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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 53 (2011) 12, 935 - 939

Short report

Jan Wier: a heretical physician for the witches: historical truth and myths

J. Godderis

summary

background Jan Wier was a remarkable person, well known to many as a leader of the fight against the persecution of witches. In a broader sense, he is regarded as one of the earlier defenders of human rights and as a acute observant of psychiatric disorders.
aim To investigate whether these and other theories about Jan Wier are correct.
method The biography studied was :“Jan Wier; a heretical physician for the witches” written by Vera Hoorens, professor of social and cultural psychology.
results Hoorens places the complete works by Wier in the historical context in which they were written. Wier was a particularly influential opponent of the persecution of witches, but this was not his main aim. His ideas were not original, although his books on witches show an early understanding of later psychiatric insight. Nevertheless he did contribute to an improvement in the administration of justice. His ideas on pathological anger were innovative, because when describing this disorder he included causes, effects, prognosis, treatment and prevention.
conclusion On the basis of a thorough study of the complete works of Jan Wier, Hoorens distinguishes the historical truth from the myths that have arisen around this important person.

keywords biografie, heksenvervolging, massapsychose, medische geschiedenis, Jan Wier, woede