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The Witch

A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present
Narrated by: Gildart Jackson
Length: 16 hrs and 21 mins
Categories: History, World
4 out of 5 stars (51 ratings)

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Summary

Why have societies all across the world feared witchcraft? This book delves deeply into its context, beliefs, and origins in Europe's history.

The witch came to prominence - and often a painful death - in early modern Europe, yet her origins are much more geographically diverse and historically deep. In this landmark book, Ronald Hutton traces witchcraft from the ancient world to the early modern state. This book sets the notorious European witch trials in the widest and deepest possible perspective and traces the major historiographical developments of witchcraft. Hutton, a renowned expert on ancient, medieval, and modern paganism and witchcraft beliefs, combines Anglo-American and continental scholarly approaches to examine attitudes on witchcraft and the treatment of suspected witches across the world, including in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Australia, and North and South America, and from ancient pagan times to current interpretations. His fresh anthropological and ethnographical approach focuses on cultural inheritance and change while considering shamanism, folk religion, the range of witch trials, and how the fear of witchcraft might be eradicated.

©2017 Ronald Hutton (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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    2 out of 5 stars

Not engaging

It's not that this is bad as such, it's just misrepresented. This is, for the most part, a history of the study of OTHER studies on witchcraft, rather than itself an original study. So, so many citations and quotations and references that it stopped being engaging (although you have to respect the author's study of said studies). Just too dry for me.

8 people found this helpful

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Dull narrator

looked forward to listening to this as witchcraft was covered on my degree course but I couldn't listen to the narrator, he made it all sound so very dull....I'm afraid I had to give up. It's a shame the author couldn't have narrated. A disappointment as I'm sure I would have found it really interesting.

16 people found this helpful

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Dry littany of facts

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

This could have been fascinating. Cearly an author with a breadth of research material at their disposal, but a dry listing of facts. I.e. among the Ibu they do x, among ojibway they do Y. On and on and on. No attempt at flow or to even pique interest in the reader.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

There are no "scenes"

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Useable for research into specific cultural details.

2 people found this helpful

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It's very difficult to get truth 1chapter.

I can't say that book was good purchase, boring at best but I didn't listen to the end.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliantly challenges previous ideas.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it really put to bed alot of unproven theory's which I had inadvertently picked up from new age sources. Great to be informed by such a brilliant mind.
The nuration and tone of voice was perfect for the subject matter and really gave a tricky subject at points great staying power.
I Higly recommend this to anyone with an interest in anything like witchcraft and or neo paganism.

2 people found this helpful

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Enjoyed this

Enjoyed this but had to listen in small snippets as it contained so much information and research. That said it is an easy listen as written in plain English.

2 people found this helpful

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well read great story full of lovely descriptions

I thought this was a story rather than a history of The Witch well read

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 13-09-17

A little bit dry, but worth the time.

I think a hard copy of this book might have been preferable since it would make a great reference source.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Matthew T Shank
  • 21-09-18

Meticulously researched, dry but great.

The author of this book did their homework. The Witch is thoroughly researched and takes pains to make sure it is as clear and deliberate as possible in its approach to the history of witchcraft. This can lead to the text being a little dull at times. The entire beginning of the book is simply defining terminology, which was hard to get through, but demonstrated the seriousness with which the subject was approached. Though sometimes the writing can be a little dry, the sheer amount of information and detail that is gone into this book made the attention it demands worth it. The book covers many of the now common tropes of witches, searching through history to find their origins. It also covers regional customs and beliefs and the roles they played in shaping the conception of a witch, as well as actual accounts of witch trials throughout history. Occasionally the author will go on detailed but interesting tangents about other magical beliefs that only vaguely relate to witchcraft, for example exploring shamanism in Siberia and Faerie lore in the British Isles. The book is not for a casual listener, but for anyone interested in the history of magic or witches, this book is both information dense and non-biased in it's approach. I highly recommend it.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Lourens
  • 28-06-19

Lovely journey

I loved the historical journey through time and space with abundant contextualization to form a broad and finer understanding of witchcraft and magical. The tone of language is a pleasure to listen to. The narration is perfect to convey the author’s language - I could not stop listening.

2 people found this helpful

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  • isisxwear
  • 10-12-19

Malicous witchcraft through the ages

This was an enjoyable book. It makes a reasoned and deep analysis of the causality of the European witch trials of the early modern era. It helped to explain quite a few issues that I have always wondered about. I was familiar with the theory, now debunked, of witchcraft as a continuous secret pagan religion surviving from ancient times (a origin story still popular with Wiccans and followers of Starhawk). According to that theory victims of the witch trials may have been practitioners of a secret and ancient pagan religion that had been passed down witch to witch, usually by a family member. Most common articles you see today of the history of early modern witch trails regard the accused as being totally innocent of practicing witchcraft, instead serving as scape goats for their communities to rid themselves of anti-social marginalized individuals. This view disregards the role of service magicians that exist in every culture regardless of religion, who would have in fact been using magical practices. Those men or women in medieval Europe would have been Christians, though their magical practice may have had some pagan roots in it. In the modern push to disregard the religious views of people of the past, this subtlety has been lost. The idea of the witch as belonging to a satanic cult as a creation of the 15th century is very interesting, especially as that conspiracy seems to have outlived the Christian belief of witches as a threat and gained a new, secular belief. The author does a wonderful job of tying the various ideas of “witch“ together, including the modern western reclaiming of the term in neopagan groups, though the focus of the book is on the specific definition as a malicious magical worker. This is a true testament to the mutability of religious tradition and creativity of the human mind.