Lecture Title: "Fairies and Witches: An Unexplored Connection"
Abstract: The European witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have long been a standard paradigm for the official repression of divergent minorities (witness the common characterization of the House Un-American Activities Committee's actions in the Fifties as "a witch hunt"), and early-modern historiography has understandably had far more to say about the oppressors than the oppressed. In this paper, by contrast, I wish to explore some of the popular beliefs that attracted the unwelcome attention of the inquisitors, and in particular a widespread belief in the existence of fairies. So deeply were common ideas about fairies implicated in the construction of early-modern witchcraft that there were situations in which the terms witch and fairy might be used as synonyms for one another. This paper will seek to explain how such an association, so incongruous from a modern perspective, might have come about.
Bio: Richard Firth Green is Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University. He is the author of numerous books, including Elf Queens and Holy Friars (2016), A Crisis of Truth: Literature and Law in Ricardian England (1998), Poets and Princepleasers: Literature and the English Court in the Late Middle Ages (1980) and of numerous articles in such journals as Speculum, Medium Aevum, Chaucer Review, and Studies in the Age of Chaucer.