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Friday, 21 December 2007

A History Of Witchcraft

A History Of Witchcraft Cover

Book: A History Of Witchcraft by Jeffrey Russell

First of all let me point out that if you buy this book, the cover will be different from the one Amazon has posted. Istead there is a picture of a hand with a pentagram in the paml and a variety of magickal diddies on the fingers, it's a very attractive cover and is ten times better than the incrediblely ugly one you see above. As for the book itself, it's a terrific buy. It seems that in regards to this subject there are two catagories: there are scholary books about the inquisition that give us endless pages of political rhetoric, and then there's the neopagan books that give us just that, rhetoric. This book engages the reader on the level that is easy to nderstand and NEVER boring, but is also very well researched. And, as a review above states, it goes into terific detail about the history of neopagan witchcraft and its key players. However, he is in no critical of Wicca, but makes it clear where Wiccan claims have fallen short and where holes in the neopagan story of witchcraft show up.

Jeffery Burton Russell is well known for his works on the history and myth of the Devil. Here Russell provides us with a very well-researched Introduction to historical witchcraft that seeks to give an overview of the essential influences and origins of witchcraft and the Christian myths of diabolic magic and demonic pacts that eventually lead to the virulent witch-craze of the Renaissance and Early Modern period.

Russell identifies several essential elements that influenced European thought and lead to the persecution and murder of tens of thousands of suspected "witches". These are: sorcery, ancient pagan religious beliefs, Christian theology, Inqusitorial and other anti-witch writings. These elements provided the basis for a belief in diabolic witchcraft that, modern historians largely argue, never existed and erupted in the period between 1450-1750 in the largest witch hysteria in history. However, Russell shows that these types of events are not relegated to the past, but can occurr in any society at any time, such as Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia in recent times. Russell analyzes the witch hunts in Europe, England, and the American Colonies and contrasts the various judicial methods and popular beliefs regarding them. For instance, it is interesting to note that unlike on the Continent, England viewed the crime of witchcraft as a civil rather than religious matter. This has alot to do with the connection between witchcraft and chrisitan heresy that was prevalent in Europe in the centuries prior to the beginning of the witch hunts but that was largely absent from English history. Russell continues with an analyses of the decline of the witch-craze and the rise of general skepticism and disbelief in witchery. He shows that by the late 18th century, the accusation and execution of suspected witches had all but ceased. It was only in the late 19th century that a revived nterest in magic and the occult gave rise to a romanticized interst in witchcraft. Russell concludes with an overview of the history of modern-day witchcraft and neo-paganism and the lingering perceptions that the public maintains about it.

I feel this book is the best I have read on the subject. While not a long book, quantatively there is more great information page for page than in any other single book I've read on witchcraft. This is not the be all end all book that "Drawing Down the Moon" tries to be for the believer. Instead it gives an excellent, engaging, account following a timeline which allows the reader to take into account the atmosphere of the time rather than remove the subject and give a disconnected sanitary synopsis of a fear that grew over time. This is an excellent Introduction to the academic history of witchcraft and should lead interested readers to a more in-depth study regarding one of the most horrific periods in human history.

Buy Jeffrey Russell's book: A History Of Witchcraft

Free eBooks (Can Be Downloaded):

Reginald Scot - The Discoverie Of Witchcraft
Anonymous - History Of Witchcraft Vol 7 Of 7
John Mitchell - The Philosophy Of Witchcraft
Allen Greenfield - A True History Of Witchcraft