World Wide Web Reviews (Fem. Coll. v.20, no.2, Winter 1999)

Witches on the Web: A Review of Some Scholarly Sites on Witches

by Fabienne Baider and Anita Liang

International Trends: The Witch "She"/the Historian "He" by Elspeth Whitney
Developed and maintained by: Michael S. Seiferth (Palo Alto College),
Last updated: October 4, 1998.
Date of review: October 4, 1998.

This page consists of a single but scholarly essay that examines the current state of scholarship on gender and the European witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It also suggests some directions for further work such as the mirror image of the saint/witch female icons. The essay's main argument is that the witch hunt established a connection linking women with the Devil and therefore succeeded in subjugating women who were not dependent on men. This twenty-five-page document (originally published in Journal of Women's History, Fall, 1995) includes a mine of classic references (one of the best encountered on this topic) and more upbeat works such as Judith Brown's Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy (Oxford, 1986) and Ellen Goody's "Legitimate and Illegitimate Aggression in a West African State" (1970).

The Dark Side of Christian History By Helen Ellerbe
Developed and maintained by:
Last updated: August 1, 1998.
Date of review: October 1, 1998.

This site also focuses on the European witch hunt and covers the period from 1450 until 1750. It is Chapter Eight of Helen Ellerbe's book The Dark Side of Christian History (Morningstar Books, 1995). This well-written essay integrates plenty of substantial information in seven pages; it contains more than one hundred footnotes. Unfortunately, the footnote links are not all accessible: only twenty-one can be read, and they consist of book references.

Greywing's Witch Hunt Research
Developed and maintained by: Stephanie Du Barry,
Last updated : September 1998.
Date of review : October 1 1998. [Revised 11/98]
[Information changed from Steph's Witch Hunt Pages and URL, per email from Stephanie Du Barry, June, 2003; URL changed to (click on "Witches"), per Stephanie Du Barry email, July, 2006]

This site is part of Stephanie's personal page and contains an excellent grouping of the main witches'sites. Stephanie Du Barry holds a Masters degree from the University of New England. Her interests include history, especially English or European history, and "more specifically, the study of the witch hunts in early modern Europe and the role of women in societies throughout history, from ancient to modern."

Her witch hunt site consists mainly of six links: two to scholarly sites about witches, including Joan's Witch Directory and The Witching Hours (both reviewed below), while the other four link to articles on witches based on her own research.

Among the articles, The Malleus Malificarum - A Commentary is a clear and short presentation on the 1486 book by Dominican monks Sprenger and Kramer that was so influential in the European witch hunt. It also offers some bibliographic references. The link titled Witches!- An Extra-Ordinary Expression of Misogyny is a summary of key events that took place in late Renaissance Europe. The originality of this short essay is in its mention of Pandora, Aristotle, and the Judeo-Christian misogynistic attitudes that contributed to the conditions leading to the witch hunts. The other two essays, The Witch in Scotland & the Witch in East Anglia - A Comparative Study and The Witch & the Demoniac, are also good discussions and substantial in their references. Du Barry's illustrations are superb. A minor problem in the title bar is that her page is named "Greywing's Witch Hunt Pages," while on the page itself, the title is "Steph's Witch Hunt Pages."

The Witchcraft Bibliography Project
Originally developed and maintained by: Jeffrey Merrick (University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee); Currently expanded and maintained by: Richard Golden (University of North Texas),
Last updated: June 16, 1998.
Date of review: October 5, 1998.

The Witchcraft Bibliography Project is a vast and growing collection of references on the history of witchcraft. The project was begun by Professor Jeffrey Merrick of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee when he was a graduate student. He continued to maintain and expand the collection until 1996 when, due to other interests and commitments, he handed off the project to Professor Richard Golden of the University of North Texas, where the site now resides. The current Web author promises to update the site "periodically." Contact information is listed on all the pages, and the user is encouraged to send comments and additions.

The references include articles in many languages, including Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, and Dutch as well as English. The bibliography can be downloaded as a single file, or viewed online in its entirety, or according to topic. There are also instructions on how to submit a contribution. Not only are historical references included, but there are also social scientific analyses on witches and witchcraft. Links to other sites about witchcraft, including courses, as well as sites about topics related to witchcraft such as neo-paganism, goddess religions, and fairies are listed. Not all links work, and of those that do, some link to pages with outdated information, or duplicate information more thoroughly covered elsewhere. Overall, this is an excellent resource for any scholar of witches in European history.

