establishment.

    75. Emmmanuel LeRoy Ladurie, Jasmin’s Witch (New York, 1987), published originally as La Sorciere de Jasmin (Paris, 1983).

    76. L. S. Davidson and J. O. Ward, eds., The Sorcery Trial of Alice Kyteler (Binghamton, NY, 1993).

    77. Marisa Milani has perhaps done the best job of unearthing individuals and folkways from the sixteenth century documents of the Sant’Ufficio. Despite her excellent ethnographies, some records offer alternative readings; cf. La verita ovvero Il processo contro Isabella Bellochio (Venezia, 12 gennaio-15 ottobre 1589) (Padova, published within the University, 1985); “Il caso di Emilia Catena, meretrice, striga et herbera” in Museum Patavinum, III (1985): 75-97; Piccole Storie di Stregoneria nella Venezia del ‘500 (Verona, 1989); et al.

    78. Michael Kunze, Highroad to the Stake: A Tale of Witchcraft, trans. William E. Yuill (Chicago, 1987). The earlier literary-historical treatments of witch trials by Arthur Miller in “The Crucible”, and Aldous Huxley in The Devils of Loudun, assumed a cultural consensus which allows the witchtrials to work as metaphor. There is an element of this in Kunze. On the popular level, there is still an implied assumption of what the witch phenomenon meant and an appropriation of this meaning for various arguments. E.g. Lois W. Banner, In Full Flower: Aging Women, Power and Sexuality (New York, 1993), Chapter Five, “Aging Women, Power and Sexuality: From the Wife of Bath to the Witch”. There is a romanticizing feminism that wants there to have been witches.

    79. Two recent attempts to tap new interest in the field (Joseph Klaits, Servants of Satan: The Age of the Witch Hunts [Bloomington, 1985] and Brian P. Levack, The Witch-hunt in Early Modern Europe [London and New York, 1987] were discussed in a review article and found to be premature (Philip Benedict review of Klaits and Levak, Journal of Modern History 61 #3 [Sept 1989]: 571-73). The present author concurs. By the time synthetic studies are appropriate, not only will the data have changed, but the terms of the discourse, the vocabulary itself, should have been radically altered.

    Current attempts to integrate the newer data are better represented by tentative essays, e.g., in Ankarloo and Henningsen, Early Modern Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries (Oxford, 1990), than by attempts to synthesize. Even an admirable macrostria on the Venetian witchcraft trials elides Laura Malipiero with a Laura Malipietra tried in 1584 (ASV, SU, B. 52) and confuses Laura’s 1649 sentence with that of her mother, Isabella (Martin, p.220). Martin says there were no medical trials after 1641 (p. 189). However, Busta 104 contains a major medical trial taking place in 1654. Busta 100 contains no copy of the Clavicle of Solomon (Martin p. 45, n. 43); Busta 104 does. Such lapses in a well-researched general study may be inevitable, but they make it difficult to get the particular individual into clear focus. Microstorie are the prescribed corrective.

    80. Mary O’Neill, “Magical Healing, Love Magic and the Inquisition in Late Sixteenth Century Modena” in S. Haliczar, ed., Inquisition and Society in Early Modern Europe (London, 1987), pp. 88-114. The customs described pertain to the area around Modena and have a decidedly rural aura when compared with Venetian models. Carlo Ginsburg, in I Benandanti, is most clearly dealing with agrarian ritual.

    81. Marisa Milani, in Antiche Pratiche di medicina popolare nei processi del S. Uffizio (Venezia, 1527-1591) (Padova, 1986), concentrates on sixteenth century trials when folk medical practices, even in Venice, seem to have been more prevalent. By the seventeenth century, it is here argued, magical medical practices had taken on an urban professionalism of their own, and the lines of transmission more those of an illicit business than of family or tribal wisdom.

    82. Jan Yoors, The Gypsies (New York, 1967) pp. 84-87.

    83. In the longer monograph on Laura and her circles, I will discuss the ritual of lying before the Sant’Ufficio. Analogies with twentieth-century relations with the Internal Revenue Service suggest themselves: ultimate respect for the institution served but many ploys existed to free oneself from this particular arm’s demands.

    84. Thomas V. Cohen’s “The Lay Liturgy of Insult in Sixteenth-Century Italy”, Journal of Social History, 25 #4 (Summer, 1992): 257-277, is an interesting model of alternate readings. Peter Burke, The Art of Conversation (Ithaca, 1993) is also suggestive. Natalie Davis’s Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and their Tellers in Sixteenth Century France (Stanford, 1987) is instructive in methods of reading between the lines.

    85. Carlo Ginburg, Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath (English translation of Storia Notturna, Turin, 1989), New York, 1991. Actually the book should not have come as a surprise; behind the microstorie of I Benandanti and Formaggio there was assumed an enduring meta-network which connected and contained seemingly distinct subaltern cultures. John Martin, “Journeys to the World of the Dead: The work of Carlo Ginzburg” in Journal of Social History 25 #3 (Spring 1992) offers a much fuller and fairer assessment of Ginzburg’s centrally important work. The direction the latter has taken, however, seems regressive in the context of the present paper.

    86. A good introduction to the essentialist vs. constructionist debate among historians of homosexuality is probably David Halperin, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality (New York, 1990), along with the controversy it has engendered.

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