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Representation of Sabbat gatherings from the chronicles of Johann Jakob Wick.1250Representation of Sabbat gatherings from the chronicles of Johann Jakob Wick.1250

Parmigianino , The witches' sabbath c.1732Albrecht Dürer, A witch riding backwards on a goat, with four putti, two carrying an alchemist’s pot, a thorn apple plant. c.1500

Hans Baldung, Witches Sabbath 1510Hans Baldung, Witches Sabbath 1510

Jacques de Gheyn der Jüngere, Sabbat et cuisine de sorcières c1700Attributed to Andries Jacobsz, Preparations for a Witches Sabbath 1610

Cornelis Saftleven, Witches' Sabbath 1650David Ryckaert, La ronde des Farfadets 17th c

Cornelis Saftleven, Witches’ Sabbath 1650

Exif_JPEG_422David Ryckaert, La ronde des Farfadets 17thc

Dominicus van Wijnen, Witchcraft  Scene 17th cDominicus van Wijnen, Witchcraft  Scene 17thcXTD68835Frans Francken, The Witches’ Sabbath 1606

Jacob van Swanenburgh, Witches Sabbath In Roman Palace Ruins, 1608Jacob van Swanenburgh, Witches Sabbath In Roman Palace Ruins, 1608

Salvator Rosa,  Witches at Their Incantations 1646Salvator Rosa, The Witches’ Morning-1645-1649

Salvator Rosa, The Witches' Morning-1645-1649Salvator Rosa, The Witches’ Morning-1645-1649

Salvator Rosa, The Witches' Sabbath 1635Salvator Rosa, The Witches’ Sabbath 1635

Attributed to Luis Paret y Alcázar Date 1746-1799Attributed to Luis Paret y Alcázar Date 1746-1799

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, El Aquelarre 1797Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, El Aquelarre 1797

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Witches Flight 1797Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Witches Flight 1797

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Witches Sabbath c1800Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Witches Sabbath c1800

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Witches' Sabbath 1821Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Witches’ Sabbath 1821

The Witches’ Sabbath or Sabbat is a meeting of those who practice witchcraft and other rites.

European records indicate cases of persons being accused or tried for taking part in Sabbat gatherings, from the Middle Ages to the 17th century or later. The English word “sabbat” is of obscure etymology and late diffusion, and local variations of the name given to witches’ gatherings were frequent. “Sabbat” came indirectly from Hebrew שַׁבָּת (Shabbath, “day of rest”). In modern Judaism, Shabbat is the rest day celebrated from Friday evening to Saturday nightfall; in modern Christianity, Sabbath refers to Sunday, or to a time period similar to Shabbat in the seventh-day church minority. In connection with the medieval beliefs in the evil power of witches and in the malevolence of Jews and Judaizing heretics (both being Sabbathkeepers), satanic gatherings of witches were by outsiders called “sabbats”, “synagogues”, or “convents”. I n spite of the number of times that authorities retold stories of the sabbat, modern researchers have been unable to find any corroboration that any such event ever occurred. Beleif in the existence of witches was widespread in late medieval and early-modern Europe. Many religious authorities believed there was a vast underground conspiracy of witches who were responsible for the horrific famines, plague, warfare, and problems in the Catholic Church that became endemic in the fourteenth century. By blaming witches, religious authorities provided a handy scapegoat for those who might otherwise question God’s goodness. Stories of the sabbat had prurient and orgiastic elements, which caused these stories to be told and retold. In effect, the sabbat acted as an effective ‘advertising’ gimmick, causing knowledge of what these authorities believed to be the very real threat of witchcraft to be spread more rapidly across the continent. Unfortunately that also meant that stories of the sabbat promoted the hunting, prosecution, and execution of supposed witches. The descriptions of Sabbats were made or published by priests, jurists and judges who never took part in these gatherings, or were transcribed during the process of the witchcraft trials. That these testimonies reflect actual events is for most of the accounts considered doubtful. Norman Cohn argued that they were determined largely by the expectations of the interrogators and free association on the part of the accused, and reflect only popular imagination of the times, influenced by ignorance, fear, and religious intolerance towards minority groups. Some of the existing accounts of the Sabbat were given when the person recounting them was being tortured. and so motivated to agree with suggestions put to them.

Many of the diabolical elements of the Witches’ Sabbath stereotype, such as the eating of babies, poisoning of wells, desecration of hosts or kissing of the devil’s anus, were also made about heretical Christian sects, lepers, Muslims, and Jews. The term is the same as the normal English word “Sabbath” (itself a transliteration of Hebrew “Shabbat”, the seventh day, on which the Creator rested after creation of the world), referring to the witches’ equivalent to the Christian day of rest; a more common term was “synagogue” or “synagogue of Satan”, possibly reflecting anti-Jewish sentiment, although the acts attributed to witches bear little resemblance to the Sabbath in Christianity or Jewish Shabbat customs

Johann Heinrich Füssli, The Night-Hag Visiting Lapland Witches 1796Johann Heinrich Füssli, The Night-Hag Visiting Lapland Witches 1796

Parmigianino , The witches' sabbath c.1732Parmigianino , The witches’ sabbath c.1732

Antoine Wiertz,The Young Sorceress 1857Antoine Wiertz,The Young Sorceress 1857

Claude Gillot Witches' Sabbath 1871Claude Gillot Witches’ Sabbath 1871

Fausts vision, by Luis Ricardo FaléroLuis Ricardo Falero, Faust’s Dream 1878

WitchLuis Ricardo Falero, The Witches Sabbath 1875

Vision de FaustLuis Ricardo Falero, Witches going to their Sabbath 1878

Martin van Maele, La Sorcière Martin van Maele, La SorcièrMartin van Maele, La Sorcière 1911

Martin van Maële. Illustration de La sorcière, de Jules Michelet. 1911.Martin van Maële. Illustration de La sorcière, de Jules Michelet. 1911.

French postcard, Witches' Sabbat in Paris c1910 1 French postcard, Witches' Sabbat in Paris c1910 2 French postcard, Witches' Sabbat in Paris c1910 3French postcard, Witches’ Sabbat in Paris c1910

Paul F. Berdanier , The Witches' Sabbath a la Mode c1935Paul F. Berdanier , The Witches’ Sabbath a la Mode c1935