Greetings brothers and sisters, I’ve just uploaded seven new books and would like to announce the grand opening of the library’s Witchcraft Section!
Actually, I’d meant to have this open yesterday (you know, on Halloween), but a lack of planning led to this happening not on “the day of,” but unfortunately on “the day after.” But on the bright side, we’re still in the Dark Triduum!
Anyway, let’s talk about the new additions!
A History of Witchcraft and Demonology by Montague Summers (1926), This book is exactly what it says on the cover; it’s the first of Fr. Summers’ attempts to write on witchcraft, and seems motivated by Margaret Murray’s “pagan survival” thesis published five years prior. Fr. Summers is an interesting character in more ways than one, and I hope to add more of his work to the library in the future.
The Witch-Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray (1921). This is literally it. This is ground zero for the beginnings of the Neopagan movement in general and Wicca in particular, even though Dr. Murray’s hypotheses were solidly debunked long before Gerald Gardner gave us High Magic’s Aid and Witchcraft Today. All that said, Dr. Murray’s work is useful for the amount of information she produces, as well as being a primary wellspring from whence Neopagan mytho-history flows.
Narrative of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706 by George Lincoln Burr (1914). Containing transcriptions of court cases and essays by authorities at the time, this volume is useful as a look into the minds of the people behind the witch trials on American soil. If people are going to claim “Never forget the Burning Times,” then there’s nothing like some historical perspective to keep one’s mind focused and balanced.
Irish Witchcraft and Demonology by John D. Seymour (1913). This interesting volume discusses witch-lore and superstitions in Ireland up to the author’s time. It seems especially useful for the documentation and case histories it provides.
An Analysis of Magic and Witchcraft by C.W. Olliver (1928). Here the author attempts to analyze the elements of traditional magic and witchcraft for the sake of introducing something he calls “Modern Metapsychics.”
A Treasury of Witchcraft by Harry Wedeck (1961). Quite frankly I find this book weird, and am uploading it to share that weirdness. The book an be useful as a “reader” of sorts because of all the material Wedek quotes, but the book consists almost entirely of quotes that seem to have been chosen uncritically and arranged in a somewhat haphazard manner. My guess is that the author saw the popularity of occultism resurging on the horizon and wanted to cash in on it, but the fact it’s a volume of quotes gives the book potential as a springboard for further research if one’s so inclined.
The Inquisition: From its Establishment to the Great Schism by A.L. Maycock (1927). I first read this book in 1997, and found it a great window into learning about the Inquisition without all the propaganda that usually surrounds the subject. While this properly belongs in a “Church History” section, I include it here because the popular imagination associates the Inquisition with witches (the actual target was the Albigensians). When the day comes that I create a Church History section, I’ll move this book there as well.
Last but not least, I’m adding The Builders: A Story and Study of Masonry (Joseph Fort Newton, 1914) into the “Fraternal Orders” section. I’m a firm believer that that if you want to learn about a given organization, you read the literature from that organization’s own authors, especially any instruction given or helping their members (which is this book’s intention). I came across a hardcover copy of this book at a thrift store back in 2010, but was afraid to read it for fear of the book’s age and fragility. Fortunately that’s not an issue with digital books, no matter how much I prefer physicality and paper.
All in all, you’ll notice that I don’t have a lot of tolerance for the modern use of the word “witch” and the alleged Anglo-Saxon etymologies that go with it (whether real or imagined). The fact is that historically the word “witch” was consistently used to translate the words “pharmakos,” “maleficus/-a,” “veneficus/-a,” “kasaph,” “goës,” and similar words in other languages whenever they appear, and in their respective languages these words unilaterally mean “drugger, poisoner, evil-doer, one-who-traffics-with-evil-spirits.” To my mind, this is more than enough to establish that modern attempts to rehabilitate that word (from Gardner onward) are not only contrived but also divorced from history.
I actually had another article I wanted to post for today (more in line with All Saints’ Day), but I guess it’ll have to wait to tomorrow. Happy reading!