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The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies (ePub)

Ancient History P&S History

By Simon Webb
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 3.0 MB (.epub)
ISBN: 9781399000086
Published: 30th January 2022


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This book tells the fascinating story of the origin of our ideas about wizards, witches and fairies. We all have a clear mental image of the pointed hats worn by such individuals, which are based upon actual headgear dating back 3,000 years to the Bronze Age. Carefully sifting through old legends, archaeological evidence and modern research in genetics, Simon Webb shows us how our notions about fairies and elves, together with human workers of magic, have evolved over the centuries.

This exploration of folklore, backed by the latest scientific findings, will present readers with the image of a lost world; the one used as the archetype for fantasy adventures from The Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones. In the process, the real nature of wizards will be revealed and their connection with the earliest European cultures thoroughly documented.

After reading this book, nobody will ever be able to view Gandalf the wizard in the same light and even old fairy tales such as Beauty and the Beast will take on a richer and deeper meaning. In short, our perception of wizards, witches and fairies will be altered forever.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I always enjoyed the fantasy genre ever since I was a kid. From reading the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, I watched the Disney movies as well as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and of course I always found the mythology of King Arthur and the wizard Merlin fascinating. Mythology is one of my favourite subjects. I always thought wizards and witches were fictional characters or perhaps just exaggerated tales of people that were passed down from generation to generation. However, there is a darker truth to the latter that you would never suspect. I am also a history enthusiast. This book separates the facts from the fiction and shines light on the recent evidence surrounding them.

I won't spoil it for you but this book explains not only the origins but how the images of the wizards and witches we are familiar with were formed in our minds.

Everything we've been reading in magical fantasy lands is based on real life that goes as far back as the Bronze age, thousands of years ago! Every chapter will give you a "Wow" and an "A-ha!" moment as soon as you discover how everything falls into place and why we do the things we do.

>From why we throw coins into fountains to the process of how we kill vampires. It's all there.

Although this is mostly Eurocentric, it is well researched, and an enjoyable read. If you like fantasy and history, you will love this book. I highly recommend.

NetGalley, Vanessa Cruz

Readers curious about the foundations of the fantasy world will enjoy Webb’s book.

Read the Full Review Here

Beating Tsundoku

'Folklorists will find interest in the examples (this book) brings forward, and this book offers opportunities to get students thinking critically about arguments in academic literature.'

Kathleen Fleming, Journal of Folklore Research Reviews

An engaging and highly enjoyable book about the history of where the stories of Witches, Wizards and Fairies originate from.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, it's super easy to read, and it's not bulky or heavy like some history books can be it's got great pacing and I love how it's set out making it easy to dip in at any time.
It's enlightening and thought provoking, all those myths and legends we all know about Witches and Fairies are examined and you get a real insight of where these stories come from and why.
Overall, a great book!

NetGalley, Frankie Dannatt

Fascinating subject matter! I was concerned this might be a bit dry and textbookish, however it was very informative while still being readable. Popular culture references are peppered throughout and keep the reader engaged. Drawing on folklore and history, including archaeological findings, we find the origins of many modern notions regarding wizards, witches, and fairies.

NetGalley, Tricia Ochoa

Webb persuasively shows that horned shamans, witches and wizards were made disreputable by Christianity, and the likes of fairies emasculated by scientific enlightenment and the Industrial Age. Yet, our popular culture and many of our behaviours are still
shaped by these ancient shadows.

Nigel Watson, Fortean Times

As someone who has not delved too deeply into the sociological or historical origins of Witches, Wizards and Fairies this book was a delight. I loved how it was structured and lead me through the different paths that we could have come to our current mythological ideals of the three. There are numerous reference points, both historical and modern and across media forms. It’s not going to be a heavy research topic, but for anyone who is interested in it, it is a quick engaging read I would recommend to anyone who likes to think about myths, storytelling history, and cultural impact.

NetGalley, Heather Perkins

Enhanced for the reader with a section of black/white photos, a listing of illustrations, an informative introduction, an appendix (The Magical Year), a two page Bibliography, and a six page index, "The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies" is an impressive compendium of information that is as informative as it is 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation.

Read the full review here

Midwest Book Review

A great compilation of research into the history of many magical beings. Great book for reference especially if you are writing a book based on these magical beings.

