Professor Fabrizio Conti Interviewed by USA Today on Witchcraft

History Professor Fabrizio Conti was recently interviewed by USA Today in an article about witchcraft and magic. Witchcraft is becoming increasingly popular, especially in the U.S., as shown by the increase in the number of books published on the subject, as well as television programs and “practitioners” who aim to interpret and convey magic beliefs and traditions.

Fabrizio Conti

Fabrizio Conti

The article published by USA Today tried to understand the reasons behind the belief in witchcraft and its characteristics. Professor Conti provided the cultural-historical framework for the development of witchcraft beliefs, pointing out how they emerged in the West in the 15th century, and how such beliefs are characterized by the presence of various “mythologies” (according to the classification provided by American scholar Richard Kieckhefer) spread across specific geographic-cultural areas such as Switzerland, and Northern and Central Italy.

A fundamental role in the creation of the stereotype of the witch as a child-murdering woman, and the misogynistic streak it introduced, is due to the infamous treatise Hammer of Witches written in 1486 by the inquisitor Heinrich Kramer, which regards witchcraft as real and denying it as heresy. Magic and witchcraft beliefs are ubiquitous and to this day many regard them as true, especially when they are referred to as a way to alter nature, create change, and probe domains beyond the ordinary. Some even consider themselves to be “good” practicing witches, as the article shows.

Read the USA Today article.

Fabrizio Conti (Ph.D., Central European University, 2011) is a lecturer in History at John Cabot University in Rome and an Arts and Humanities Advisor at the American Academy in Rome. Prof. Conti’s teaching and research interests span the Late Antique, Medieval, and Renaissance periods, with an interdisciplinary approach to religious and cultural developments, and a focus on the history of magic and witchcraft. Among his publications are the volume co-edited with Elizabeth Ann Pollard Magic in the Roman World (8th c. BCE – 5th c. CE) (Trivent, 2022), the edited volume Civilizations of the Supernatural: Ritual, Witchcraft, and Religious Experience in Late Antique, Medieval, and Renaissance Traditions, with a foreword by Teofilo F. Ruiz (Trivent, 2020), as well as the monograph Witchcraft, Superstition, and Observant Franciscan Preachers: Pastoral Approach and Intellectual Debate in Renaissance Milan (Brepols, 2015). Professor Conti has worked in the catacombs of Rome as a docent and in the Vatican Secret Archive as an archivist, besides appearing in several TV documentary series.