well coincidentally - here's a hot off the press new one in that subject
- and with luck the author herself should be on this list -
PS: spoke to Colin and he will indeed be writing up something on the 'Adam'
case and 'muti' murders - but give it a week or two - he has also been asked
back to Bath to give a further talk - this time on the ancestors - that's
for april -
'Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic
Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British
Witchcraft and Magic' by Emma Wilby. Nov 2005, Sussex
Many of the confessions recorded in witchcraft and
sorcery trials in early modern Britain contain vivid
descriptions of intimate working relationships between
popular magical practitioners and familiar spirits in
human or animal form. Until recently, historians
frequently dismissed these descriptions as fictions
created by judicial interrogators eager to find
evidence of stereotypical pacts with the Devil.
Although this paradigm is now routinely questioned,
and most historians acknowledge that there was a
folkloric component to familiar lore in the period,
these beliefs, and the experiences reportedly
associated with them, remain substantially unexplored.
This book examines the folkloric roots of familiar
lore in early modern Britain from historical,
anthropological and comparative religious
perspectives. It argues that beliefs about witches’
familiars were rooted in beliefs surrounding the use
of fairy familiars by beneficent magical practitioners
or ‘cunning folk’, and corroborates this through a
comparative analysis of familiar beliefs found in
traditional Native American and Siberian shamanism.
The author then explores the experiential dimension of
familiar lore by drawing parallels between early
modern familiar encounters and visionary mysticism as
it appears in both tribal shamanism and medieval
European contemplative traditions. The conclusions
drawn challenge the reductionist view of popular magic
in early modern Britain often presented by historians.
"Magic and witchcraft have between them represented
one of the most difficult and challenging subjects for
modern historians. Emma Wilby's book is a remarkably
interesting, timely and novel way of looking at them,
and one of the most courageous yet attempted."
Professor Ronald Hutton,University of Bristol.
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