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CHAPTER 13 - ‘Practice and Belief: Manifestations of Witchcraft, Magic and Paganism in East Anglia from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 April 2013

T. A. Heslop
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
Elizabeth Mellings
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
Margit Thøfner
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

What are the links between the supposed beliefs and practices of those denounced as ‘witches’ in East Anglia in the seventeenth century and later manifestations of folk witchcraft and ‘cunning craft’? How do these historical phenomena relate to the beliefs and practices of the growing communities of Pagans in the region over the last fifty years and into the present? The present chapter explores these questions as well as distinctions between past and present definitions of magic and their fluctuating relationship with religion.

MATTHEW HOPKINS AND THE EAST ANGLIAN WITCH TRIALS

Historically, East Anglia has been particularly associated with witchcraft, mainly due to the activities of Matthew Hopkins (c.1620–47). Between 1644 and 1647, he conducted ruthlessly systematic witch-hunts, focusing on Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. Hopkins, son of a Puritan clergyman, was born in Suffolk, probably at Great Wenham, although, as is clear from the work of Malcolm Gaskill, whose book Witchfinders constitutes the most up-to-date detailed study of Hopkins and his work, relatively little is known about his life.

During his short career, Hopkins was responsible for condemning an estimated three hundred witches to death and imprisoning many more. If he was to be believed, witches lurked around every corner, conspiring with the Devil to undermine society. There were more witch-trials in East Anglia than in any other region of England and the majority of these took place under Hopkins's aegis.

Type
Chapter
Information
Art, Faith and Place in East Anglia
From Prehistory to the Present
, pp. 194 - 208
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2012

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