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Persuasions of the Witch's Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England Paperback – March 1, 1989
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Raises questions about the way we think, believe, imagine, know, in a most fascinating way. (Rosemary Dinnage New York Review of Books)
Anyone who likes to speculate about the nature of belief and the organization of belief systems, to learn about the development and meanings of ritual, and to explore efforts toward creative self-realization will be intrigued with the results of Luhrmann's immersion in the several strains of modern British magic. (Michele Slung Washington Post Book World)
Luhrmann has made a major contribution to the study of magic, new religions, and the development of the irrational within a culture that prides itself on rationality. (Helen A. Berger Contemporary Sociology)
Such is the strength of Tanya Luhrmann's narrative that, by the end of the book, magic becomes a normal and almost routine activity--just another way of channeling that desire for worship and that appetite for symbolic ritual that human beings seem to possess. Since this is an anthropological study the author has many serious points to make about the relationship between practice and theory. (Peter Ackroyd London Times)
This brilliant work provides the most wide-ranging sociological or anthropological investigation to date of the interrelated witchcraft, ceremonial magic, and neo-pagan movements that are becoming increasingly important in both Britain and the United States...No one interested in contemporary spirituality or the social scientific study of religion can afford to miss this book. (Robert S. Ellwood Religious Studies Review)
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Top Customer Reviews
It is too bad Luhrmann did not extend this courtesy to her witches and magicians. Instead she presents them as people who socially support and encourage each other to believe fantasy. As this was her dissertation work, I believe she was under some pressure at that time to please her professors who basically wanted her to debunk religious belief by deconstructing it. If that is the case, maybe she should go back and rewrite Persuasions now that she has achieved a secure place in her field. Or maybe she should do a follow-up. I suspect many, most or all of her informants for Persuasions have lived fulfilling lives.
The author joined several magic groups in England at the time, from witch covens to Western Mystery traditions--taking their courses and even getting initiated into their groups. She stated that she also read magic and witch books, but admits that she didn't read them for their content, but for their "tone." It also seems from what she says that she only noticed the tone of what she experienced in the groups, rather than trying to make sense of what they were trying to teach her, and even what she actually ended up experiencing.
The gist of the book is that since, in the author's worldview, magic does not work...why would otherwise reasonably intelligent, reasonably educated, and reasonably sane individuals in modern day (1980's) England believe in it? Part of what she decided is that they have chosen to live in a shared delusion, a fantasy world, in order to regress to a childlike state to deal with unresolved mother-separation issues. She equates the Mother Goddess (of any ilk) with the Good Mother-Bad Mother and the seeking of inner individual power along the path of magic with an attempt to grow up and become an adult, thus separating from the mother.Read more ›
On the other hand, this was a good read precisely because in that year she did get very involved in the communities and in magical practice. What I wonder is whether she critically questioned her own values and beliefs and what those brought to the experience and subject she was studying. I'm not convinced in reading this book that she engaged her own attitudes about magic or was willing to suspend disbelief enough to determine if it was a reality or just an approach to life that people bought into.
While she herself did not believe in magic she did have healthy dose of respect for those who did. She went in as an anthropologist seeking to live the life of the community. Her study does not cover paganism per se or devil worship just magic. I am glad that she kept that line very clear. There are some magicians who work with Aruthurian mythos, others with angels and some with planetary powers.
Most of those involved in magical groups tend to be middle class or upper middle class and have a great deal of education under their belt. They are usually employed in the computer industry where creativity and deciphering things can be of use. Some are teachers and others are therapist. What leads them to magic is often a search for more control in their life or some deeper spirituality without joining a new religion or a cult. Many people are led to the magical path after reading fantasy book written by JRR. Tolkien, CS Lewis, Ursula Leguine, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Need I forget to mention that many computer geeks and magi are involved in the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It had way too much previous highlighting and notes jotted down then I had expected.Published 17 months ago by Courtney
This is, I believe, the first book Dr. Luhrmann published. She brings in theory from psychology, sociology, and anthropology to simultaneously explain the WHY religious... Read morePublished on January 13, 2014 by Chesterfield
First point: the title of the book is inappropriate, since Luhrmann does not focus specifically on Witches: in fact, in reading the book, the sense one gets is that Witches and... Read morePublished on October 2, 2010 by Green Stone
This is the only book I've read in the past five years that I haven't finished. I stopped reading in disgust. Read morePublished on March 28, 2002 by GenrePaperback