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'The misery of the poor girls …': Exploring a Case of Collective Bewitchment in Lier, 1602-03

From: Parergon
Volume 30, Number 2, 2013
pp. 81-108 | 10.1353/pgn.2013.0107



In 1602-03 eight girls at a boarding school in Lier fell ill with a strange disease, thereby paving the way for accusations of witchcraft. The voluminous records of the resulting witch trial document the events in question as well as people's reactions to them. A careful reading of the source materials suggests that the evolution of the crisis from a single, unremarkable fainting spell to a spectacular and stereotypical case of collective convulsions resulted from the mutual interactions between the behaviour of the afflicted girls and the interpretation process and remedying actions it elicited.