A History Of Magic And Witchcraft by Frances Timbers (book review).

September 11, 2019 | By | Reply More

Look at the title if Frances Timbers book again, ‘A History Of Magic And Witchcraft’. When you compare it to the sub-title, ‘Sabbats, Satan & Superstitions In The West’ you would think the two subjects are one and the same. Timbers points out the misconception as witchcraft is associated with wise people rather than sorcery and to which Wiccans belong who only wish to do good for their community.

Over time, witchcraft became associated with ‘maleficium’, to cause harm to others and ultimately to devil-worship. Something, the traditional religions used to belittle and exterminate their pagan rivals. When you consider a lot of medical treatments came from natural cures, you have to realise how ungrateful villagers really were.

Interestingly, Timbers points out that the Persian prophet Zoroaster aka Zarathrustra was the first to use magic and the three Magi or Wise Men who visited the newborn Christ were part of that order. That did make me think because it meant that the early Christian religions had no arguments with that type of magic.

The Devil under his various names like Satan and Lucifer was seen as a fallen angel to which all other demons became associated. I like how Timbers brings in the miracles of Moses and Aaron as they led their people from Egypt and attributes their ‘miracles’ as magic. When you put miracles in that light, then the names might change but the undercurrent of such things is still pretty much the same only taken as being more acceptable. I’m only in chapter one and liking Timbers observations already.

Something else to consider is by not using the correct names in the Bible circumvents certain actions in the Bible. Saul seeks out the sorceress from Endor to bring back Samuel’s ghost. Timbers rightly points out that this is necromancy in all but name. If you thought magic was absent, this one should make you think, more so as Samuel’s ghost reappeared.

The exploration of the connection of witches to the devil and how incorporates become solid to have sex shows a lot of liberty with imagination and torture victims, who even end up believing the lies themselves. Using the Bible as a means to confirm these theories is shown to be flimsy. Interestingly, Christ is implicated in flight as to how the devil in the wilderness got him to the top of a mountain. I like the way Timbers matches the description of how incubi mate with women drawing comparison to the virgin birth. Logistically, you can’t have one without the other being addressed. More so, as angels were responsible for birthing a race of giants, although I do have to wonder where or what they are.

If you thought witchcraft was only confined to the Britain and America, Timbers also points out other countries where this was carried out and oppressed. The revelations keep coming. Timbers points out the means to stop witches and witchcraft was actually witchcraft itself and yet none of the people at the time saw it as that.

Something I had never considered before was the origin of the word ‘cunning’. Nothing to do with being sly but being knowledgeable and the cunning people were seen as being a lower level than those who practiced witchcraft. I suspect we geeks would be named this term in earlier times more so as it meant being smart and having innate abilities.

Of course, we can’t ignore the men and women who were accused of witchcraft and tortured and killed for a period of time before saner minds calmed things down. The most significant thing Timbers says on the subject which sank in was the reason they tortured until confession continued was because they didn’t want to be shown they were wrong. This was a common trait across the world which is scary enough.

Finally, a look at more modern witchcraft right up to this day. Timbers points out that there is little unity but plenty of small cults with their own leaders. Considering that they must source the same kinds of books, I do wonder how much do they deviate from each other.

Don’t expect to read this book without a lot of heavy thought or consideration. Although I don’t think Timbers intended it this way but her observations are joining a lot of dots that will reinforce thoughts that you might have considered and found you are no longer alone on.

The dividing line is always by who writes the books and their own blind spots that they are also describing the same things to the people whom they admire. Timbers manages to be completely observant in her history and covers more ground than other books I’ve read on the subject making this a useful and informative read.

GF Willmetts

September 2019

(pub: Pen And Sword. 202 page illustrated indexed hardback. Price: £19.99 (UK). $32.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-52673-181-9)

check out website: www.pen-and-sword.co.uk

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Category: Books, Culture

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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