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Journal > Volumes > 41 (2010) / 3 (Autumn)
Love Magic and the Inquisition: A Case from Seventeenth-Century Italy
Jeffrey R. Watt
University of Mississippi

Whenever she was in the presence of her husband, the newlywed Laura Coccapani was plagued by extraordinary woes, which witnesses attributed to demons. Conventional wisdom held that certain spells could cause people to be repulsed by their spouses, and many believed Valerio Trionfanti, a Franciscan with whom Coccapani once had a lengthy but unconsummated affair, had cast a spell. Launching an investigation in November 1628, the Inquisition of Modena arrested Trionfanti and found that he possessed several items, including some of the victim’s pubic hairs, which were widely believed to be powerful instruments in magical spells. Trionfanti acknowledged the affair but emphatically denied having cast a spell, and the skeptical Congregation of the Inquisition in Rome acquitted him in February 1629. This case reflects the strong popular belief in love magic, its close resemblance to maleficia, and the Holy Office’s efforts to discredit its alleged efficacy.

Pages: 675 - 689