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The Wrath of God and Witches

Conference contribution
Authors Göran Malmstedt
Published in Fear and Loathing in the Earthly City. Negative Emotions in the Medieval and Early Modern Period c. 1100-1700. SDU & National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen 1-2 November 2018.
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Language en
Subject categories History


From the Middle Ages, wrath was regarded as one of the seven deadly sins. Unrestrained anger was universally condemned and, in many ways, considered to be an anti-social emotion. It also played an evident role in popular conceptions of witchcraft. Anger or wrath was often considered an important incitement to bewitchment, making it dangerous to aggravate those with a reputation for knowing witchcraft. However, attitudes toward anger were complex and, if the circumstances were right, anger could even be regarded as righteous. In early modern religious discourse, God’s wrath played an important role. Preachers often warned that human sin angered God, and that the holy wrath of God would lead to severe retribution. The ambiguity of wrath is discussed in this paper, using Swedish prayer days proclamations from the seventeenth century and cases from a contemporaneous witch trial.

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