NetGalley, Ailish Layden

Really loved this book, I love anything to do with witches, wizards etc so to have their origin stories was great.
I found this book really interesting and will definitely reread it in the future

NetGalley, Sandra Salas

This book isn’t one of those spooky stories etc in order to try and give the reader the creeps. It’s a book that looks at why and where, we believe in these ‘magical’ things, it tries to look at the origins and reasons for believing what we see and think. Now a part of me asked to review this book because a big part of me does believe in the unknown, or things we can’t seem to prove beyond what we might have seen. I must say I really enjoyed reading this book because as an amateur historian, I want to find reason and evidence for why things happen and this is what this book tries to do. It was nice to read this too because I always enjoy the books written by Simon Webb, an author I find that tries to write outside the box.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful compilation of research into the history of many magical beings. Very interesting and enriching to my understanding of these beings. Definitely a good addition to my reference library!

NetGalley, Debby McNutt

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a book full of fun details from both myth and archeology about wizards, witches, and fairies. This is a subject that I love and am always trying to learn new stuff about this area. Learning not just stuff from the myths, but the actual facts from archeology is what sets this book apart!

NetGalley, Terri Ladage Randolph

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a great read, Simon Webb gives a wonderful overview of the origins of the stories spread over time and the steadfastness of the oral traditions handed down over the centuries. I enjoyed the writing style which has a light hand. Very enjoyable.

NetGalley, Carol Elizabeth Keogh

Reading about the origin of anything fascinates me but the origins of the idea of wizards, witches and fairies, I couldn't resist. The origins of why we throw coins into fountains, the number 3 that pops up everywhere, the aesthetics of how we view a wizard (long white beard) or a witch (pointy hats and brooms) are just a few items discussed.

I really enjoyed and also was horrified by a lot of the stories of witches or should I write "witches". Women and men that were unfortunate enough to be around when cattle got sick or crops died. Wow, people are still pretty weird but they don't blame people for that just cause they stood near them, right?

This is a great source of information and history on where our modem traditions and visuals derived from and the evolution and religious impact throughout.

NetGalley, Laura Radus

This book is very intriguing. It is a very comprehensive guide to the creatures in a hidden realm. Learn about the origins of wizards, witches, and fairies. This book is very engaging and hard to put down. I was very interested in the witches and the fairies, although the wizards are quite fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I definitely recommend to all who are curious about the origins of witches, wizards, and fairies.

NetGalley, Annalisa Alberti

This was a great book with theory and concepts that got my brain thinking, this is very good for people who read a lot of fantasy books to think about the origin of these stories.

NetGalley, Beth Anderson

If you've ever wondered why we think things like Gandalf's pointed, floppy-brimmed hat in LOTR or why fairies are live under the hill and come out to steal milk and produce are "just how things are", Simon Webb's book on the origin of our contemporary knowledge of wizards, witches and fairies is a wonderful summary of why we think the things we think.

Drawing on resources from archeology, ancient cave paintings and oral traditions, this book traces the origins of many of the things we, in 21st century life, have assimilated as part of a general cultural knowledge. I particularly enjoyed the tracing of the Merlin/Gandalf story back in time through Odin, as well as fast-forwarding to our current view of Santa Claus and St. Nicholas. Most of the preconceptions we have about what a wizard looks like, or what powers a witch has are rooted in centuries, even millenium-old traditions and stories, many of which have a base in historical fact. I also have a fascination with bog bodies, so the tie-ins to ritual sacrifices and how these traditions were tied into the beliefs of various cultures from Celtic to Indo-Europeans was of particular interest to me. I had a lot of "aha!" moments throughout the book and stopped to read my husband passages that resonanted really strongly with me...

I can see this book having a strong appeal for readers who want to know more about the origins of some of their favorite contemporary fantasy characters, as well as those who appear throughout literature of the past, including fairy tales and even casual superstitions like throwing coins into a fountain that continues today.

NetGalley, Anne Podlesak

My fascination with the magical and folkish side of the occult and supernatural has been a part of me for as long as I can remember and Simon Webb's The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies was amazing. The cover is absolutely stunning and I enjoyed how the chapters were separated and it will definitely be one of those coffee table / conversation starters for likeminded friends.

NetGalley, Paulina M.

I feel like anyone with an interest in folklore and magic would enjoy this book.

NetGalley, Allie Seale

I think this book is good introduction to the topic for the people who are entirely unfamiliar with it, it is well written, easy to read, is well paced and keeps reader's interest.

NetGalley, Jurga K.

