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Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, Vol. 5: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Witchcraft and Magic in Europe) Paperback – October 14, 1999
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From Library Journal
This series provides a scholarly survey of European belief in the supernatural. Using broad definitions of witchcraft and the supernatural, it provides a framework for inquiring into the supernatural in Europe from ancient to modern times. Each volume is divided into sections, each of which was written by a prominent scholar in that field. The first volume looks at the practices resulting in a belief in sorcery and witchcraft in Greek and Roman times. Part 1 covers curses, spells, and voodoo dolls in ancient Greek and Rome; Part 2 offers a literary review of witches and sorcerers in classical literature; Part 3 analyzes the role of magic in the classical world; and Part 4 covers belief in demons in the classical world, early Christianity, and Judaism. The second volume covers the witch trials of the 18th and 19th century. Part 1 analyzes the general reasons for their decline; Part 2 discusses beliefs in witchcraft after the trials; and Part 3 discusses the trials' origins in Enlightenment, Romantic, and Liberal thought. The third volume discusses modern witchcraft. Part 1 describes the rise of modern pagan witchcraft; Part 2 looks at modern Satanism (thoroughly dispelling the myth of ritual abuse); and Part 3 analyzes more traditional practices of witchcraft in the 20th century including bewitchments and cursings, and looks into the future of such practices. These volumes provide an exceptional historical and social analysis of subject of enduring interest. All three are highly recommended for academic libraries.AGail Wood, SUNY at Cortland
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From The New Yorker
Although the three volumes of the series so far published are intended mainly for scholars, there is much in them to interest the common reader.
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Until now the Roman Catholic Church has been viewed as the chief source of persecution of "witches." While the RCC was involved with witchcraft (in more ways than one as it turns out) heretofore historical research about witchcraft was biased as it was largely based on RCC records. The studies in W&E go beyond the RCC records and include work undertaken by hundreds of scholars engaged in the difficult task of ferreting out information from less well organized secular and non-RCC sources scattered across Europe.
Witchcraft in Europe has been defined in dozens of ways and the authors use the terms witchcraft and magic interchangably since anyone thought to engage in magical practices was viewed as a sorcerer (male) or magician or witch (female). Magicican, Magi, Witch, Sorcerer all mean "wise one". One has to wonder if the current craze for Harry Potter would be so great if the protagonist was Harriet Potter and she was a witch.
The amazing finding of the W&E scholars (who insist they are still compiling the story) is that the Enlightenment did not end witchcraft and nor did the Reformation before it. Magic was alive and well before and after both movements in spite of the extreme efforts of Protestant leaders like Luther, Calvin, and Wesley to root out RCC herersy and magical practices like turning wine into the blood of Christ and removing evil spirits through exorcism (though some Protestants continued to do faith healing), as well as the attempts of Rationalist thinkers Voltaire, Hume, Locke and others to rid thinking of magic. Eventually, the Protestants and the Rationalists found themselves locked in conflict since belief in God was not "rational". The focus of the Protestants changed from eradicating magic to limiting magic.
In his section entitled 'Witchcraft and Magic in Enlightenment, Romatic and Liberal Thought' Roy Porter says "...at the grassroots 'superstitions' did not dissolve like mist in the sunshine but proved highly tenacious -- driving reformers to dispair! And the educated themselves continued to uphold a mixed bag of beliefs." For example, while Whigs of 18th Century England tried mightly to bring the Neoclassical movement to life in all parts of England via architecture, art, clothing, and literature, but cheap thrillers like the "Castle of Otranto" held the people in thrall--not Alexander Pope's Essay on Man. Jane Austin, whose own father was a village vicar, made fun of the "Gothic" thrillers in her book 'Northanger Abbey' but even this popular author could not dissuade popular opinion.
Later in the Eighteenth Century, when the Romantic Movement was in full flower, Europe and America produced Shelley's 'Frankenstein'; Stoker's Dracula; and Irving's 'Sleepy Hollow'; Edgar Allen Poe's 'House of Usher'; Sir Walter Scott's 'Ivanhoe'; (Avonlea, the Lady of the Lake, Merlin and Arthur, the Tales of Robin Hood). The Romantic movement was fueled by love of the non-rational in a "rationalized" and industrialized age.
From village priests who practiced sorcery to Puritan Protestant ministers who ran them out of town, from Rationalists who preached efficency to Romantics who painted clouds, wrote poetry about daffodils or tigers in the night, or set down fairy tales, from women and men stoned as magicians, witches, or fairy-changlings to the men who appropriated female magic and called it medicine W&E covers it all. This is a wonderful book about an incredible era. In the end, magic IS.