front cover of The Anti-Witch
The Anti-Witch
Jeanne Favret-Saada
HAU, 2015

Jeanne Favret-Saada is arguably one of France’s most brilliant anthropologists, and The Anti-Witch is nothing less than a masterpiece. A synthesis of ethnographic theory and psychoanalytic revelation, where the line between researcher and subject is blurred—if not erased—The Anti-Witch develops the contours of an anthropology of therapy, while deeply engaging with what it means to be caught in the logic of witchcraft. Through an intimate and provocative sharing of the ethnographic voice with Madame Flora, a “dewitcher,” Favret-Saada delivers a critical challenge to some of anthropology’s fundamental concepts.


Sure to be of interest to practitioners of psychoanalysis as well as to anthropologists, The Anti-Witch will bring a new generation of scholars into conversation with the work of a truly innovative thinker.


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Demon Lovers
Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief
Walter Stephens
University of Chicago Press, 2002
On September 20, 1587, Walpurga Hausmännin of Dillingen in southern Germany was burned at the stake as a witch. Although she had confessed to committing a long list of maleficia (deeds of harmful magic), including killing forty—one infants and two mothers in labor, her evil career allegedly began with just one heinous act—sex with a demon. Fornication with demons was a major theme of her trial record, which detailed an almost continuous orgy of sexual excess with her diabolical paramour Federlin "in many divers places, . . . even in the street by night."

As Walter Stephens demonstrates in Demon Lovers, it was not Hausmännin or other so-called witches who were obsessive about sex with demons—instead, a number of devout Christians, including trained theologians, displayed an uncanny preoccupation with the topic during the centuries of the "witch craze." Why? To find out, Stephens conducts a detailed investigation of the first and most influential treatises on witchcraft (written between 1430 and 1530), including the infamous Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches).

Far from being credulous fools or mindless misogynists, early writers on witchcraft emerge in Stephens's account as rational but reluctant skeptics, trying desperately to resolve contradictions in Christian thought on God, spirits, and sacraments that had bedeviled theologians for centuries. Proof of the physical existence of demons—for instance, through evidence of their intercourse with mortal witches—would provide strong evidence for the reality of the supernatural, the truth of the Bible, and the existence of God. Early modern witchcraft theory reflected a crisis of belief—a crisis that continues to be expressed today in popular debates over angels, Satanic ritual child abuse, and alien abduction.
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In the Shadow of Salem
The Andover Witch Hunt of 1692
Richard Hite
Westholme Publishing, 2024
The First Complete Account of the Largest Supernatural Crisis in American history, and How Ordinary Citizens Brought It to a Close
By July 1692, the witch hunt surrounding the town of Salem and Salem Village had been raging for four months. The Massachusetts Bay colony’s new governor, William Phips, had established a special court to try the suspected witches and the trials were well under way. No new arrests had taken place for nearly six weeks and residents had every reason to believe the crisis soon would be over. However, a middle-aged woman in nearby Andover lay gravely ill. Her husband suspected witchcraft as the cause and invited some of the afflicted girls from Salem Village to the town, thinking they could determine whether his suspicions were valid. Not surprisingly, they confirmed his supposition. The first person these girls accused in Andover—a frail and elderly widow bereaved by a series of family tragedies over the pre­vious three years—not only confessed, but stated that there were more than three hundred witches in the region, five times more than the number of suspects already in jail. This touched off a new wave of accusations, confessions, and formal charges. Before the witchcraft crisis ended, forty-five residents of Andover found themselves jailed on suspicion of witchcraft—more than the combined total of suspects from Salem Village and the town of Salem. Of these, three were hanged and one died while awaiting execution.
Based on extensive primary source research, In the Shadow of Salem: The Andover Witch Hunt of 1692, by historian and archivist Richard Hite, tells for the first time the fascinating story of this long overlooked phase of the largest witch hunt in American history. Untangling a net of rivalries and ties between families and neighbors, the author explains the actions of the accusers, the reactions of the accused, and their ultimate fates. In the process, he shows how the Andover arrests prompted a large segment of the town’s population to openly oppose the entire witch hunt and how their actions played a crucial role in finally bringing the 1692 witchcraft crisis to a close. 
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Madumo, a Man Bewitched
Adam Ashforth
University of Chicago Press, 2000
No one answered when I tapped at the back door of Madumo's home on Mphahlele Street a few days after my return to Soweto, so I pushed the buckling red door in a screeching grind of metal over concrete and entered calling, "Hallo?"