A concise, informative, well researched and interesting book that made me learn something new.
It was a fascinating read as it goes back in time and made us learn how we came to tell some stories or some myths came into being.
Even if it's a concise read there're plenty of information.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

This book tells the fascinating story of the origin of our ideas about wizards, witches and fairies. It combines folklore and scientific findings to give us an image of the origins of wizards, fairies etc., as clear as possible.
It was an interesting read and it is well written and well researched.

NetGalley, Athina Semertzaki

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I didn't realize that I needed such a reading! The book speaks in a scientific, anthropological way about childhood stories, giving them meaning and reflection that many may not realize. Of course, a major theme for wizards and their image, but there is much more. I recommend.

NetGalley, Ruslan Trad

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Anyone looking for a comprehensive telling of wizards, witches, and fairies in how they came about in their true form, how portrayal in pop culture compared the the past has evolved, as well as how perception and characterization has changed over time. Would be a good resource book for anyone needing reference and for anyone interested in such topics.

NetGalley, Erica Robbin

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies" is a fascinating and entertaining romp through the world's folklore, myths, and legends. From Boudicca to Cinderella, from Julius Caesar to King Arthur, these well-known and loved stories are explained and examined.

You will recognize stories from your childhood, now seen through adult eyes. This book is extremely well-researched and presented in an easy-to-follow layout. The author draws interesting parallels between ancient mythology and our current fascination with all things magical. I especially liked the chapter on cauldrons and wands.

I found enjoyment in reading a chapter or two at a time -- that gave me time to ruminate on what I had just learned. This book would be a wonderful reference and foundation for all spinners of yarns. I highly recommend this book for any adult with an interest in mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.

NetGalley, Patricia House

This is an incredible reference perfect for anyone interested in magic.

NetGalley, Shelly Myers

This was a super interesting read! I went into it thinking it would be a tale of magic, but it provides a very grounded, well-researched historical perspective on how common archetypes of wizards, witches and fairies came to be, and how it has permeated into our common cultural consciousness from 4000-5000 years ago to today. It illuminates how ubiquitous all these archetypes are in our daily lives, yet we never stop to wonder at its origins - well, this book delves into it. I loved how it incorporated many recent pop culture references as well, such that a reader will be able to relate what is said to something they are familiar with. At the same time, it espouses enough history in an accessible way that a reader unfamiliar with history (like myself) is able to understand. And a little bonus that made my Linguistics student heart pitter-patter with excitement: There's some discussion on linguistics!

I came away really feeling like I truly learnt something, and it really enriches my understanding of wizards, witches and fairies. While the conjectures postulated in this book are more grounded in reality, debunking much of the mysticism surrounding wizards, witches and fairies, it doesn't necessarily take away from the mysticism; instead, I felt like I got a deeper appreciation for how these myths and folklore came to be, and the power of human imagination and the oral tradition, to have endured for so long and morphed into what it is today. Truly fascinating!

NetGalley, Cleo Loi

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies" is chock full of ideas that have you rolling your eyes at yourself, because they seem so obvious once they've been pointed out to you! This is a very, very interesting read that's written well and has clearly been researched thoroughly. I enjoyed it a lot, but now I feel like I have to reread a lot of fairy tales to see what else I missed!

NetGalley, Dawn Lewis

The origins of wizards, witches and fairies piqued my interest as soon as I saw it. I love everything fantasy and love history regarding Witches etc.
I found this to be a fascinating and intriguing read, parts I hadn't given much thought to before.
I felt that this book was well written and well researched. It's definitely for those that enjoy the fantasy world and want the extra history information..

NetGalley, Marcia Deans

It was so fascinating to read some of the origins of very famous stories having their roots some 11,000 years ago. I never would have thought this. Or that of the sound of music dating back to the bronze age. Not only was the book informative it was told in a way that was interesting, if you find yourself a curious person. This book dares to answer all the questions you never had but want answered once you start thinking about the subject matter. It's also a bit philosophical too which works nicely with fairy tales.

NetGalley, Suzanne Rickel

The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies by Simon Webb is a concise and well-researched bringing together of the many strands of both the stories themselves and the various ways of tracing their origins.

>From research specifically tracing the "family lines" of the many stories to using archaeological findings to posit ideas about how much of the fiction is based, minus the supernatural aspect, on real (or believed to be real) entities. That isn't to say those at the time didn't ascribe a supernatural power to some of the people and creatures but that in looking back we are seeing very real precursors to what later became fantasy characters.

The writing is engaging and keeps the narrative of the history moving right along. It may not be thriller-reading exciting but you are compelled to keep reading because the information is so interesting.

