Witch Hunt and the Great Cat Massacre

The first article, Throough the Prism of Witchcraft: Gender and Social Change in Seventeenth Centry Muscovy takes the witch hunts and compares them to the witch hunts that happen in the Western world and throughout Europe. Valerie A. Kivelson writes about gender in the witch hunts, and how in Russian society, only thirty two percent of the accused were women. In Western Europe and America, this statistic increased to be eightly percent. A thought is made that ‘are women more likely to be accused because they have marginal positions in society?’. Along with this goes the story of creation, that women are much more easily tempted by the devil becase of their desire for lust. Another idea that is brought up is of the healers throughout the towns. It seemed that an overwhelming number of those accused were some type of spiritutal healer or related to one; as though whoever was doing the accusing, was specifically targeting the healers in the community. 

The Cat Massacre article is related to the first article because of the idea of witch hunting. Torturing cats by ripping off their fur, burning them in bags by the dozen, or chasing a flaming cat down the street seems really intese. It was a common tradition of amusement to torture animals, specifically cats. One example given discusses how one cat was shaved to the skin and then dressed to look like a priest. The cat was then hung in public. In society today, there is a legend that goes along with seeing a black cat — black cats are viewed as unlucky– with superstion all around them. It is stated in the article that ” First and foremosttt, cats suggested witchcraft. To cross one at night in virtually any corner of France was to risk running into the devil or one of his agents or a witch aborad on an evil errand” (92). This idea was accompanied with the idea of Carnival, where the youth were allowed to test boundries and be wild. Many acted out by torturing cats, as described above. The idea of witch craft throughout the world, was spreading quickly. Many thought the only way to get rid of witchcraft was through the extermination of anyone thought to be a wizard or a witch.