Analysis Of Reginald Scot's Discoverie Of Witchcraft

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In Discoverie of Witchcraft, Reginald Scot produced the first witchcraft tract published by an English author. Modern scholars have often cited the Discoverie as an early skeptical work on witchcraft. However, this is debatable since Scot admitted to the reality of witchcraft (he believed the Scripture pointed to the early existence of witches) and believed that that accused early modern witches were attributed more power than they actually possessed. Scot attacked the urgent need to detect and punish witches espoused by Jean Bodin. In this work, Bodin argued that all magic is demonic in nature, in part as a response to a challenge of witchcraft posed by Johann Weyer. In his work, Weyer questioned the reality of witchcraft, arguing that since magic could not be effective, there could be no maleficia (harmful magic) and no pact with the Devil. Scot may appear to have come to the defense of a fellow skeptic in the Discoverie, but he devotes far more effort to attacking Bodin’s claims than defending Weyer’s.
Scot described in his text a typical encounter after which common people suspected acts of witchcraft and brought them to the attention of the courts. This exchange featured a woman affronted in some manner, perhaps by the refusal of charity, who then cursed the one who angered her, after which some evil befell this person. Scot maintained that early modern witches themselves did not possess the power to complete harmful acts. He also noted the impossibility of proving

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