Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Witchcraft in the Middle Ages Paperback – August 6, 1984
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
"A magnificent history. . . . Russell's survey of modern literature on the subject is in itself almost a major contribution, and his careful period-by-period and phase-by-phase description of the development of witchcraft through the fifteenth century is indispensable to any further serious treatment of the phenomenon in Europe."―Georgia Review
"The study of witchcraft is of more than fleeting interest. To understand this phenomenon is to acquire a more profound understanding of man, society, and self. Thus Russell's book is of singular importance. . . . With insight the author demonstrates how political, social, economic, religious, and intellectual developments either fostered or militated against the growth of witchcraft."―Church History
"Russell fills a real gap in the literature. He does so with the scholarly probity and sound good sense that arc the absolute prerequisites for any serious work on the subject, and he has composed his book for the general reader as well as the specialist. . . . In the course of his narrative Russell successfully lays to rest any number of erroneous 'well-known facts,' and he demonstrates that classical witchcraft was largely a creature of Christianity and that heresy was the strongest influence on its development as an idea."―History
"Russell's contribution will undoubtedly become a standard reference work on witchcraft. It is a clear, straightforward account resting on meticulous textual analysis and comprehensive documentation."―The Review of Books and Religion
About the Author
Jeffrey Burton Russell is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Top Customer Reviews
He interprets historical, verifiable witchcraft along a continuum. Rejecting the extremes that nobody in the Middle Ages believed in witchcraft and that "weird phenomena are not only real, but supernatural, and proof that the Devil and his minions live," Russell plots the truth along three points. 1) "At least some people were deluded into believing themselves witches." 2) Old pagan cults, folklore, sorcery, and heresy entered into their beliefs and practices. 3) These "as described by the sources (mainly trial records) did exist to a substantial degree." (21)
Russell moves chronologically, if for me too rapidly over the biblical Hebrew references (these barely gain a mention). He establishes proof from primary sources. He estimates that 31% of the Inquisitorial charges were for sorcery, 23% for folklore traditions, 27% for heresy, and 19% for those added by theologians (such as the pact, the Devil's mark, worship of the Devil, the obscene kiss, the sabbat). (I wish he had charted this with geographical and topical data, as graphically this might have enhanced what can be a challenging amassing of material within a densely written text. It's a demanding, depressing, if valuable account.)
Any continuity between ancient and medieval traditions here, Russell insists, was not consciously controlled.Read more ›
The first two chapters are a sort of preperatory overview of the subject, with brief mentions of the ancient middle-Eastern and Egyptian origins of magic and the belief in good-vs-evil Dualism. The next 7 chapters present a chronological evolution of witchcraft and how it was perceived (and dealt with) by the Church and secular authorities. The time span is from 300 to 1480 a.d. meaning this book stops short just before the classic "witch craze" of the Renaissance began. The final chapter is a summation of the significance of witchcraft in medeival thought.
Keeping in mind that the only records regarding witchcraft were written by it opponents, Russell carefully presents the information and offers a fairly objective assessment of it. His overall thesis is that witchcraft was largely an invention of the Church, and that from ancient pagan roots, withcraft evolved alongside heresy. He clearly demonstrates that the crime of witchcraft was regarded as distinct from simple heresy, and also distinct from sorcery and natural magic or herbalism. He has pinpointed almost the exact moment when the notion of the "Devil's pact" was introduced. He presents information about a number of medeival heresies, and shows how ideas crossed over into witchcraft - and even how some heresies later began to be prosecuted AS witchcraft.Read more ›
The author seemed to be trying to program a point into the reader that the evidence suggested otherwise. I found it amazing that the author would so readily quote ancient sources on paganistic practices but vehemently disagree with the ancient historians opinion on what they witnessed (especially since they witnessed it).
The book did in fact further my research, and for that I am thankful. I glad to have it in my library.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Unless you are looking for propaganda for the Christian religion, I would skip this fake history book. Read morePublished 19 months ago by brien mcmullen
Thank you for your prompt service and the product is in great condition. I cannot wait to start reading it. Thank you!Published on December 13, 2011 by Brigid2469
This is a very well written scholastic book about the sociopolitical events and ideas that led to the formation of the modern concept of Witchcraft. Read morePublished on July 9, 2004 by Amy Mumpower
A book tracing the evolution of witchcraft through the Middle Ages is a very promising topic. On the surface, it seems that this would provide great insight into the beginnings of... Read morePublished on December 6, 2001