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A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, & Pagans Paperback – March 26, 2007
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About the Author
Brooks Alexander is the author of Witchcraft Goes Mainstream and has written numerous articles on witchcraft and neo-paganism and their effect on contemporary religious movements. He lives in Texas.
Top Customer Reviews
This is a fair book, well-researched. It lays the groundwork for 3 kinds of "witchery" in human history: "sorcery," which has belonged to and persists in all cultures, all religions, at all times, in various forms, with various levels of acceptance; "diabolical witchcraft," which is an "invention of the [European] Middle Ages," a compendium of folklore + religious bigotry + political expediency + etc....; and "modern witchcraft," which is a "new religion." And he, thankfully, makes it clear that Wicca and Paganism are not in any way satanic: "Satanism today is quite different from historical witchcraft, however, and it is totally rejected by all the neopagan witches today. Modern witches observe that since they reject Christianity they can scarecely be supposed to worship a Christian Devil. I describe Satansim here only so that the lack of resemblance between it and witchcraft may be clear.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
My second thought was, "Half of this book is pictures!"
My third thought was, "How could a book with only 100 pages of text possibly cover the history of witchcraft?"
As I started reading though, my fears got knocked out, one by one.
A quick glance at the Contents pages shows how thorough this book is:
2 The Roots of European Witchcraft
3 Witchcraft, Heresy and Inquisition
4 The Witch-Craze on the Continent of Europe
5 Witchcraft in Britain and America
6 Witchcraft and Society
7 The Decline of Witchcraft
8 Survivals and Revivals
9 Neopagan Witchcraft: The Sources
10 Neopagan Witchcraft: The Movement
11 The Role of Witchcraft
Pretty self-explanatory, but I was glad to find that this book also mentions sorcery/witchcraft in not just Europe, but countries like Africa, as well.
On the coverage of American witchcraft, I was pleased to see that there was a quick but sufficient history on the Salem witch trials and not a repetitive drawn-out version.
What I liked most about this book was how it came across as very unbiased --the authors frequently call out authors by name and criticize their "unscholarly" research.
They also viewed witchcraft from different perspectives, to include economic, such as on page 111, where it says:
"Nor did declining economic conditions necessarily correlate with witchcraft. Macfarlane observed that in Essex prosecutions were at their height in the 1580s and 1590s, a period of relative prosperity.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very little to say here. Loved this book - I'm a nerd for historical accounts of the occult. I have both the first and second additions of this title now.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
A wonderful condensed book of the History of witchcraft. It is a college textbook paperback and well made. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Christopher M. Orapello
Book was very well written! Sources are relevant and well cited. The author managed to pack a ton of information into an easy-to-read format. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Will E.
A great historical accounting of witchcraft. Mr. Russell provides a fair, balanced, and unbiased history from the perspective of a non witch. Read morePublished 14 months ago by jorma
I've spent a lot of time studying witchcraft and alternative religions. This book provided a solid history of witchcraft they I hadn't heard before. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Kyler
This book appears to have been well researched; it is very factual and contains a surprisingly large amount of history given the book's small size. Read morePublished on April 12, 2014 by Amazon Customer
Great book - I loved the way the author started in the past an worked his way to present day explaining the origins and possible origins of many aspects of the Old Religion - and... Read morePublished on November 13, 2013 by Justin Seguin
This book has a ton of history and certainly reads like a text that would be required reading for a college course. Read morePublished on September 11, 2013 by Craig Giordano