Facebook Twitter Youtube Instagram Pinterest LinkedIn

A History of Magic and Witchcraft (Paperback)

Sabbats, Satan and Superstitions in the West

Medieval History Ancient History P&S History Social History Colour Books

By Frances Timbers
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 202
Illustrations: 50
ISBN: 9781526757630
Published: 3rd February 2020

in_stock

£12.00 was £14.99

You save £2.99 (20%)


You'll be £12.00 closer to your next £10.00 credit when you purchase A History of Magic and Witchcraft. What's this?
+£4 UK Delivery or free UK delivery if order is over £30
(click here for international delivery rates)

Order within the next 3 hours, 42 minutes to get your order processed the next working day!

Need a currency converter? Check XE.com for live rates

Other formats available Price
A History of Magic and Witchcraft Hardback Add to Basket £19.99
A History of Magic and Witchcraft ePub (11.2 MB) Add to Basket £6.00
A History of Magic and Witchcraft Kindle (25.6 MB) Add to Basket £6.00


Broomsticks and cauldrons, familiars and spells: magic and witchcraft conjures a vivid picture in our modern-day imagination. While much of our understanding is rooted in superstition and myth, the history of magic and witchcraft offers a window into the past. It illuminates the lives of ordinary people in the past and shines a light on the fascinating pop culture of the premodern world.

Blowing away folkloric cobwebs, this enlightening new history dispels many of the misconceptions surrounding witchcraft and magic that we still hold today. From Ancient Greece and Rome through to the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era, historian Frances Timbers shines a light on the impact of Christianity and popular culture in the construction of the figure of the ‘witch’. The development of demonology and ceremonial magic is brought together with the West’s troubled past with magic and witchcraft to chart the birth of modern Wiccan and Neopagan movements in England and 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!

Timbers begins with Ancient Greece and Rome's understanding of magic and witchcraft, then moves through the decades to paint a picture of the development of the popular notions of witchcraft and how they changed throughout the times. Along the way she debunks many popular beliefs about the witch trials. For example: the Malleus Malleficarum, or the Hammer of Witches, was not in fact the most influential written text on witches and witchcraft, despite its infamy; the Inquisition was actually a moderating influence on witch hunts at the local level, which tended to spiral out of control; witch hunts were not a systemic and systematic woman-hunting endeavor; accused witches were not practitioners of a pre-Christian fertility cult; Wicca is a modern amalgamation of many different cultural influences and rituals and is not in fact a prehistoric religion.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the way this was written; there was depth and detail but it was not overly scholarly and is immensely accessible to the average reader... this is a thoroughly-researched and comprehensive account of the history of witchcraft in Western Europe; it does a superb job condensing hundreds of years of history in a logical and comprehensible way. I learned a ton!

NetGalley, Hadeer Elsbai

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An amazing read for anyone that's interested not only in witchcraft and magic, but in religion and history as a whole. You can tell there was a strong, careful investigation process behind it that also manages to be respectful to all religions and stories mentioned and remain impartial enough for the message to be delivered straight and clear. As a witch, I really loved this book, and as a history junkie, I really LOVED this book.

NetGalley, Brissy Ev

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As someone who is deeply fascinated by Magic and witchcraft, this book was very informative and satisfying.
What I liked the most was the change of the concepts and definitions of witches and magic throughout generations and cultures, and also how beliefs were formed and enforced by religion
the author provides a lot of explanation about the links and origins of some beliefs and behaviors of witches, such as flying, chanting and calling to the 4 elements. And I have to admit, this changed a lot of misconceptions I had about magic and witchcraft, especially the real reasons behind persecutions and witch hunts.
I Highly recommended it, if you are looking for enlightening about the history of witches.

NetGalley, Soukaïna Oujdad

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A History of Magic and Witchcraft: Sabbats, Satan and Superstitions in the West by Frances Timbers is the type of history book that appeals to both history buffs and those who realize the need to know history in order to impact the future.

There are plenty of histories of magic and witchcraft that simply provide a timeline of events with accepted explanations for those events. Some of them are quite good for what they are. Timbers combines such a history with what the work of history should do, make connections and posit explanations that make as much if not more sense than the accepted ones. Because so much of what we think we know about the subject is actually from propaganda from the time or popular culture from the more recent past, this book has to help us unlearn what we "knew" so we can then learn what is more accurate.

The focus of this book is on the period from the early middle ages to the early modern era. Timbers looks at the history from both on high (those making judgments) and from the working/peasant classes who use and in fact need much of what passed for magic. The prosecutions are reviewed from a legal perspective as well as a cultural one. And gender is examined with respect to both who practiced and who was prosecuted.

