Lore Report: “Potential” (Episode 140)

But disappointment comes in all shapes and sizes. And if history is any indication, there is a powerful lesson there for us to learn, even if we don’t like what it teaches: When it comes to tragedy, the unexpected is right around the corner.

The introductory tease for the latest episode of Lore trumps the unexpected, but “Potential” recurs to a familiar topic for the podcast: the witch-hunt hysteria spurred by the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum in 1485. To his credit, host Aaron Mahnke does attempt to cover new ground by transporting listeners to a less-familiar place (the hill town of Triora, Italy, in the late 1580’s) whose witch trials did not play out to a standard conclusion. Mahnke does a fine job of establishing the build-up to the trials in Triora, and of explaining the twists and turns that events subsequently took. He also draws some interesting parallels with the scene in Salem, Massachusetts (including both communities’ modern-day capitalizing on ignominious history via seasonal festivals and witchcraft museums).

Nevertheless, this is a curious episode on several levels. Mahnke repeatedly undercuts the very message of hope (the fact that the witch trials in Triora didn’t ultimately result in the mass execution of the accused) that he emphasizes throughout. Quite surprisingly, he also fails to invoke other examples of dark lore associated with Triora (for more on this, check out Francesca Bezzone’s essay, “The Triora Witch Trials: The Italian Salem”). Most questionably of all, Mahnke returns to the same subject matter he treated just two episodes ago (“Foresight”), making Episode 140 feel a bit like filler. Overall, “Potential” fails to live up to the lofty reputation the Lore podcast has earned for itself.

 

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