Magic and Superstition in Europe

A Concise History from Antiquity to the Present

By (author) Michael D. Bailey

Publication date:

11 January 2007

Length of book:

288 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9780742533868

The only comprehensive, single-volume survey of magic available, this compelling book traces the history of magic, witchcraft, and superstitious practices such as popular spells or charms from antiquity to the present day. Focusing especially on Europe in the medieval and early modern eras, Michael Bailey also explores the ancient Near East, classical Greece and Rome, and the spread of magical systems_particularly modern witchcraft or Wicca_from Europe to the United States. He examines how magic and superstition have been defined in various historical eras and how these constructions have changed over time. He considers the ways in which specific categories of magic have been condemned, and how those identified as magicians or witches have been persecuted and prosecuted in various societies. Although conceptions of magic have changed over time, the author shows how magic has almost always served as a boundary marker separating socially acceptable actions from illicit ones, and more generally the known and understood from the unknown and occult.
Michael Bailey has written a sweeping, broadly accessible account of magic, religion, and 'superstition' over the past two thousand years. He has not only read deeply but also pondered the way in which our traditions have stigmatized especially those beliefs and practices that seem most closely threatening to us. This book deserves to be widely read.