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The God of the Witches (Galaxy Books) Paperback – September 15, 1970

3.1 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An important and fascinating book."--New Statesman and Nation

"A book of absorbing interest."--Psychic News

About the Author


The late Margaret Murray is the author of The Witch Cult in Western Europe, also available from Oxford.
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Product Details

  • Series: Galaxy Books (Book 332)
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 15, 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195012704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195012705
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.5 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,427,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I actually came to this book after reading other scholarly texts that disprove, and books by modern witches that reluctantly admit to, the many unproven and unprovable assertions Margaret Murray made back in 1921. But, still, this book remains fascinating for its role in the growth of modern paganism and witchcraft -- and as a testament to the scholarly brilliance and creative thinking of a woman in what was still very much the male world of reseach and academia.
Murray was a brilliant thinker and researcher, but like many such people (male and female) since, and many more to come, her work has fed generations who have grown with her and now beyond her. Disproving her thesis does not denegrate the work or it's role in the history of a modern world religion.
I think the most fair assessment of the book's merits and demerits can be found in Jeffrey B. Russell's 1970s "A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, and Pagans":
"Modern historical scholarship rejects the Murray thesis with all its variants. Scholars have gone too far in their retreat from Murray, since many fragments of pagan religion do certainly appear in medieval witchcraft. But the fact remains that the Murray thesis on the whole is untenable. The argument for the survival of any coherent fertility cult from antiquity through the Middle Ages into the present is riddled with fallacies..."
That doesn't mean that someone may not come up with a stronger set of theory or evidence later (after standing on the shoulders of a pioneer like Murray), but for now we have to admit the interesting but untenable nature of her sequence of evidence and her bottom-line conclusions.
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By A Customer on November 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
I guess on the plus side you could say that this book eventually sparked a more scholarly investigation into medieval paganism, but the book itself is far from scholarly or truthful. As a researcher who has translated the document which this book uses as the basis for its section about Joan of Arc (near the end of the book), I thought I would comment on that subject first. It's a little hard to believe that the author bothered to read that transcript even in translation, much less in the original language, since the book's version of the subject bears so little resemblance to the actual documents; for instance, the claim is made that Joan never used the phrase "Our Lord" in the original language and never identified "the King of Heaven" as Jesus Christ, both of which are patently false: all 5 surviving copies of the original transcript do, in fact, quote her as saying "Our Lord" ("Nostre Seigneur" in medieval French) when speaking to the clergy, and if you look at Article XXII you will see a copy of a letter in which she not only places the names "Jesus" and "Mary" at the top, but also identifies the King of Heaven as, quote, "the son of Saint Mary" (i.e., Jesus Christ, whom Christian theology considers the son of Saint Mary (the Virgin Mary)). The other surviving letters which she dictated (found in other documents aside from the trial transcript) are just as specific: one of these, dated July 17, 1429, contains the phrase "King Jesus, the King of Heaven"; another, dated March 23, 1430, orders the Hussites to return to the Catholic faith, which she describes as, quote, "the original source of light", thereby removing any doubt as to her religion.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
We would do well, at a remove of about 80 years to consider Margaret Murray's The God of the Witches as a religious document in itself. It propounded the idea that there was a remnant of paganism that was practiced in Europe despite the domination by and opposition of the Church. At the time of its writing, the dominant idea was that the persecution of witchcraft was a wholly mendacious exercise of social control. Murray's book was a mild and necessary corrective.
One of the results of her work was the contribution to the rise of contemporary paganism of a certain historical depth. This book matters because it mattered to many readers, not because it's correct.

Lynn Hoffman, author of bang BANG
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By A Customer on June 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
In the light of recent scholarship by researchers such as Carlo Ginzburg, Murray' supposedly "discredited" theories look a lot better today than they did in the 1970's. She needs to be reassessed in this light.
It's a shame that Norman Cohn is so often seen as having made the definitive criticism; his own textual manipulations in the presentation of such documents as the Canon Episcopi make his accusations against Murray seem rather hollow. His major criticism of Murray is that he claims she left out mention of supposedly "impossible" elements in accounts by accused Witches, thus making their tales seem plausible. In fact, she did no such thing; her books are arranged thematicaly, and so these "impossible" elements are merely covered in other chapters. Further, "impossible" elements exist in the first-hand tales of believers in any religion; witness supposed "miracles" which still today are said to take place at the shrines of Christian saints.
Murray's works need to be re-read and looked at afresh. It's time for a more rational and unbiased re-assessment.
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