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The witch : a history of fear, from ancient…

The witch : a history of fear, from ancient times to the present (edition 2018)

by Ronald Hutton

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824217,056 (4.1)None
Title:The witch : a history of fear, from ancient times to the present
Authors:Ronald Hutton
Info:New Haven : Yale University Press, 2018.
Collections:Your library, To read

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The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present by Ronald Hutton



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Professor Hutton has produced a widely researched and closely argued book about a controversial topic. He starts with the assertion that many cultures, but not all, through history and around the world have had beliefs concerning members of their societies who are able to use supernatural powers to harm fellow humans, livestock and crops, influence the weather, cause death and disease. He chooses the English word 'witch' to label these people, while noting the other, more recent uses of the term. In some cultures these people are believed to act through innate powers, either controlled or involuntary.. In other cultures the witches derive their powers from supernatural entities commonly called demons. Other figures who use magic may act for the benefit of persons in their societies. These people he labels "service magicians" although they are sometimes called good or white witches. Hutton traces the ideas that beliefs about witches were remnants of pre-Christian religion, that the practices of witches derive from shamanism and that the persecution of witches was a uniquely Christian phenomenon. He presents evidence that these beliefs are incorrect. He does identify an area of northern Europe in which there is some overlap between the abilities attributed to witches and the activities of shamans. He also acknowledges that the belief in the classic satanic witch was a construct of the late Medieval and Early Modern period, influenced by increased exposure to ceremonial magic among elites and a blending of ideas about magic workers with the evil acts of cannibalism, sexual depravity and other anti-social acts routinely attributed to Jews and heretics. The chapters on the British Isles contain an analysis of the belief in fairies as teachers of magic; an examination of the relative lack of witch trials in Celtic areas such as HIghland Scotland, Ireland and Wales; and a study of the role of the animal familiar in English trials. This is not light reading. But it is a very interesting work and exposes the reader to the writings of European researchers who have not been translated and made available to the lay reader in America. 360 pages, extensive footnotes, bibliography and index. Small section of photographs. I highly recommend this work for anyone researching or teaching the topic. ( )
  ritaer | Jun 20, 2018 |
Book received from NetGalley.

I've had this book for awhile but something in me had to wait to read it until the "spooky" days of October. I have to admit I love Ronald Hutton, the television shows he's been in show just how quirky but knowledgeable he is. I've read a few other books of his and enjoyed them just as much. My only issue with the book is he seemed to have a set number of pages he wanted to write so he tried to shove quite a bit of information into these pages. I'm not sure how much a general history reader will get from this, and I definitely believe if you're just starting on your journey into this subject you shouldn't start with this book. You can tell he's an academic and that's who the book seems to be written for. Even with all that I loved it and even though I've read quite extensively on this subject I learned quite a few things. This is for the rest of the Pagans out there, this is a book I highly suggest you add to your library if you have one focused on The Craft. ( )
  Diana_Long_Thomas | Nov 12, 2017 |
What is a witch? Interestingly enough even a definition is hard to come across in this book. Hutton is an expert in many areas and this serves him well as he explores the differences between witchcraft, medicine and religion and the perception of witchcraft across the globe and the centuries. This book is fascinating and Hutton is a well-researched guide and link maker. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Oct 25, 2017 |
Ronald Hutton provides a scholarly work that reads more like an easy paced journey through one of History’s most fascinating subjects. Maybe I just found the subject fascinating and enjoyed learning so much more than I had ever been taught in school. Hutton’s passion for research pours through so it’s easy to imagine he would be the favorite professor to take a class in this from on campus.

You get to experience the heightened fear during early Europe’s fascination with women’s behavior and witch trials that precede the Salem Days. What I really loved was that this was so much more than just another history book as he actually took the time to examine the historical concepts through human behavior, culture and psychology of the people and times.

I appreciated the lengths he went to examine the idea of witches as they relate to Pagan and other similar beliefs and practices particularly since not every pagan system contains ‘witches’ despite what the public believes.

What he has provided is not just another book but THE book that should be on the must read list for anyone interested in the history and truth of how witches came to be and their intersections throughout history across multiple continents.

Unlike some history books Hutton provides plenty of resources to support his views and evidence so you can walk away feeling assured you’re being treated to a fuller context of the truth rather than a biased viewpoint. ( )
  ttsheehan | Sep 20, 2017 |
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"The witch came to prominence--and often a painful death--in early modern Europe, yet her origins are much more geographically diverse and historically deep. In this landmark book, Ronald Hutton traces witchcraft from the ancient world to the early-modern stake. This book sets the notorious European witch trials in the widest and deepest possible perspective and traces the major historiographical developments of witchcraft. Hutton, a renowned expert on ancient, medieval, and modern paganism and witchcraft beliefs, combines Anglo-American and continental scholarly approaches to examine attitudes on witchcraft and the treatment of suspected witches across the world, including in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Australia, and North and South America, and from ancient pagan times to current interpretations. His fresh anthropological and ethnographical approach focuses on cultural inheritance and change while considering shamanism, folk religion, the range of witch trials, and how the fear of witchcraft might be eradicated"--… (more)

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