On witches, Derrida, and the impossibility of ever being truly known

The-magic-circleKathryn Nuernberger at The Paris Review:

According to Joseph Glanvill’s 1681 volume Saducismus triumphatus, or, Full and plain evidence concerning witches and apparitions in two parts: the first treating of their possibility, the second of their real existence, the convicted witch Elizabeth Styles’s offering to the investigators in 1664 was that her demon sucked blood. He came to her often. Even when she was tied up in a dungeon, still he came to her pole in the form of a butterfly, to suck her blood as he always did.

Though it may seem strange to us now, that the devil came as an apparition of a butterfly was very old news in 1664. Only the bloodsucking was new. Even the great botanist and first ecologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who discovered and documented insect metamorphosis in the same century, had to be careful about her reputation and keep her room of silkworms and caterpillars very secret, because there were many who still believed in witches and their power to take the form of butterflies and spoil the milk.

The Greeks, who had a rich tradition of witchcraft, called butterflies “psyches,” the same word they used for souls. I wonder about that, and about what in each of us is a little bit witch.

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