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A History of Magic and Witchcraft (Hardback)

Sabbats, Satan and Superstitions in the West

Ancient History Rome P&S History Social History Colour Books

By Frances Timbers
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 202
ISBN: 9781526731814
Published: 3rd April 2019



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Broomsticks and cauldrons, familiars and spells: magic and witchcraft conjure vivid pictures in our modern imaginations. The history of magic and witchcraft offers a window into the past, illuminating the lives of ordinary people and shining a light on the fascinating pop culture of the pre-modern world.

Blowing away folkloric cobwebs, this enlightening new history dispels many of the misconceptions rooted in superstition and myth that surround witchcraft and magic today. Historian Frances Timbers brings together elements of Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, Christianity, popular culture, and gender beliefs that evolved throughout the middle ages and early modern period and contributed to the construction and eventual persecution of the figure of the witch. While demonologists were developing the new concept of Devil worship and the witches' sabbat, elite men were actually attempting to practise ceremonial magic. In the twentieth century, elements of ceremonial magic and practices of cunning folk were combined with the culturally-constructed idea of a sect of witches to give birth first to modern Wicca in England and then to other neopagan movements in North America.

Witchcraft is a metaphor for oppression in an age in which persecution is an everyday occurrence somewhere in the world. Fanaticism, intolerance, prejudice, authoritarianism, and religious and political ideologies are never attractive. Beware the witch hunter!

'For Your Bookshelf'

Antiques Diary, July 2019

I found A History of Witchcraft and Magic an interesting read. The vast majority of books on the subject focus on Christianity and its relationship with witchcraft. The author really made me question some of my long held assumptions by starting the book with witchcraft in the classical period. A definite eye-opener.

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Hisdoryan, Claire Miles

`For your bookshelf`

Antiques Diary, July-August 2019

A History of Magic and Witchcraft is a book that I knew I needed to read. When I was in college working on my Bachelor’s I focused my research on witchcraft in Europe. I focused on reading everything I could find through library loans and online sources to learn as much as I could about witches and prosecutions in France and England. While I had read so many books on the topic already, Timber’s thesis inspired me. Her arguments moved beyond what I had read in college and brought together both the past and present in a way that revealed to me new information about a topic I love, which I was surprised by. What struck me was the emphasis on how women and men were both punished for being considered witches. Timber looks at how those who were accused were not chosen entirely for misogynistic reasons. This argument was entirely new and by noting there was a level of equality under the term witch and how punishments were meted out shows that the fear was not of woman, but rather of a force that existed within the population. This book is not only something historians will enjoy, but it is also easy to follow and understand for those who might feel nervous about reading a historical work.

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The Nerdy Girl Express

Of special note for academia is the inclusion End Notes (six pages), a Further Reading bibliographic list (two pages), and an Index (five pages), making "A History of Magic and Witchcraft: Sabbats, Satan and Superstitions in the West" a significant and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library collections.

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Midwest Book Review

With an engaging level of detail, A History of Magic and Witchcraft explores the many different ideas of witchcraft, the practices, the acceptance of information that has long been considered the truth about this such as witch trials and the subsequent executions, but also the subjugation of the masses through the fear of witch-hunts. It is also interesting to discover that Frances Timbers has, through so much research, found out that in some areas the percentage of men executed outnumbered that of the women. An exploration through the various ages and interpretations of witches give readers a glimpse into the ever changing mindsets and terminologies prevalent at the times as well as practices... If you’re looking for something that’s different from other books out there about magic and witchcraft, then I would highly recommend this. It gives the reader lots to think about and asks then to really consider what they already knew, reassess what they already know and view it with fresh eyes after reading some of the information in this book.

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The Quiet Knitter

A History of Magic and Witchcraft was a well-written, well-researched, informative read. This book offers a good overview and introductory into the history of magic and witchcraft... Frances Timbers does a very good job at explaining what certain terminologies are as well as discussing the different types of magic and witchcraft that played or were a key role within the history of magic and witchcraft world.

I would recommend A History of Magic and Witchcraft by Frances Timbers to anyone who has an interest in this type of history.

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Where There's Ink There's Paper, Lauren Gent

About Frances Timbers

Frances Timbers holds a PhD in British History from the University of Toronto and has published two books on witchcraft and magic: Magic and Masculinity: Ritual Magic and Gender in the Early Modern Era and The Magical Adventures of Mary Parish: The Occult World of Seventeenth-Century London. She has also published a number of peer-reviewed journal articles. She is currently an adjunct professor at Trent University in Canada.

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