So begins this true story of witchcraft and friendship set against the turbulent backdrop of contemporary Soweto. Adam Ashforth, an Australian who has spent many years in the black township, finds his longtime friend Madumo in dire circumstances: his family has accused him of using witchcraft to kill his mother and has thrown him out on the street. Convinced that his life is cursed, Madumo seeks help among Soweto's bewildering array of healers and prophets. An inyanga, or traditional healer, confirms that he has indeed been bewitched. With Ashforth by his side, skeptical yet supportive, Madumo embarks upon a physically grueling treatment regimen that he follows religiously-almost to the point of death-despite his suspicion that it may be better to "Westernize my mind and not think about witchcraft."

Ashforth's beautifully written, at times poignant account of Madumo's struggle shows that the problem of witchcraft is not simply superstition, but a complex response to spiritual insecurity in a troubling time of political and economic upheaval. Post-apartheid Soweto, he discovers, is suffering from a deluge of witchcraft. Through Madumo's story, Ashforth opens up a world that few have seen, a deeply unsettling place where the question "Do you believe in witchcraft?" is not a simple one at all. The insights that emerge as Ashforth accompanies his friend on an odyssey through Soweto's supernatural perils have profound implications even for those of us who live in worlds without witches.
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A Salem Witch
The Trial, Execution, and Exoneration of Rebecca Nurse
Daniel A. Gagnon
Westholme Publishing, 2023
In the winter of 1692 something terrible and frightening began in Salem Village. It started with several villagers having strange fits, screaming, and unnaturally contorting themselves, and ended with almost two hundred people in jail, and at least twenty-five dead. Witchcraft accusations—claims that some inhabitants had forsaken God to become servants of the Devil—spread from Salem Village across Massachusetts, ensnaring innocent people from all strata of society under a burden of assumed guilt. One of the most significant accusations, and most unlikely, was against a seventy-one-year-old grandmother, Rebecca Nurse.
   The accusations against Nurse, a well-respected member in the community, seemed unbelievable. Unflinchingly, this ailing elderly woman insisted on her innocence and refused to falsely confess. Supported by many in Salem, Nurse’s family and neighbors challenged her accusers in court and prepared a thorough defense for her, yet nothing could surmount the fear of witchcraft, and she was sentenced to death. Nurse, seen as a martyr for the truth, later became the first person accused of witchcraft to be memorialized in North America.
    In A Salem Witch: The Trial, Execution, and Exoneration of Rebecca Nurse, the first full account of Nurse’s life, Daniel A. Gagnon vividly recreates seventeenth-century Salem, and in the process challenges previous interpretations of Nurse’s life and the 1692 witch hunt in general. Through primary source research, he reveals how the Nurse family’s role in several disputes prior to the witch hunt was different than previously thought, as well as how Nurse’s case helps answer the important question of whether the accusations of witchcraft were caused by mental illness or malicious intent. A Salem Witch reveals a remarkable woman whose legacy has transformed how the witch hunt has been remembered and memorialized.
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Spiritual Merchants
Religion Magic & Commerce
Carolyn Morrow Long
University of Tennessee Press, 2001
They can be found along the side streets of many American cities: herb or candle shops catering to practitioners of Voodoo, hoodoo, Santería, and similar beliefs. Here one can purchase ritual items and raw materials for the fabrication of traditional charms, plus a variety of soaps, powders, and aromatic goods known in the trade as “spiritual products.” For those seeking health or success, love or protection, these potions offer the power of the saints and the authority of the African gods.
In Spiritual Merchants, Carolyn Morrow Long provides an inside look at the followers of African-based belief systems and the retailers and manufacturers who supply them. Traveling from New Orleans to New York, from Charleston to Los Angeles, she takes readers on a tour of these shops, examines the origins of the products, and profiles the merchants who sell them.
Long describes the principles by which charms are thought to operate, how ingredients are chosen, and the uses to which they are put. She then explores the commodification of traditional charms and the evolution of the spiritual products industry—from small-scale mail order "doctors" and hoodoo drugstores to major manufacturers who market their products worldwide. She also offers an eye-opening look at how merchants who are not members of the culture entered the business through the manufacture of other goods such as toiletries, incense, and pharmaceuticals. Her narrative includes previously unpublished information on legendary Voodoo queens and hoodoo workers, as well as a case study of John the Conqueror root and its metamorphosis from spirit-embodying charm to commercial spiritual product.
No other book deals in such detail with both the history and current practices of African-based belief systems in the United States and the evolution of the spiritual products industry. For students of folklore or anyone intrigued by the world of charms and candle shops, Spiritual Merchants examines the confluence of African and European religion in the Americas and provides a colorful introduction to a vibrant aspect of contemporary culture.
The Author: Carolyn Morrow Long is a preservation specialist and conservator at the the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.


