The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America
In Brian Levak's Handbook, witchcraft and related issues are approached in a very original and tantalising way
Who were the witches? By now, the most certain answer is that they were women engaged in re-enacting ancient rituals of the natural world, with very little focus on magic, charms, and evil practices.
Witches of either sex (yes, even men could be endowed with these supposed magical powers) were the scapegoats of fights between families or even competing faith groups (most of the time, practitioners of magic ended up burnt at the stake or hanged on religious or social grounds). Over the years, witchcraft studies have become a source of great academic interest, concerning historians, art historians, literature scholars, and were used in the most recent and captivating approaches to describe literature, gender and queer studies.
This treasure-trove of multidisciplinary scholarship was brought under Brian Levack’s distinguished editorship in 2014, producing The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America.
Levack has devoted his entire academic life to the study of witchcraft, demonology, and demonic possession and his scholarship has acknowledged great recognition all over the world. In his Handbook, witchcraft and related issues are approached in a very original and tantalising way. Each contributor deals with a specific epoch, starting from the Middle Ages up to the Puritan settlement. Notwithstanding this historical background, one can appreciate essays devoted to witchcraft and literature, witchcraft and gender, the artistic representation of covens and witches, and witchcraft and legal practices.
Contributors (like Kierchefer, Zika, Purkiss or Goodare) do not want to assert any kind of primacy or authority in the field they have been asked to cover: at the end of each contribution, they raise further issues or leave specific questions unanswered, so that fresh research or new approaches can respond to these blank spaces.
If you want to debunk some useless witchcraft mythology on Halloween, get hold of a copy of Levack’s handbook!