English Demonism and the Threat of Supernatural Belief in Reginald Scot's The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584)
Shanshala, Michael Edward
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This study argues that the Protestant discourse on demonic temptation in sixteenth-century England played a role in shaping Reginald Scot's skepticism of magic, witchcraft, and corporeal demons. I develop witchcraft historian Phillip C. Almond's characterization of Scot as a "spiritual demonologist" concerned with identifying those who had fallen under diabolic manipulation. This study maintains that Scot's disbelief in the supernatural, as well as his demonization of folk magicians, witchcraft theorists, and demonologists, stemmed from this spiritualization of Satan. Scot's insistence that Satan lacked physical agency was a rigorous magnification of an existing trend in demonic representation that portrayed subversion as the Devil's principal tool against the faithful. Scot's amplification of English demonism predisposed him to see falsehood and blasphemy in places where his peers saw proof of magic, witchcraft, and demonic attack. The results of this study suggest that the internalized view of Satan in post-Reformation England helped foster the development of English witchcraft skepticism.