The Witch in Court

The following chart attempts to go beyond the various stations of criminal proceedings and describes the many social interactions that a witch trial entailed, including the often extended process of reputation-making that preceded a formal accusation. According to Clive Holmes, the most crucial passage with respect to the "genderedness" of witchcraft prosecution is from Reputation to Accusation. As he is able to show, the decision to involve the court system in a case of witchcraft almost invariably was made by men, not women. Only in the rarest cases, furthermore, do women appear alone as witness against witches of either sex; rather, in the great majority of cases, women were accompanied by male accusers and/or witnesses for the prosecution. The chart was adapted by Christina Larner in her path-breaking analysis of witch-trials in Scotland, where a version of Roman-law criminal procedure was in place, as on the continent.