Witchcraft in the Middle Ages

July 8, 2016 - Comment

All the known theories and incidents of witchcraft in Western Europe from the fifth to the fifteenth century are brilliantly set forth in this engaging and comprehensive history. Building on a foundation of newly discovered primary sources and recent secondary interpretations, Jeffrey Burton Russell first establishes the facts and then explains the phenomenon of witchcraft

All the known theories and incidents of witchcraft in Western Europe from the fifth to the fifteenth century are brilliantly set forth in this engaging and comprehensive history. Building on a foundation of newly discovered primary sources and recent secondary interpretations, Jeffrey Burton Russell first establishes the facts and then explains the phenomenon of witchcraft in terms of its social and religious environment, particularly in relation to medieval heresies.

Russell treats European witchcraft as a product of Christianity, grounded in heresy more than in the magic and sorcery that have existed in other societies. Skillfully blending narration with analysis, he shows how social and religious changes nourished the spread of witchcraft until large portions of medieval Europe were in its grip, “from the most illiterate peasant to the most skilled philosopher or scientist.” A significant chapter in the history of ideas and their repression is illuminated by this book. Our enduring fascination with the occult gives the author’s affirmation that witchcraft arises at times and in areas afflicted with social tensions a special quality of immediacy.

Comments

John L Murphy says:

Defined by their enemies An eminent historian of demonology and heresy relates these to this misunderstood and elusive phenomenon. Russell argues for the reality of witches. He shows how they “usually acted as they were supposed to act.” That is, the fluidity of definitions applied by medieval clerics and then inquisitors pressured dissenters to adapt the terms by which they were marginalized, persecuted, and often executed.He interprets historical, verifiable witchcraft along a continuum. Rejecting the…

History Nut says:

Good Book, But Outdated This book isn’t exactly graduate level, but it helps if you are. And even if you’re not, you’ll figure it out. Simply, you should own this book. Will you refer to it every day? Not likely, but it’s one of the best ‘general’ studies of witchcraft out there, even if it is becoming somewhat outdated. But still a fantastic “MUST OWN” reference material! And despite the fact that it is getting a little outdated, Russell is an important scholar whose ideas you should be familiar with if you’re…

J. W. Kennedy says:

Interesting but Dry It’s a historical overview on the evolution of witchcraft through the middle ages, from the perspective of a historian who doesn’t seem to believe in magic, yet nevertheless admits there was _something_ going on. The style is dry and academic, with lots of big words from sociological and psychological jargon. At times it reads like a doctorial thesis.The first two chapters are a sort of preperatory overview of the subject, with brief mentions of the ancient middle-Eastern and…

Write a comment

The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties including, but not limited to, amazon.com, endless.com, myhabit.com, smallparts.com, or amazonwireless.com.