Joan's Witch Directory - The European Witch Trials
Developed and maintained by: Joan Pontius (Rutgers University),
Last updated: May 1998.
Date of review: October 5, 1998.

The author states at the outset that the information presented is gleaned from "material I have found of interest on this subject. These mostly consist of excerpts I have come across in my readings and reference lists I have put together, and things kindly sent to me by other witch enthusiasts." Although the Web author does not claim to be a scholar of witches (a quick check into the Rutgers directory revealed that she is a postdoctoral associate in the chemistry department), the information she presents is for the most part verifiable through scholarly sources, many of which are listed in her BOOKS link. She includes a disclaimer that she herself is not a witch or a pagan.

Thus, the contents of the website are for those interested from a factual perspective not only in the European witch trials, as indicated by the title of the website, but also in American witch hunts and witch-related topics. The site is organized by topic. The materials, consisting of timelines, excerpts from pertinent texts, references to books, discussions of terminology, images, and links to other related sites, appear to be an excellent survey of the witch trials. For research and class projects, they provide starting points into further study. One of the most interesting and informative features of this site was the author's expanding of her terminological explanations with excerpts from newsgroup discussions of those terms. There is also a link to recently added material.

However, the navigation is frustrating, largely because it's hard to tell where one is at any given point. For instance, clicking on the birth control link on the Medicine and Pharmacy page takes the viewer to a document with neither a title nor a link back to the referring page. Sometimes the author doesn't distinguish between internal and external links, so that without checking the status bar, viewers might be surprised to find that themselves leaving the site. There are deadends, too (e.g., Bible Acts 19).

Nonetheless, the site contains useful information, even if it is inconsistently organized.

The Witching Hours: Medieval through Enlightenment
Developed and maintained by: Shantell Powell,
Last updated: August 27, 1998.
Date of review: October 5, 1998.
URL address updated December 28, 1999.

This is a fantastic site. The pages are consistently laid out, visually pleasing, and well-organized. The author states on the home page what the site is about, and what it is not (to distinguish from sites directed specifically to modern-day practitioners of paganism and wicca), and encourages the surfer to inform the author of dead links. Additionally, the contents of the site are organized into a list of links, including dates of most recent changes, and corresponding popup menus. Each link is accompanied by a short description.

The topics themselves appear to be comprehensive, ranging from primary texts, such as court records and folklore contemporary with the witch hunts, to interpretative summaries of readings. The links to external sites include an impressively wide range of topics that are, again, accompanied by short descriptive statements. The author's bibliography of sources includes both links and books.

The comparisons between those persecuted as witches and those who were politically weak or considered socially deviant - such as lepers, Jews, and the extremely poor - may be of interest to feminist scholars researching the theme of women as scapegoats, both in the periods between medieval times and the Enlightenment, and in modern times. Overall, this site is another excellent starting point for research into the witch craze.

OTHER This site explains the distinction between satanism and witchcraft, offering substantial historical and synchronical data. Last updated: December 1995. : This Medieval Feminist Index offers a search engine for its database which includes the major medieval and Renaissance journals. Three English articles with detailed references are listed when searching for "witches." Last updated: September 1998.

Another site that may be useful for those interested in print sources on witches is , which is a one-document bibliography of resources on witches titled "Divining for Witches or Witches: A Pathfinder. Last updated: June 1993 This is an excellent page listing the very latest books and articles on the witch craze, and is part of a well-organized site on witches. Included on the page is a form for submission of recently published material on witches. Last updated: May 12, 1998. : Created by the Danvers Archival Center , Peabody Institute Library of Danvers, Massachusetts, this page is titled "Witchcraft in Salem Village." The website is "designed to provide accurate general information about these witchcraft events." : Another site dedicated to documenting and explaining the Salem witch trials of 1692, which were launched by the strange behavior of two young girls.

[Fabienne Baider successfully defended in January her doctoral dissertation on Sexism in the French Language at the University of Toronto. She works on computerized corpora, lexicographic discourse, semantics, and computer assisted learning language (Call).

Anita C. Liang is a visiting scholar in linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her Ph.D., and is conducting research on psychotherapeutic discourse.]

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Mounted March 22, 1999.