Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0226772615
ISBN-10: 0226772616
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Throughout the centuries of witch trials in Europe, many Christian thinkers were interested (perhaps a little too interested) in a certain recurring theme of the witches' testimonies: their stories of sex with demons. A Johns Hopkins Italian studies professor, Walter Stephens, looks at this preoccupation in his scholarly but accessible work, Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief. Perusing 15th- and 16th-century writings on witchcraft from various European countries, Stephens argues that theories of demon copulation are more than just misogynistic expressions of ambivalence toward female sexuality: they were vital to Christian thought, a way for theologians to resolve perennial questions about the existence of God and the supernatural.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Rosemary's Baby fans be forewarned: there is little entertainment but much ponderous discussion about theological history in this book on the Christian obsession with sex and demons during the 15th and 16th centuries. To explain this phenomenon, Stephens (Italian, Johns Hopkins; Giants in Those Days: Folklore, Ancient History and Nationalism) turns his attention to the witchcraft treatises written during that time rather than to accounts of the trials themselves. A conscientious historian and writer, he places his work in the context of what has already been done and is careful to point out the dangers of foisting the concerns of one's own era on the goings-on of another. Instead, Stephens attempts to show at great length and with considerable scholarship that this preoccupation had to do with nothing less than theologians' uncertainty about the realness of demons, without whose existence the very precepts of Christianity could be called into question. Recommended for academic libraries. Ellen D. Gilbert, Princeton, NJ
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 478 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226772616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226772615
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,160,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Walter Stephens points out, in _Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief_ (University of Chicago Press) that the notoriety of the misogyny of witch hunters of centuries ago is misplaced. He has read extensively in the _Malleus Maleficarum_ and similar documents, and has written a scholarly, large, comprehensive, and well referenced work demonstrating that such books were written to prove that demons were real, and by so doing prove that God, Jesus, and the other articles of faith were inarguably true. Stephens has turned customary reasoning about the _Malleus_ and other writings about witchcraft on its head, but lucidly provides enough evidence to prove his case.
"Witch theorists" wanted some sort of physical demonstration of the existence of demons, but had no recourse but to rely on the testimony of experts. Unfortunately, the experts were witches. Their testimony was inherently unreliable, not only because it was often obtained under torture, but because they were, well, witches. The most material manifestation of demons would be not just that they appeared to witches, nor flew them through the air, but that they actually had physical sex with them. "If demonic copulation had been an obvious and axiomatic fact of life, it would not have received the minute, voluminous exposition and vehement defense that these writers devoted to it." The enquiries about demonic sex were not an ethical effort, but rather a scientific one, although the science was rudimentary and full of error. Pope Innocent VIII had issued a bull which proclaimed the naughtiness of those who "...transgressed with incubus and succubus demons," and so the witch theorists were therefore on firm ground in maintaining that demonic sex was happening, and happening often.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D on June 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
A very good book, well thought out and reasoned, with a wealth of supporting evidence and facts. I can only imagine that the publishers thought that the title would somehow help to sell books, though the type of reader who is looking for books about demonic copulation would do better to browse the Anime section. For anyone who wishes to learn a little bit more about a very dark time in human history and an intriguing theory as to the driving motivations behind it will find this book invaluable.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Cranow on May 25, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perhaps we should ask ourselves , who loves demons more the Church or the witches ? It was during the end of Medieval times that the Church was having a crisis in faith. Many were questioning the reality of the spiritual world. The only way it seemed to sustain belief was to hunt out demons. The proof of demon meant proof of the spiritual world. When the Church could not answer questions then what could prove to be a better scapegoat then the devil himself or his demons.

The churches view of Demons, Witchcraft and women went on a continuum. Going from less extreme to the more extreme as science became more advanced. Interviewing witches and asking them about demons was the church's way of gaining insight into the other world spiritual reality. Demon at first were thought of strictly as being with a body made of another substance, a spiritual substance. There was no way it could interact directly with the earthly plane. They did not have solid bodies. Of course they could possess people but that was rare. They could also possess animals. As time went by the demons, or church members , found other ways the demons could interact with our plane. Some said that it was entering into the human imagination, later on they could materialize bodies by collecting different particles but it was not a real body. toward the end of the burning times They did in fact have a body of their own. Demons came from the name Daimon which was an intermediary between the gods and men. So demons became a more solid reality as time went by.

At first it was believed that demon could not mate with humans but then as time went by the demons could make their own body and steal denial fluids from a man and use it to impregnate a  woman. Finally it came down demons being able to procreate with human beings.
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By KillerBunny on June 29, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is without a doubt one of the most interesting books I have read in the last ten years. (Full disclosure - I am a professional historian of early America.) Fair warning - it's dense but completely worth it!
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0 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tim on October 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I have not yet read this book, but I like this subject. So I'm sure I will like it.
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