By Malcolm Gaskill

Witchcraft is a topic that fascinates us all. certainly, from youth such a lot people boost a few psychological photo of a witch--usually an outdated lady, mysterious and malignant. yet why do witches nonetheless characteristic so seriously in our cultures and attention? From Halloween superstitions to literary references reminiscent of Faust and, in fact, Harry Potter, witches appear ever-present in our lives. during this Very brief creation, Malcolm Gaskill takes an extended ancient standpoint, from the traditional international to modern paganism. it is a booklet in regards to the strangeness of the previous, and approximately contrasts and alter; yet it's additionally approximately affinity and continuity. He finds that witchcraft is multi-faceted, that it has consistently intended various things to diversified humans, and that during all ages it has raised questions on the excellence among fable and truth, religion and evidence. Delving into court docket files, telling anecdotes, and tough myths, Gaskill re-examines obtained knowledge, in particular in regards to the ecu witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries. He additionally explores the fashionable reminiscence and reinvention of witchcraft--as background, faith, fiction, and metaphor.

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"...this is a superb creation to the subject of witchcraft. it's readable, guaranteed, and encyclopedic in its wisdom and research." -Marion Gibson, Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft

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Additional resources for Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

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We can be more certain that the female witch-stereotype was established by 1500, even if, as in the ancient world, ordinary people were not constrained by it in daily life. Ultimately, witches were pursued because they were witches, not because they were women. But if we could go back and ask a Tudor bystander to describe a 32 witch, you could be fairly sure he or she would say a malevolent woman with diabolic powers. And, as defamation cases illustrate, ‘witch’ was an insult specific to women, like ‘whore’ or ‘bitch’.

To dream of nocturnal assault by a witch was to be ‘hag-ridden’. Links between women and witchcraft date back to antiquity. Wicked female magicians were known to the Egyptians and Babylonians. The Sumerians feared Lilitu (the Hebrew Lilith), a shrieking demon in the form of a barren and envious woman. Classical texts developed the theme. The body-snatching witches described by Horace were female; Homer related how the sorceress Circe turned Odysseus’s sailors into pigs and taught him how to converse with the dead.

Too easily we fall into the trap of saying what witchcraft was really about, as if the idea that an accusation might really be about witchcraft is unacceptable. That the prosecution of Elizabeth Mortlock, healer of Pampisford, may have been a factional vendetta – unusually that year no one from her family served as churchwarden – doesn’t mean her behaviour 40 was not genuinely offensive to orthodox Protestants. In premodern England, as in modern Africa, people cooked up false accusations; but without a bedrock of reality to witch-beliefs these charges would have made no sense.

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