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Posts Tagged ‘Frances Timbers’

Hard to believe that we’re half way through the year already, and as we’ve hit this milestone, I figured that it might be a good time to round up some of the great indie books that I’ve featured so far and some of the great authors who have given their time to take part in author interviews or written guest posts for us to read.

Links to each of the Friday features are below, or alternatively if you want to use the search function at the top of the page, just type in the name of the book or author to bring up the relevant page.

Feature Links:
Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech (book feature)
The Twitches Meet a Puppy by Hayley Scott (book feature)
Fractured Winter by Alison Baillie (book feature)
Inborn by Thomas Enger (book feature)
Roz White (author feature)
Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz (book feature)
The Courier by Kjell Old Dahl (book feature)
The Red Light Zone by Jeff Zycinski (book feature)
A Letter From Sarah by Dan Proops (book and author feature)
The Silver Moon Storybook by Elaine Gunn (book feature)
Runaway by Claire MacLeary (book feature)
Sunwise by Helen Steadman (book feature)
The Lives Before Us by Juliet Conlin (book feature)
The Red Gene by Barbara Lamplugh (book and author feature)
Death at The Plague Museum by Lesley Kelly (book feature)
Heleen Kist (author feature)
White Gold by David Barker (book feature)
Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers (book and author feature)
Claire MacLeary (author feature)
A History of Magic and Witchcraft: Sabbats, Satan and Superstitions in the West by Frances Timbers (book feature)
The Killer Across The Table by John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker (book feature)
Maggie Christensen (author feature)

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  • Title: A History of Magic and Witchcraft: Sabbats, Satan and Superstitions in the West
  • Author: Frances Timbers
  • Publisher: Pen and Sword Books
  • Publication Date: 3rd April 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.


Description:

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!

My Thoughts:

The study of witchcraft is something that I find fascinating, especially the origins of the ideas behind myth and fable that have evolved over many years to form the images we know now, and so when I saw this book I was delighted to build upon the knowledge that I already possessed.

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.

I particularly enjoyed reading chapter seven, The Tree of Life and Death, Persecution through Prosecution. In this chapter there are details of how prosecutions were held in the various parts of Britain, France and The Holy Roman Empire (“present day Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Alsace, Lorraine, northern Italy, and parts of Poland and the Czech Republic all came under the jurisdiction of the Holy Roman Emperor”). The history of the Scotland was a section that I found intriguing and found myself taking notes to look up certain things later for more research.
The role of the Inquisitions is also discussed in this chapter, as are the methods used to extract information from the witches whilst they were in gaol.

Torture was used as a means to extract information from the accused, and the author does caution readers “the extreme violence directed towards witches needs to be viewed in context. Certainly, torture is sadistic, but it was not particularly misogynistic. Authorities were torturing witches not women. And torture was not reserved just for suspects of witchcraft.” Therefore highlighting that during this time period that the examination methods used were not thought of as outlandish. The tools and methods used are detailed in this section, as are the punishments meted out, with note about how it differed between the different locations. Witches in England were hanged and not burned at the stake, unless she was guilty of killing her husband by witchcraft “which was considered petty treason”. However on the Continent and in Scotland, witches were burned at the stake, although interestingly if they confessed they were shown a form of mercy and garrotted before the fire was lit, the obstinately uncooperative were burned alive in public as a deterrent to others. Death was not the only punishment for witchcraft, excommunication from the church was seen as the damaging spiritually, but there was also penance, either privately or publicly.

For readers looking to do further reading or build upon the information here, the author has included a hefty reading list which covers each of the sections with in the book, and I will definitely be adding a few of these to my bookshelf! 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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