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on January 13, 2005
This is a reprint of a book published in the 1830's by Sir Walter Scott as a favor to his son-in-law. Scott researches folklore, superstition, and witchcraft (through folklore, trial records, and previous scholars) in depth to give the reader a comprehensive body of knowledge. The modern reader will find more here than she ever knew. Countless court cases from all of Europe and especially Scotland (where the author resided) and England are presented. Scott writes from the point of view that he lives in a scientific age and that the possibility of these occurances is absurd, but, because he gives you all of the information from which he derives his opinion, you can make your own. Personally, I'm a fanciful person and would like to believe in ghosts and such, but in most of the cases he has plausible explanations for their being impossible (especially pertaining to witchcraft). Interesting to note, in not one of the cases of witchcraft did any of the accused, or the accusers mention goddess worship. Neither did they in any of the 'accepted' mystical hobbies of the era either. He talks of things of which I have never heard. For example, seers claimed to have captured fairies or slyphs in their crystal balls and they were not "seeing something" as in the movies, but getting the information from the agent inside the ball. It takes a while to read, as the editors of the period didn't know what to do with commas and run on sentences. Some of the words are outdated, and are used differently in our time than in his. This is an excellent book for both the sceptic and believer, as well as Christian or pagan.
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on October 27, 2012
Published two years before Scott's death in 1832, this work is practically a meta-analysis of stories of witch-trials and persecutions mostly based in Europe with a few stories detailing the supporting or contrasting events as seen in Scandinavian countries and the Americas. Scott takes the position that the human mind is a fragile thing, imagination creates all kinds of scary things and if those culpable of their crimes were to behave rationally this wouldn't have, and shouldn't have happened. Succinctly - "every generation of the human race must swallow a certain measure of nonsense."

Filled with interesting terminology it can be a fairly taxing read, as Scott seems to have a proclivity to be long winded and seldom winds a story down in timely fashion. He also doesn't fear the use of incredibly superfluous detailing of the events and persons involved.

Bridging the gap, Scott covers very well the transition from tribalism, mythology and lore to the intervention of Christianity, Christianities sectionalism and the resultant over-zealous persecution of person's believed to be witches / warlocks and the closed-minded, torturous methods used to inexcusably extract confessions from frightened people who were usually murdered (let`s call it what it is, people) after confession in hopes that it would end their torture - and murdered anyway if they didn`t self-incriminate until the last documented execution in Scotland in 1722. The belief was that they were guilty - based upon hearsay and the unwillingness of juries or prosecutors to speak for their defense. To have spoken in defense of a witch / warlock would only suggest that you, yourself, were in league with that person and their nefarious practices... so one can clearly see, this era, this often forgotten mar on the histories of Europe and America was little more than a campaign of fear and distrust. Of particular interest in the Calvinistic desire to persecute zealously simply because the Catholics were prone to let witches exist and were believed to be in league with the devil (the existence of the `devil' was, is, and will always be good business for the church - best friend they've ever had).

Scott also discusses legerdemain - magic, slight of hand and trickery being seen as types of witchcraft. Ranked with this are holistic medicine practitioners, and those who've fallen from the grace of the church (heathens or pagans).

Terms and concepts of particular interest (to myself):

- Ephilates: the sense impressions (real) that intrude upon and are incorporated into dreams. The mind rapidly creates a story to surround it (if one is interested in the concept: Freud should be read).
- Blue Devils: phantoms seen as a result of constant intoxication.
- Naiads: Sea nymphs, generally of two types: Evil, toward sea-men or beneficent unless her jealously is provoked.
- Bhargeist: a specter, commonly associated with last name `Dobie' and the bearer of said name.
- Skald (Norse): Believed that to seek information and power from the Gods was a noble pursuit; not an impious endeavor as it would be in the Christian mind.
- Ourisk (Celtic): a melancholy spirit usually lives removed from mankind.
- Fairies (Finnish); Kobold (German); Bogle (Scottish); Goblin (British): all are generally mischievous but not necessarily evil. The worst done by a Fairy is child-napping to off-set the quota of their own kind that have to give to the devil annually.
- `Damnum minatum, et malum secutum': a curse issued, followed by an event relating to the curse.

Means of torture:
- `Pricking': an effort to find `the devils mark', a pricked spot where the person who has the needle shoved into them evinces no reaction.
- Total extraction of finger / toe nails.
- Forced sleeplessness and no reprieve from the means of torture.
- Leg loading: from a sitting position, propping up the heels leaving the knees unsupported and putting heavy weights upon the joint. Would persist until a confession were forced or the knees broke backward.
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on January 5, 2004
Oddly enough, this book talks more about Faeries and defends many accused of witchcraft of influence by the fair folk upon the glens and moors.
It is a remarkable work that has Scott's own articulate hand bringing a very interesting world of Celtic myths and fables to life while the rigors of a new age dawn upon them.
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on December 13, 2012
"Each advance in natural knowledge teaches us that it is the pleasure of the Creator to govern the world by the laws which he has imposed, and which are not in our times interrupted or suspended." ~~ Walter Scott

The author of this work does not believe in witchcraft and believes, instead, that the persecution of witches was in and of it self evil and a great miscarriage of justice. The book is a worthwhile read to put the witch trials into a form of perspective.
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on October 26, 2015
you may learn some things that you'd never think to you had known or some things you wanted to know after chapter 1 anyone would want to finish the book plus it's great cleaner for when your mind is clutter or you have writers block.
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on April 10, 2016
I wanted this book in my Kindle library also it's a little hard to follow the way it's written And worded that doesn't at all mean that it's not a wonderful book it is..but just be sure you take the time to understand and comprehend what you're reading
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on June 1, 2014
His carefully constructed sentences are clear, colorful and meaningful. This book is a skeptical rationalist take on the witch trials in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries along with some legends and anecdotes of paranormal apparitions. Scott sympathizes with the unfortunate victims who were burned as witches and he takes the time to explain why superstitions about witches arose, why these superstitions are incorrect, and just how illogical the accusations and interrogations were. He makes it clear that he is a Christian and believes that humans have souls; he just doesn't believe that God is overly generous with miracles involving resurrections, which means he doesn't believe in ghosts. A downside of this book is that the chapters don't follow any obvious organization and the rambling anecdotes make it feel a bit like reading an encyclopedia with commentary rather than a grand cohesive argument.
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on July 26, 2014
Sir Walter Scott really was a Renaissance Man! This volume was news to me, and it's very thoughtfully written. A fine addition for those studying religion, the occult, or comparing folk magic practices.
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on May 24, 2013
This book is a riot of emotions, written by a writer who wants to write in a rational way. Beware: he pitches his puzzle in the old way, with all the baggage that belongs to the old way. Somewhere over the rainbow we see a world he doesn't believe; somehow it survives his unbelief. And in this being exists the truth. About religion and legends, about fearies and witches, about dreams and ghosts. "Thout, tout, throughtout, and about!" Reality? The reader decides.
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on May 14, 2014
This is okay if you are a beginning Demonologist. It's interesting and may or may not be very accurate but I enjoyed it.
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