Summary Of Carlo Ginzburg's The Night Battles

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Carlo Ginzburg’s The Night Battles explored the benandanti folk custom in the sixteenth and seventeenth century medieval Italy. Taken place in Friuli, a countryside near Venice, the book not only examined the encounter between ancient peasant beliefs and those of inquisitors but also revealed medieval European witchcraft as a surviving remnant of the ancient fertility religion and of the medieval beliefs regarding the fertility of the crops. Ginzburg’s portrayal of ritualistic battles, witchcraft accusations, and distinct ideas and cultures between the educated elite and unlearned peasants, all of which helped transition the peasants’ customs into unnatural acts that challenged the church, demonstrated the strong difference between the culture…show more content…
The peasants, who were illiterate, believed that individuals who were born with the caul possessed the ability to battle witches for the success of their crops. These individuals were known as the benandanti, or “the Good Walkers” (Ginzburg, xv). They fought the witches during certain nights of each year – the Ember Days – after they “fell into a trance or deep sleep,” when “their souls left their bodies so that they could do battle” (Ginzburg, xiii). The benandanti, “armed with stalks of fennel [and sorghum],” fought against “companies of male witches” to determine “the fate of the season’s crops” (Ginzburg xiii). Each individual also possessed forms of benevolent magic which allowed them to perform cures on each other and to overcome the spells of the witches (Ginzburg xi). Whenever the benandanti triumphed, their harvests were good. Whenever they faced defeat, their harvests were poor. Furthermore, the benandanti were able to recognize the witches, who were also capable of destroying the properties and drinks of the villagers. However, because of their capability to identify them, the benandanti took advantage of this to blackmail the rest of the villagers or to denounce them for crimes or wrongdoings (Ginzburg xv). Ironically, these actions became the reason why the inquisitors perceived them as agitators, who were as troublesome as the witches, rather than as

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