marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

Witchcraft and Magic In Europe: The Twentieth Century

Witchcraft and Magic In Europe:  The Twentieth Century edited by Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark

The sixth of a six volume series.  For once, I don't urge you to read them in order.  0:)

Three sections, dealing with three major groups.

The first one was about modern neo-paganism and its roots.  It starts in the nineteenth century for such roots, which are various.  Groups such as Freemasonry, and its imitators, such as the Horseman's Word.  The massive collection of folkloric details about witchcraft -- though very little of it had much influence --- and the febrile imaginations of folklorists, starting with projecting the new biological theories about progress and evolution and holding that all this was survivals, even living fossils, of a more primitive time.  The way that classical allusions changed, with such figures as Minerva, Jupiter, Juno, and Neptune fading. Diana's allusions changed to more of the greenwood and the moon while Pan surged out of nowhere -- there appear the "god and goddess" you see so much of.  And more roots that all got melted together by what is clearly now a modern invention, despite claims of long roots.

The second section dealt with myths of Satanism, the two groups that actually call themselves Satanic and their frequently social darwinist views, Odinism or Heathenism -- which is a pagan revival rather different from those in the first group -- and the whole Satanic abuse hysteria.

The last is about the survivals of witchcraft.  The rather, as it turns out, vigorous survivals of witchcraft.  Folklorists gathered plentiful information from Germany, from Greece, from Scandinavia, and from many more.  Bewitching, doing harm, vs. witching, prospering yourself by stealing other people's good fortune.  About the triumvirate of important figures:  the witch herself, the bewitched, and the unwitcher.  That last got a lot of the blame for the continued survival of the beliefs, and possibly deserved it.  On the other hand, monks were thought better unwitchers than mere priests, good though the priests were, and they had to deal delicately with the superstition.  An offered blessing might be taken as an unwitching by the bewitched. . . I think it had the most interesting passage, a section treating on the tales.  A woman told how a witch had found her lost wedding ring in a place where she herself had looked ten times -- if she could do that with a blessed thing, how powerful she must have been!  And how shot hares prove to be witches -- there's even a term, milkhare, for a hare witched to steal milk.

Lots of good stuff.

Tags: history reviews: 19th century-wwi, history reviews: post wwii, history reviews: world war ii era, non-fiction: essays, world-building: magic (other), world-building: religion

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