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Teenage Witches
Magical Youth and the Search for the Self
Berger, Helen
Rutgers University Press, 2007
A popular new image of Witches has arisen in recent years, due largely to movies like The Craft, Practical Magic, and Simply Irresistible and television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Charmed. Here, young sexy Witches use magic and Witchcraft to gain control over their lives and fight evil. Then there is the depiction in the Harry Potter books: Witchcraft is a gift that unenlightened Muggles (everyday people) lack. In both types of portrayals, being a Witch is akin to being a superhero. At the other end of the spectrum, wary adults assume that Witches engage in evil practices that are misguided at best and dangerous at worst.

Yet, as Helen A. Berger and Douglas Ezzy show in this in-depth look into the lives of teenage Witches, the reality of their practices, beliefs, values, and motivations is very different from the sensational depictions we see in popular culture. Drawing on extensive research across three countries--the United States, England, and Australia--and interviews with young people from diverse backgrounds, what they find are highly spiritual and self-reflective young men and women attempting to make sense of a postmodern world via a religion that celebrates the earth and emphasizes self-development.

The authors trace the development of Neo-Paganism (an umbrella term used to distinguish earth-based religions from the pagan religions of ancient cultures) from its start in England during the 1940s, through its growing popularity in the decades that followed, up through its contemporary presence on the Internet. Though dispersed and disorganized, Neo-Pagan communities, virtual and real, are shown to be an important part of religious identity particularly for those seeking affirmation during the difficult years between childhood and adulthood.

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The Witch Studies Reader
Soma Chaudhuri and Jane Ward, editors
Duke University Press, 2025

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Witchfinders
A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy
Malcolm Gaskill
Harvard University Press, 2007

By spring 1645, two years of civil war had exacted a dreadful toll upon England. People lived in terror as disease and poverty spread, and the nation grew ever more politically divided. In a remote corner of Essex, two obscure gentlemen, Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne, exploited the anxiety and lawlessness of the time and initiated a brutal campaign to drive out the presumed evil in their midst. Touring Suffolk and East Anglia on horseback, they detected demons and idolators everywhere. Through torture, they extracted from terrified prisoners confessions of consorting with Satan and demonic spirits.

Acclaimed historian Malcolm Gaskill retells the chilling story of the most savage witch-hunt in English history. By the autumn of 1647 at least 250 people--mostly women--had been captured, interrogated, and hauled before the courts. More than a hundred were hanged, causing Hopkins to be dubbed "Witchfinder General" by critics and admirers alike. Though their campaign was never legally sanctioned, they garnered the popular support of local gentry, clergy, and villagers. While Witchfinders tells of a unique and tragic historical moment fueled by religious fervor, today it serves as a reminder of the power of fear and fanaticism to fuel ordinary people's willingness to demonize others.

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