Early Modern European Witchcraft (review)

by Jenny Gibbons

_Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries_, edited by Bengt Ankarloo and Gustav Henningsen.

Scads of fascinating, compelling, brilliant facts -- all wrapped up in dry, desiccated, dull text.

You've probably heard me talk about "systematic trial record studies" and the dramatic impact they've had on our knowledge of historical Witchcraft. Well, EMEW is a collection of these studies. It contains the systematic survey results from Hungary, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Portugal. The information in these pages is extremely important, but MAN is it boring to read!

In addition to the trial record surveys, EMEW also contains a dozen or so articles on various aspects of Witchcraft studies. Two are particularly interesting. "Inquisitorial Law and the Witch" by John Tedeschi is a good introduction to how the Inquisition tried Witches. It dispells many of the myths about the Holy Office, and offers a good summary of the Inquisition's powers, forms, and the areas in which it operated.

"'The Ladies from Outside': An Archaic Pattern of the Witches' Sabbath" by Gustav Henningsen, is a splendid article. It, alone, is worth the price of the entire book. Henningsen describes the "Ladies from Outside", a group of Sicilian Witches who mediated between humans and the Fair Folk. His data comes from torture-less trials and offers one of the most dramatic examples of Christo-Pagan Witches. Better yet, Henningsen says that he's met modern Sicilian Witches whose beliefs are almost identical to those of the Ladies from Outside. This is the first time that I've seen a historian say that they've found a link between ancient and modern Witchcraft.

In summary, if you can handle the dryness, this is a stunningly useful book. It contains detailed information you won't find anywhere else. Even if you don't feel like having your fingers desiccated, you should definitely try to read "The Ladies from Outside". It's a great study, right up there with Carlo Ginzburg's _Night Battles_.