Broom, Broom: Writing about witches from the London Review of Books

‘the witches eat your book
then you
then everything’

– Rebecca Tamás

Witches in history were usually poor, ill, weak and uneducated, yet they instilled fear in learned, highly placed men in churches and law courts, academies and council chambers. Witches in fairy tales are also poor, often old and ugly, yet they inspire delighted shivers of terror and a strong desire to emulate their witchy powers. This collection explores cases from Renaissance Germany to New England and South Africa as they puzzle over the contradictions that exist in history between a desire to dismiss witches as foolish and deluded, while punishing them for the harm they are believed to be able to do: it’s a cruel paradox that the most dedicated believers in witchcraft were not the witches and their clients, but their persecutors. Throughout these rich essays, ‘never again’ whispers between the lines, but one can’t be sure.

Featuring: John Bayley, Wendy Doniger, Malcolm Gaskill, Jeremy Harding, Hilary Mantel, Rosalind Mitchison, Rebecca Tamás, Robert Tashman, Lee Palmer Wandel, Marina Warner and Leslie Wilson.

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