books, history, non-fiction, review

Review: Witchcraft, a very short introduction by Malcolm Gaskill


Witchcraft is such an interesting subject. Almost all cultures have a form of witches and that’s just so interesting. I learned a little bit about the history of witchcraft in high school, about the witch craze that went on for a few hundred years, but that’s about it. Did this book fill the void of witch history in my life?

Witchcraft is a subject that fascinates us all. Indeed, from childhood most of us develop some mental image of a witch–usually an old woman, mysterious and malignant. But why do witches still feature so heavily in our cultures and consciousness? From Halloween superstitions to literary references such as Faust and, of course, Harry Potter, witches seem ever-present in our lives. In this Very Short Introduction, Malcolm Gaskill takes a long historical perspective, from the ancient world to contemporary paganism. This is a book about the strangeness of the past, and about contrasts and change; but it’s also about affinity and continuity. He reveals that witchcraft is multi-faceted, that it has always meant different things to different people, and that in every age it has raised questions about the distinction between fantasy and reality, faith and proof. Delving into court records, telling anecdotes, and challenging myths, Gaskill re-examines received wisdom, especially concerning the European witch-hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He also explores the modern memory and reinvention of witchcraft–as history, religion, fiction, and metaphor.

This was an interesting book. It was quite short and it really is just a short introduction, but it did cover quite a bit about the European witch craze. But to be honest, I don’t remember anything I read. I finished this book quite quickly, yes, but I really can’t remember anything I read. I usually remember quite a bit of the non-fiction books I have read, but when I think about this one…

I wasn’t sure whether to write a review about this book, as I don’t even know what to talk about, but I think because it has this effect on me, I should, because when you read non-fiction, you want to usually learn something from it, and I didn’t. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s the writing. I initially gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads, but I don’t think it deserves that now.

If you need a tiny book that is easy to reference, than this could be the right book. But otherwise, I’m sure there are better books out there on the history of witchcraft.

If you do want to try this book out, you can get it here!


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