Bewitching the Body of Anne Gunter

“Pins figured prominently in the evidence of this group of witnesses. John Prideaux said she had pins buried in her breast, but that she did not bleed when they were pulled out. William Helme saw pins in the ends of Anne’s toes and so many in her breast that it was ‘as if it had been pinpillow’; he agreed that Anne did not bleed when these pins were removed.” (103)the-bewitching-of-anne-gunter-700x700-imadzjyjanmzzktq

As I mentioned in class several weeks ago when we discussed The Bewitching of Anne Gunter, the “bewitching” of Anne’s body perhaps was the most striking thing of the account. Indeed, the abandonment of modesty and the protection of family status and dignity on the part of Brian Gunter was incredibly shocking and may indicate his overall commitment to the ruse. It may also indicate the level of power a male figure had over the body of his female subordinate (it pains me to describe it in these terms), and how in one out of many ways Anne was seemingly a subaltern throughout most of her story.

For me, it also brings up the question of public humiliation and even the public spectacle of Anne’s bewitching. Without a doubt it seem that there is a performative quality to the bewitching and the participation of the individuals involved. That is not to say that we should divorce ourselves of the idea that the contemporaries understood a world inflected by witchcraft. It does seem like a suspicious construct, though, given the narrative of Anne’s bewitching and social motives behind it. Might we consider this, then, a social performance? (Full disclosure: I’m not even sure I know what that might mean).

2 thoughts on “Bewitching the Body of Anne Gunter

  1. I was not a huge fan of this book as I am simply not into witches. I would just like to talk about how crazy it is that there was a time period where witchcraft was considered a social issue. The events of this book took place just a few hundred years ago, and I think it is very interesting that people were accusing others of witchcraft. I wonder what the synopsis was for determining whether someone was a witch or bewitched. If someone was simply keeping to themselves participating in unique non mainstream activities would they be considered a witch? Just a few thoughts.

  2. Hi Chris — I would like to talk more about what would define this term and how it could be examined as a category of analysis. The body and particularly sexuality seem to be at work in many of these cases. I know there is lots written on the topic, but this might be a new way to approach the topic.

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