Document Type


Peer Reviewed





The medieval fear of witches (who were perceived as primarily women) contradicts the idea of female powerlessness. Since medieval society believed powerful women were unnatural, and if they did have power would use it to the detriment of men, medieval witchcraft theories, such as presented in the Malleus Maleficarum, employed various rationales to deny the possibility that witches could alter God’s creation. That it was possible for women to have power could not be denied since a few medieval women did acquire power, including political power. The intensity of the denials of female power and the often convoluted rationales employed in these denials imply a repression of a very real potential of female power. Witches, or sorceresses as they are often called in literature, perfectly illustrate this potential for female power, and medieval writers’ discomfort with it. In Le Morte Darthur the sorceresse Morgan le Fay demonstrates the fear of women’s power by her destructive actions and plots against King Arthur and other males. Despite her lack of success, her constant threats represents unrestrained female power.

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Copyright © 2010 MaryLynn Saul