ISBN #: 978-0143106180
Page Count: 320
Copyright: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Classics
(Taken from Amazon)
Chilling real-life accounts of witches, from medieval Europe through colonial America
From a manual for witch hunters written by King James himself in 1597, to court documents from the Salem witch trials of 1692, to newspaper coverage of a woman stoned to death on the streets of Philadelphia while the Continental Congress met, The Penguin Book of Witches is a treasury of historical accounts of accused witches that sheds light on the reality behind the legends. Bringing to life stories like that of Eunice Cole, tried for attacking a teenage girl with a rock and buried with a stake through her heart; Jane Jacobs, a Bostonian so often accused of witchcraft that she took her tormentors to court on charges of slander; and Increase Mather, an exorcism-performing minister famed for his knowledge of witches, this volume provides a unique tour through the darkest history of English and North American witchcraft.
Because I know some of you may have some concerns, let me start off by saying that I do not delve into witchcraft, sorcery, magic, or anything similar. My interest in the dark side is purely for fictional and/or educational purposes. Just because I agreed to review this work does not mean I am converting or looking to convert. Feel better? I'm sure my family does, too. To quote Katherine Howe:
"The Penguin Book of Witches is an annotated volume of primary source documents about witchcraft in English North America that is designed for readers interested in learning about the reality behind the fiction. Its goal is to assemble a broad array of sources, chosen for their representative value as well as their narrative power, which, taken as a whole, will leave a reader with a solid command of the meaning of witchcraft in early American life."
Simply put, this book is based on actual documentation of the Salem witch trials as well as other witch hunts before Salem. What I never knew, and you might find interesting as well, was there were more witch trials that happened outside of Salem rather than in Salem. Salem has become so popularized that many forget about the witch trials in other areas.
I used to think that I'd like to live back in those times, but after reading this book I'm glad I live in the era that I do. Women were accused of being witches if they were poor, worked hard, disagreed with their neighbor, etc. It was an ongoing litany of outrageous accusations. No woman was safe. Once the ball got rolling, women who were well-bred, rich, and faithfully religious were also accused of witchcraft. Reading the transcripts of the trials that are in the book, I thought the men of that time to be pompous asses. They decided who was right and wrong before the trial even took place. No, the book doesn't say that, but you could tell that was their attitude while reading their words. It made me angry and defensive of my sex. Why did the women of that time have to be wrong all the time? There were many murders during the witch trials and 99.9% of them were unjustifiable.
If you're looking for a book that will help you delve a little deeper into the witch trials, then this is the book for you. It opened my eyes to just how badly women were treated back then. It was apprehensible ... but it makes for good reading.
*A paperback copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.