Whatever you know and whatever you think you know, this book will add to your understanding of what magic and witchcraft really were, what prosecutions and persecutions really reflected, and how such actions, regardless of the target, serve those in power. Highly recommended for both those interested in the topic itself as well as those who simply want to gain a fuller understanding of witch hunts, both historical and current. And also what isn't, in common usage, a witch hunt but is called such by guilty parties to shift the focus of public opinion.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

This book answers every question I had about magic and witchcraft. It is thoroughly researched and provides a wealth of magical information. I was spellbound by the timeline of historical information that provided insight into magic, witchcraft, and its effect on civilizations throughout the centuries. This isn't a "hot=to" book, it's so much more! HIghly recommended for anyone who wants to know the facts and basis for modern witchcraft and magic.

NetGalley, Magi Henderson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Get a look at the real inside story of the history of Magic and Witchcraft. The many different areas, folklore, and history can be blurred at times - with fiction overtaking fact a lot of the time.

In this book, Frances Timbers goes through everything - the myth, the legends, and the real history behind witchcraft. While Christianity had a huge effect on the practice, driving much of it underground, there were some horror stories that emerged during this time.
King James of England wrote a book on witches, and sadly, many took it to extremes that rocked Europe to its core. Innocent people were put to death over the rumor, and communities turned on each other as they battled to find the "witches" and save themselves in the process. Witchhunters and inquisitors came in, and the issue grew to epic proportions.

This was an amazing book and one that I really enjoyed. I loved reading the different stories, the history, and getting a more full story of what was going on, and why it happened.

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is an excellent book for anyone interested in this subject matter. The author provides the reader a solid non-fiction book about the history of witches/witchcraft/magic as perceived by our society throughout history in an understandable manner. From the very roots of witchcraft through the witch hunts of earlier times through the modern day views and concepts, the book takes the reader on an invaluable journey to learn how it all came to be, why it all came to be and how it all fits together. It was fascinating to learn why certain beliefs and events occur and occurred and what the repercussions of they all are. I definitely learned innumerable things I had not known, been taught or figured out on my own, even though some of my conclusions were proven wrong in many ways. This book provides an excellent book for anyone who is interested in the subject or wants to learn more about it all, and the information is all in one place, so there is no need to go searching after other books, articles, etc. No need for deep dives anywhere else. My thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for providing me this handy, useful reference.

NetGalley, Kathy Talley

Thoroughly explained. The author gives a clear and detailed explanation of the "witch-craze". First, he introduces the concepts of witchcraft and magic, and then, he explains how the witch-hunt as we know it (women condemned to burn at the stake or hung) took place, giving several examples. Finally, we learn a bit about the origins of "Modern Wicca" and its main aspects.
There are also 36 images that are mentioned throughout the book, in order to get a better idea. Some of them are old illustrations, photographs of archaeological objects, and paints, among others.

NetGalley, Macarena R.V.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating read, well researched and informative.
I love the style of writing and how well researched it is.
Highly recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

An interesting and well-researched book covering the history of witchcraft from its origins into today, this made for a fascinating read.

NetGalley, Esther King

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book dives deep into the actual facts of magic and witchcraft, for instance the number of victims compared to the inflated numbers that are now passed around as fact. The actual timeframe rather than the poetic platitude we often hear and ascribe to (middle ages vs. scientific revolution). The book highlights the facts that most of the trials was during the time of Galileo, Descartes, and Bacon. We travel from the priests and priestesses of ancient Egypt to the present in this comprehensive publication from Frances Timbers
This book is extremely comprehensive and absolutely worth a read if you’re a fan of either history or witchcraft. I’ve taken away many facts from this book that I did not know and also was educated about some misconceptions we’ve been taught as facts.
Even though this is a non-fiction book, the writing is not dry, and the story is a fascinating one. It leads you on to more knowledge in such a way that you’re not mad you’re learning it.
I definitely recommend this book for anyone who’s a history fan. Even if you think you know all about this topic, I’m here to tell you that you’ll learn something new and enjoy yourself while learning it.

NetGalley, Crystal Matz

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating look at the history of Magic and Witchcraft.

A lot of what I thought I knew turned out to be wrong, and I learned so much from this book.

Starting with Ancient Greece, through Rome, into the Middle Ages, continuing into the Early Modern Era, showing the impact of Christianity and pop culture, leading into ceremonial magic & Wicca this comprehensive fact-filled book will enthrall and intrigue the reader.

NetGalley, Julianne Freer

A History of Magic and Witchcraft by Frances Timbers is a wonderful non fiction book about the history of witches/witchcraft/magic as perceived by our society throughout history. I remember taking an Early Modern History course back in college while getting my degree and finding the areas covering the witch craze by far the most interesting parts. I also thought I was pretty knowledgeable about the topic but still found that I learned quite a few things. Especially about how the 20th century influenced my learning about witches in history. The book while non fiction isn't dry. I hate when history texts are dry. Timbers has a great style. I will say that she has a tendency to repeat some information again and again. But for a novice non fiction reader I think this book is enjoyable. I also loved all the pictures that she placed in the text as well.

The book starts in the classical era and goes through the 21st century. I found this piece to be so fascinating. I definitely learned a lot.

