Friday, July 2, 2010

The Twilight Saga and the Benandanti: Part 3

The second Carlo Ginzburg book on this subject was entitled 'Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath'. This book seems to delve into the greater issue of "European witchcraft," which is a catch-all term not always accurate.

Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath (Ginzburg; 1991)

Library Journal (book review)

Emerging from testimonies during witchcraft trials in Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries are consistent descriptions of the Witches' Sabbath: night flying, ritual cannibalism, etc. Most scholars dismiss these descriptions as torture-induced gibberish. Ginzburg (history, Univ. of California at Los Angeles) proves that these descriptions are bastardized accounts of ecstatic experiences practiced by a shamanic culture. In addition, he links the persecution of the witches with that of other social outcasts (lepers, Jews, and Muslims). Europeans thought that these groups conspired against society, which led to their wholesale slaughter. Very interesting and very convincing. For collections serving upper-level undergraduates and graduate students. --Gail Wood, Montgomery College. Library, Germantown, MD

Shamanism In Europe (review by user Zekeriyah)

Yes, Ginzburg actually contends that the so-called "witches" of old Europe were in fact remanents of the old Shamanic cultures of Europe, and he does make an excellent arguement for it. I will admit, I do agree with him on some points. Shamanism is a universal phenomena, and yet (with the notable exception of the Lapps in Scandinavia and a few scattered myths and legends like Orpheus and Odin) Shamanism seems to have all but been absent in Europe, and this has always puzzled me. Certainly, had Shamanism been widespread in Europe, it probably would have survived well into the Christian era, just as it has in other parts of the world. As such, Ginzburg may be right on the money about the witch hunts and such. Regardless of your thoughts on the subject, this remains an excellent book. And if you like it, he has another book, entitled "Night Battles" about a community of Shaman in northern Italy.

A Post-modern analysis of the Witchcraze of the Middle Ages (review by user Tribe)

Ginzburg is one of the first historians who has come forward with a convincing theory that there may well have been pagan sects during the Middle Ages that were the focus of persecutions and regionalized hunts and crazes. This is a fascinating analysis of the legendary Witchs' Sabbath and its mythical foundations, as well as a convincing theory of what led localities to persecute those suspected of being witches.

Missing Link (review by user Aziliz)

It is easy to be acquainted with the mainstream Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian mythologies that are so easily acquired from any mythology shelf in library or bookstore but the mainstream doesn't talk about the deities and their mythologies discussed in Carlo Ginzburg's books although his research shows they were obviously widely worshipped just didn't make it into the 'official' pantheons of Rome.

It is also easy to pick up a book on modern paganism/shamanism or on pagan/shamanic religions of exotic cultures--far harder to find anything on European shamanic roots.

Research in many books also too often divorce the mythology from religion; rituals, customs and practices from their adherents and their geographical locations; and don't quote their original sources. Carlo Ginzburg puts this all together and the depth and breadth of the research in this book is fabulous.

The book is a feast for anyone interested in mythology, folklore, old religions, the history of witchcraft, werewolves, history of shamanism or medieval history.


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