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New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Tuesday, March 4

season of the witch

gris-gris gumbo ya ya ... put some in your breakfast.

~Dr. John

Biblical and Pagan Societies

In the ancient Near East, the art of influencing the natural course of events by means of spells and other ritual forms was universal. The social and political role of magic is apparent in the competition among rival systems of ritual practice and belief. In a region of petty kingdoms competing for power, the Jews of ancient Palestine maintained control over adherents by developing distinct ritual practices and condemning as heretical those of nearby cults. Mesopotamian texts reveal a striking number of incantations and rituals against witchcraft, attesting to a profound fear of being bewitched. Magical rituals were also used to maintain harmony between the human and divine realms.

Ancient Greece and Rome

The chronological scope of this volume ranges from the heroic age of Homer's Greek East to the time of the rise of Christianity, a period of well over a thousand years. In this long millennium the political and cultural landscapes of the Mediterranean basin underwent significant changes, as competing creeds and denominations rose to the fore, and often accused each other of sorcery.

The Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages a shared European concept of magic emerged. In the early period, pagan beliefs and practices were absorbed into everyday culture, including the rituals of the Church. The rise of the practice of "white magic" in the twelfth century became so popular that it caused a widespread determination in the Church to condemn any unsanctioned beliefs or practices. The Church and state, both centralized powers in a decentralized Europe, gradually sharpened their attitude toward magic in general, and sorcery and witchcraft in particular, paving the way for the violent outbreaks of witch persecutions in early modern Europe.

The Period of the Witch Trials

Most European prosecutions for the crime of witchcraft occurred between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, with the peak coming in the hundred years after 1560. This volume brings together the large amount of recent scholarship on witchcraft of this period and provides a novel analysis of the trials by considering the legal systems involved. Witch hunts, methods of torture, and the scientific interest in magic spells and demonology as an intellectual pursuit are also covered in detail.

The 18th and 19th Centuries

The eighteenth century saw the end of witch trials everywhere. The authors chart the process of and reasons for the decriminalization of witchcraft, but also challenge the widespread assumption that Europe then became "disenchanted." Here for the first time are surveys of the social role of witchcraft in European communities, as well as a full treatment of Victorian supernaturalism and of the continued importance of witchcraft and magic as topics of debate among intellectuals and other writers.

The Twentieth Century

Witchcraft today continues to play a role in European societies and imaginations. This concluding volume includes a major new history of the origins and development of English "Wicca" and an account of the circumstances in which the term 'Satanist' has been used to label individuals or groups. The widespread prevalence of such phenomena proves the contemporary reality of beliefs in witchcraft and its threats.



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