Book: The Witch And The Demoniac In Tudor And Stuart England by Stephanie Du BarryThis analysis will argue that that very few of the accused witches in Tudor and Stuart England were in fact insane but that the accusers, whether possessed or otherwise "bewitched" were far more likely to be suffering from some form of mental disorder. witchcraft beliefs in Tudor and Stuart England were seldom employed to attack the mentally ill, instead they were used to explain mental illness in many cases1. Contrary to many psychological textbooks, such as the works of Gregory Zilboorg, very few accused witches were insane by contemporary standards nor by our own standards.
Zilboorg, along with other nineteenth and twentieth century psychologist/writers, confused the witch with the demoniac (possessed) and proclaims that both were suffering from a variety of mental disorders. Alexander and Selesnick in their history of Psychiatry also fail to make a distinction between the witch and the possessed when they stated "Psychotic women with little control of their sexual fantasies and sacrilegious feelings were the clearest examples of demoniacal possession and in turning against them the church increased an already mounting fear of the mentally deranged". The church never turned against the possessed., it turned against the witch - who it saw as a person committing the utmost treason against mankind - trafficking with the Prince of Evil. These psychiatric historians are not simply reiterating the facts of psychiatry's past. They are fashioning only one of many possible views of the past based on their own biased assumptions concerning human nature. At least one modern historian of the witchcraft phenomenon, however, sees the works of Zilboorg et al as an oversimplification to see necessary connections between witchcraft and antisocial behaviour. The psychologists were making a profession out of propagating the medical model of abnormal behaviour but their interpretation proves inadequate when studying the complex history of witchcraft.
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