Date of Graduation

Fall 2010


Master of Arts in History



Committee Chair

John Chuchiak


witchcraft, magic, inquisition, gender relations, Spain

Subject Categories



There is fluidity in the definition of gender, shaped and redefined by periods in time, geography, culture, religion, and even political systems. Early modern Spain was no different as the Catholic Church and the monarchy supported efforts of formulating and redefining society's definitions of gender while at the same time striving to popularize these beliefs throughout the country. Relying on the dualist train of thought, popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, leaders of both the Church and state accepted the notation that women were the weaker sex. While men held intrinsic qualities of rationality, self control, and honor, women became associated with traits that included malice, anger, and sexual immorality. Women's undeniable shortcomings required that they be removed from the public sphere as a measure of protection, guarding society and themselves from their unstable nature. Popular literature, science, and church teachings worked together to popularize these beliefs. The Spanish Inquisition offered additional enforcement as it monitored society's adherence to prescribed gender roles. Despite the formulaic expectations of the female sex, women continued to carve out a place for themselves in their communities. This paper investigates women's use of witchcraft and sorcery as a means of obtaining power and purpose in predominantly patriarchal Spain. By relying on Spanish Inquisition records scholars have been able to discover how women challenged gender definitions. Using these records I argue that women in Spain circumvented defined gender norms through the manipulation of societal fears and beliefs in magic.


© Diana M. Rosia

Campus Only