NetGalley, Rachelle Robison

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Consider me educated on the "History of Magic and Witchcraft". It turns out that a lot of what I thought I knew is wrong - and I now know why it was wrong too! This book is informative without being at all dry, and I found the whole thing fascinating. From the roots of magic and witchcraft, to the "witch hunts", to the modern day Wiccan, this book clarifies the muddied waters of this subject.

NetGalley, Dawn Lewis

This books takes you through the entire history of witchcraft and magic. It takes you through Ancient Greece & Rome, the Middle Ages. Early Modern Era, the impact of Christianity & pop culture, ceremonial magic & Wicca. It was very informative. This is an excellent book that is perfect for either a reference book or just for someone who is interested in learning more about the topic.

NetGalley, Sherri Lewis

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Is it fair for me to say, we all believe in something? Even if we choose to believe there is no God or any religion of any kind, isn’t that alone a choice and belief? Every culture has their ideals that are passed on generation to generation. This book, A History of Magic and Witchcraft identifies the differences and takes the reader through notions that may never be introduced to them otherwise. Thankfully we have books.

This book gets a five star because it is absolutely deserving. An exquisite cover with rich content that is superbly written. I do have a big pet peeve though that almost kept me from reading this book for a review. I want to add my rant to my review now. However, there was no way in hell I could give this book anything less than a five.

This book feels to me as an explanation of beliefs and where they may have originated from. How people and cultures use religion as a life force. A part of every day life and death. How Gods play a role in culture and with individuals. In their lives and how they may have developed ethics and morals from those beliefs.

To read about Gods and Goddesses, deities and the incredible religious stories many of us have been told all our lives, in this fashion is calming. The information is laid out without hesitation to be reported as history. In comparing one set of beliefs with another highlighting different concepts, cultures and views. Be it true, fiction, fable or myth is for the reader to decide. I wont sell the beauty of this book based on my own personal beliefs. I will say this…it is written so fantastically the reader will want to take in every single word. It is also one to have in a collection to be used as reference or for resource.

NetGalley, Cynthia Jones

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A History of Magic and Witchcraft is exactly that - a history of magic and witchcraft throughout the world. It is very well written and easy to follow. I learned some interesting new things I did not know about this topic. It is I believe a book full of information in one place.

If you want to learn about magic and witchcraft or even if you already know about this topic, this is a great book to have as a reference.

Definitely recommend this book.

NetGalley, Ily Renfroe

A very interesting and highly readable telling of the history of witchcraft throughout the world, including how the definition of "witch" has changed over generations. As someone who loves learning about history, I found this a fascinating one!

NetGalley, Erin Childs

This is an interesting and well laid out book.  It follows the history of magic and witchcraft from classical beginnings and mythology through to modern day Wicca.  As expected it covers the witch trials, but also includes so much more.

There are relevant and interesting illustrations to refer to and the book 'feels' substantial and well presented.

There is nothing I didn't like about this book and it is one that I will read again.

For the Love of Books

I found this book very intriguing. This book presents a different view of witches and the misconceptions about them. The author starts by going back to the ancient Greek mythology where the idea of a witch first appeared. As the book proceeds, she confronts various specific false beliefs and their origins, such as, wild rides in the night, and sexual liaisons with the devil. The material is well researched and presented in a way that makes it approachable for most any reader. If you’ve been with me a while, you know I love these deep dives into the corners of history and this book was no exception. Fascinating, informative and thought provoking all in one place.

Read the full review here

A Line From A Book, Jennifer Sahmoun

Timbers addresses and redefines preconceived notions with a clipped, yet powerful research narration. This book also recognizes history’s references to witches, familiars, spells, and rituals throughout Europe Religions subduing witchcraft and putting it in hiding; identifying and persecuting a witch; and speaks of the Cathars, Templars, and gathering of Sabbat.

GoodReads, Kristine Fisher

Timbers manages to be completely observant in her history and covers more ground than other books I’ve read on the subject making this a useful and informative read.

Read the full review here

SF Crowsnest

'For Your Bookshelf'

Antiques Diary, September/October 2019

I would definitely recommend that you pick this book up. It was such a good read, and whilst not one I would normally read it is something that I will definitely pick up again! ⁣

Read the full review via Instagram

The Anxious Bookworm

This is the best book I’ve read on the history of witchcraft. Historian Frances Timbers explores the history of witchcraft with fresh eyes, exploring and sometimes debunking myths, for instance, the burning of witches actually took place from 1550 to 1660, not during what are wrongly called the Dark Ages.

Read the full review here

Hellbound, Steve Earles

Author Q&A as featured by

The Sunday Post (Dundee), 23rd June 2019

'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.

Read the full review here

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.

Read the full review here

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.

Read the full review here

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.

Read the full review here

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.

Read the full review here

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.

More titles by Frances Timbers

Customers who bought this title also bought...

Other titles in Pen & Sword History...