Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

History, MA

Committee Chair

Beattie, Blake

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Carlton, Genevieve

Committee Member

Carlton, Genevieve

Committee Member

Beattie, Pamela

Author's Keywords

witch trials; medieval; Europe; witchcraft; Catholic Church; women's history


This thesis examines the use of physical evidence to prove the identity of witches in witchcraft trials from approximately 1300 to 1650 in Western Europe. Throughout this period, trial records for accused witches and witchcraft texts include references to Devil marks. According to contemporary texts, these were physical marks on witches, which were visible to the human eye. Doctors and midwives verified these marks upon examination of the accused witch’s body. In this instance, medical proof in the courtroom verified supernatural powers. This thesis will analyze the intersection between medical and religious beliefs in the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries to evaluate the importance placed upon medical evidence by secular and ecclesiastical courts. Witch trials and holy autopsies will be examined to prove the central importance of physical evidence in determining an individual’s religious status. This thesis will bridge the study of the history of medicine, the history of the body, and the history of witchcraft in order to examine a phenomenon that crossed all three categories.