Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Reviews V: Spell Bound + Mrs. Wakeman vs. the Antichrist

A couple more book reviews today. First up Spell Bound by Dominic Alexander (Readers Digest, 2002). For those of you keeping track, I'll give this another 4 star rating, the stars mean nothing.

*(As per usual I'm not being paid or compensated, I just hang out in the library and read a lot of stuff.)

I kind of see this like the text book of the History of witchcraft. There's a lot of general information coming at you quickly, and it's really easy to read. It's good if you've got a short attention span, but it's definitely not a book for younger readers due to nudity in graphics.

There's the usual textbook issues of confusing or waffling on minor facts, exclusion of information that may have been helpful (there's a few places I was wanting for dates, and I am not really one to give much notice to time), and breaking of pages at odd times for inserts of information that could have come at the end of the section.

The author also appeared to have a hard time choosing between Demon and Daemon. Both worked for his purposes, but using them interchangeably was a little bit distracting.

However, there's still a lot of good information, and bit of clever writing, “Even the dark side of the human imagination demonstrates our unity.” It's a good read especially if you're interested in who or what Benandanti, Milcuhexe, Strix, Hail Pots, Caliburn, and Robin Good-Fellow are.

My final gripe however is near the end of the book, things get a little boring, and the author suggests witchcraft is coming back into vogue. No. I was alive in 2002, and I knew only a single witch at the time. It was far less trendy then it had been in the 80s and 90s.

Next up we have Mrs. Wakeman vs. the Antichrist by Robert Damon Schneck (Tarcher, 2014). I'm feeling generous, so 5 stars here, and all my readers can have a star as well (heck, I'll even make good on that, message me about it and I will draw you a one of a kind star).

*(Again I've not been paid or compensated, but read a library copy of this book. Not that I would say no to people sending me money, but the fact is this review is unbiased by payment.)

This book is a great romp through history and all sorts of subjects, most of which have a paranormal aspect, and those that don't are at least odd. Topics covered include Ouija Boards, Stigmata, Treasure Hunting, and Wildmen.

Of course I can't get through a book without finding an error. There was footnote or two missing. Simply there was no note with that number. There was also a page where the word 'then' was there with nothing attached to it. I stared at it for a while, but I was soon back into the book.

The book enjoys some humorous moments, and occasionally goes off on tangents, which I found fascinating, so they were nothing to complain about in my eyes, because it always circled back to the subject at hand. Heck, sometimes they were more interesting then the subject at hand. Though I'd have liked to have a follow up on what Billy Graham has to do with satanic abuse, because apparently that was some sort of a thing, and no one ever mentioned it around these parts (where would I be without the internet).

I'm still left with some questions, but most of them are likely questions the author still has himself, because it's just not possible to know everything (no matter how hard I try).
*I think I'm going to go to bed now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Witch's Familiar or Familiar’s witch?

Here's something that's changed a lot in modern times; the mythos of witches (not to be confused with modern witches, whose practices are completely different from the practices that historical 'witches' were accused of, or with the folk-magic that many people used at the time).

Nowadays the popular image of a witch is a woman dressed in black (either old and ugly, or young and promiscuous), with a demon possessed black cat which does her bidding (usually at the cost of her soul upon death. . . or basically no cost at all). Often they use their magic to pursue love, riches, or power. 

But wait, according to historical records, that is not what people believed during the infamous European witch trials! Though around 75% of witch trial victims were female, anyone was likely to be accused; but in a male dominated society controlled rich men and clerics, it was easier for women to be the scapegoats.

One of the biggest differences between the modern view of such witches is that of the familiar. The familiar in literature (such as the Hammer of the Witches) and popular imagination was a demon, or Satan himself, which generally approached the witch and tricked or forced them into his service. Such demons may appear as a cat, but often also a dog, a toad, a hare, or pretty much any animal commonly found in the area. 

The familiar often offered love, riches, or power, but these things never turned out to be real. The familiar of the past was not satisfied with taking orders either, and commonly those accused of being witches 'confessed' that the demon would punish them when they failed to bring harm to others, or failed to select people for their familiar to attack.

The witch wasn't necessarily irredeemable either, especially in early trials when they might be given a chance to prove themselves to no longer be practicing witchcraft and loyal to the church once more. Other times, the act of execution was even considered to redeem their souls.

Resources and Further Reading:

Alexander, Dominic. Spell Bound. Readers Digest, 2002.

Briggs, Robin. Witches and Neighbours. Penguin Books, 1996.

Familiar spirit”
Wikipedia, (last modified 2015, 8, 18)