Thursday, October 15, 2009
'The World of the Witches' a fantastic publication
I found this incredibly detailed and well-researched book in The Book Grocer the other day (available in Melbourne and Canberra for about $12, and it's available on Amazon).
I have never seen such a detailed and thoroughly researched piece on witchcraft. It slays the wish-washy writings of others who skip and jump between assumptions made by some Christian groups to New Age beliefs without any research or authority.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
"Julio Caro Baroja was a Spanish Basque anthropologist and historian who was best known for his enthnographic studies of Basque and Spanish traditional cultures and folklore. He was a nephew of the well-known novelist Pio Baroja, was a member of the Spanish Academy of History, and is well-known as the author of the classic ethnography of the Basques whose activities in witchcraft inspired the present work. Dr Baroja died in 1995."
This might lead you to believe that his studies are biased towards Basque history, but his research is so extensive, covering various epochs from the antiquity of witchcraft over several cultures, to 'The Renaissance Crisis' and 'The Enlightenment' and how the Craft was viewed within those particular periods of time in accordance with specific social mores.
It is so rich with information to the point where I can see about twenty years - at least - going into this incredible book which features a bevvy of information from all parts of the world whilst giving a non-Wiccan an honest overview of what Wicca is about and how it has been misinterpreted in the past.
Interesting snippets include (p.248 from the chapter Some Modern Interpretations of Witchcraft: The Views of Psychiatrists):
"In Spain, for instance, Charles II was convinced that he was bewitched, and nearly the whole society from the highest aristocrats to the lowest plebs in Madrid, accepted the idea and spread it about. The nature of the spells and the personality of the sorcerer remained obscure and anonymous. And those who tried to relieve the unfortunate king by exorcisms and other processes were later tried and condemned by the Inquisition."
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, between research for Beltane and this I will have my head buried in Baroja's book for the next few weeks - then read it all over again! --- May have to edit this. He comes through with possible inconsistencies so I'll get back to you on whether this is truly worth it... some slightly spiteful Roman Catholic undertones are coming through in here I believe so stay tuned...