Den stora häxdansen : Vidskepelse, väckelse och vetande i Gagnef 1858

Sammanfattning: The dissertation deals with an unexpected outburst of witchcraft accusations in Gagnef, Dalarna, in 1858. The object is to uncover how witchcraft accusations were used and interpreted, and how they fit into a larger picture of contemporary discourse. Contrary to what has previously been assumed, belief in witchcraft was widely spread during the 19th century. Not only among the peasant population, but also among the educated elite assucations of witchcraft were taken seriously.The children’s ungodly stories about the Devil created strong anxiety among the local authorities. The fantasies were incompatible with the notion of childhood innocence, which took form during the 18th century. Unable to blame the children for the fantasies the local clergymen claimed that the accusations of witchcraft were caused by bad upbringing, and poor knowledge in Christianity. They thereby managed to put the blame on the parents instead and thus defend the idea of childhood innocence.Traditionally accusations of witchcraft have been seen as a way to articulate conflicts. Also in Gagnef the accusations of witchcraft created strong tensions. But in addition to this the dismissive attitude from the surrounding world and the spiritual revival united the parishioners. The dissertation also shows that the children’s stories about the witches’ sabbath were incorporated in the early temperance movement, and became part of a popular reform.

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