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3.78  ·  Rating details ·  50 ratings  ·  11 reviews
"These pages must stand for what they are-a brief account of the history of that perverted way of the soul which we call magic, and with the reaction against it. No one will derive any knowledge of initiation from this boook. I have not wished to titillate or to thrill; so far as I can manage it, this is history, and accurate history." -adapted from the Preface Charles ...more
Paperback, 316 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Apocryphile Press (first published 1941)
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K.J. Charles
Overview of European witch hysteria from a Christian point of view. As ever Williams writes well, with some very effective description, and with keen insight. Also as ever there is this very weird undercurrent whenever he discusses sex in relation to women (the passage on people fantasising they had sex with demons, which includes painful "scaly members" and artificial phalluses, is one that will stick in the memory and indeed the throat).

Notable also is the celebration of how Gilles de Rais,
Rick Davis
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medieval-history
I've seen many books about witchcraft written by Christians that are paranoid, hysterical, and irresponsible in their particular brand of wish-fulfillment and confirmation bias. Witchcraft by Charles Williams is not one of them. With his typical erudition, Williams lays out the history of magic and witchcraft, both real and imagined, and the Church's response to these ideas through the ages. The reader emerges with a sympathetic understanding of the witch-hysteria of the late Middle Ages, while ...more
G.M. Burrow
Jan 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Fascinating. In a world of Narnia and Middle-earth and Hogwarts, we have a real need to understand the distinction between Magic and what Charles Williams calls "that perverted way of the soul"...the other kind of magic. He doesn't compare any of these literary examples (the book was written years before either Narnia or LOTR were published, and decades before Rowling was born), but he presents a solid biblical and historical study of true witchcraft that should allow us to draw our own ...more
Leandro Guimarães
Superb text on the precedents & history of the witch trials of end of the Dark ages & of the Reformation & Counter Reformation era. Sheds more than a little light on the current scares on parental abuse, minority discrimination.& political correctness.
Stephen Hayes
A history of European witchcraft and the response of the Christian Church to it at different periods, noting the theological changes that led to changing responses.
Dan'l Danehy-oakes
This is a scholarly-yet-readable study of witchcraft, divination, and sorcery in the Christian era, in Europe, from a specifically-Christian point of view. It is most emphatically _not_ about the newage religion calling itself Wicca. Indeed, as it was published in 1941, it must have been well under way before Gerald Gardner's claims to have been initiated by an old school of Wiccans - in 1939 - was common knowledge; it certainly makes no comment on the "Old Religion."

It begins in Roman times,
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an overview of its subject from ancient times up to the demise of widespread belief in witchcraft in the 18th century. In ancient times witchcraft was embedded in the belief world of the pagan religions then extent. When Christianity prevailed in late Roman times and in the early Middle Ages, a good deal survived in popular culture and was periodically denounced by the Church. However, for various reasons, the systematic drives to eliminate witchcraft really got going in the 15th ...more
This is, as it promises to be, an un-sensationalising account of the history of witchcraft from Roman times until the end of the Salem Witch trials in the late 1600s.

I read it in the hope of unwrapping something more of the mystery of Charles Williams, the man himself, but quickly became drawn into the drama as he tells it, particluarly, through historical documentary evidence from trials.

Williams handles the material carefully. It is almost impossible to disentangle fact from fiction in this
Dave Maddock
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This succeeds as a sober but readable history of the phenomenon of witchcraft hysteria. Williams traces the development of the Christian ideas of the phenomenon as a reaction against paganism, folk medicine, and proto-scientific thinking while adopting a conscious agnosticism as to the existence of witches as defined by these ideas. Despite acknowledging the lack of evidence and all the other caveats one might consider, Williams ultimately concludes that where there is smoke there is fire. Two ...more
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite its brevity and the sensational nature of its topic, this book wasn't an easy read. With his peculiar vocabulary, Williams can be a little difficult to comprehend even in his fiction. Then, too, despite the arm's-length handling of the gory details, there were enough horrors referred to in this book--committed by both sides in the great war--to make the reading anything but pleasant. When I hit the chapter that describes the outline of what was supposed to have happened at the satanic ...more
Douglas Wilson
May 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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Charles Walter Stansby Williams is probably best known, to those who have heard of him, as a leading member (albeit for a short time) of the Oxford literary group, the "Inklings", whose chief figures were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. He was, however, a figure of enormous interest in his own right: a prolific author of plays, fantasy novels (strikingly different in kind from those of his friends), ...more
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