While definitely of interest to those who read a lot of fantasy it is also just as interesting for those who like literary history as well. It isn't just the fantasy genre that has been built on this foundation.

NetGalley, Jack Messer

This was a fascinating look at the origins of many fantasy elements. I love fantasy but admittedly had never given much thought to the common fantasy framework. Why do many fantasy stories feel like they take place in a shared universe? Why is iron harmful to fairies? Why do witches wear pointy hats? The author offers plausible non-supernatural explanations for the origins of our modern ideas of fantasy and this shared framework. I learned a lot in this book and will definitely be thinking of fantasy differently from now on... Recommend for fans of fantasy.

NetGalley, Lauren M

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An utterly intriguing and painstakingly well researched book. Mr. Webb has compiled all of his research into this book and gifted readers with a fantastic resource that dives deep into history and folklore.

NetGalley, Michelle Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was perfect to read around Halloween. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this because it is so interesting and there were moments of epiphany when making connections to my favorite fantasy characters.

NetGalley, Summer McCoy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Best October read. So much fun and very informative.

NetGalley, Blind Bat Books Bakunzi

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I loved this book. I thought it was really well written and quite interesting. It's a book I will be suggesting to other people. Very good.

NetGalley, Norma Carroll

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Real though provoking book. I have always suspected that stories I was told as a child had a very, very long history and as I got older, I realized many were object lessons as well. I thought the the wizard link to a once living one-eyed man was amazing--and credible. It made sense! I am still a lover of told stories and never tire of researching for new ones. It's interesting to see how they are all connected and reach so far back in time. Simon Webb has really done his homework and come up with an amazing book. Story lovers are going to love this.

NetGalley, Catherine Hankins

Very well researched, it gives a good insight about where magic, witches etc comes from and everything in between. . I really enjoyed learning more about everything surrounding the Arthurian legend as it is my favourite since forever.

NetGalley, Josefa Torremocha

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow fantastic book and totally changed my perception of all things wizardry ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

I adored this book it was such an interesting read that delved into history along with popular wizards, witches and fairies from popular culture. I didn't want it to end I really enjoyed it.

NetGalley, Aria Harlow

So, let’s talk about the book…first off, it’s really good. The publisher tends to specialize in military themes, but lately they’ve been going off the beaten path and veering in all sorts of (to me) much more interesting and entertaining directions. Like this book. To be fair, the tone of it isn’t quite the jocularly charming one of their traditional diversions, but it’s nowhere near pedantic. What you get is a well-informed, well-presented and, despite the numerous digressions all of which with a purpose, pleasingly concise book that offers exactly what the title promises.
Since proverbially there’s nothing new under the sun, it shouldn’t surprise you to find out that the modern ideas we have of wizards, witches and fairies are actually based on centuries of historical past (some factual, some invented) and have profound and elaborate sociocultural bases. It is these winding paths that the author so expertly travels in this book from prehistoric constructs to much more recent ideas.
Pointy hats (or horned helmets) and magic wands will be explained, fairies will be linked to long-gone ancestorial branch, witches will be culturally contextualized. And, because of the excellently meandering ways of this book, it’ll take you from the beginning of civilization to present day and span an impressive variety of subjects, continents, eras, etc. A most striking accomplishment for such a slender tome, this book will not only educate and entertain, it’ll actually give you an entire new and informed framework for thinking about the cultural history of things we find ubiquitous in modern culture, be it fantasy tales or October window decorations and customs. Excellent read. Recommended.

NetGalley, Mia D

A compact and engaging book which explores the origins of our modern love of wizards, witches and fairies.

Although some of the evidence can be seen as coincidental, it is food for thought. Fairytales and folk stories are much older and darker than the Disney counterparts. Ritual killings from the Bronze Age are eerily similar to the means they murdered witches in England. Our ancestors cast their goods into pools, hoping to gain favour to the gods. In modern times, we throw coins into fountains and make a wish. Our school holidays mirror the Celtic year. It is fascination to see how ancient customs have become ingrained into our day-to-day lives to the point we take them for granted, and rarely stop and ask why.

If you are interested in our ancient history and folklore, it is an intriguing book to read.

NetGalley, Emma L Cox
 Simon Webb

About Simon Webb

Simon Webb is the author of a number of non-fiction books, ranging from academic works on education to popular history. He works as a consultant on the subject of capital punishment to television companies and filmmakers and also writes for various magazines and newspapers; including the Times Educational SupplementThe Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

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