This work comes courtesy of the spiritualist movement of the mid and late 19th century. It is at once an academic work, a work of general demonology and Satan-lore, and a social tract aimed at the fire and brimstone preaching of its era. The elaborate synthesis of its sources and its authors’ opinions make it an important work within the historical cycle of late pre-modern Christian philosophy.
For those interested in the occult, the practice of magick, and demonology in a stricter sense, this work is best seen as a refutation of some of the symbolism and meaning used by those involved in the same; if the basis is unsound the practice is unsound, and a great many practitioners continue in the delusion that brimstone-and-smoke filled hallways populated by leathery little creatures with Pluto-esque pitchforks are very much real, and that Satan is a historical notion as opposed to one adapted from paganism. I strongly suggest this work as well for anyone desiring to rid themselves of the fear or Hellfire, since it is meticulously debased here and more or less totally defeated.
This work is pure rationalism circa the early 20th century. Penned by Odell Shepard, it goes to great lengths in being as detailed as possible, not limiting itself by time period or region. Speaking of lore as separate as that of Africa and India, the tale of the unicorn (or alicorn) is rendered not simply to a misunderstood and real beast here, but takes on a wider symbology and meaning.
The most interesting component of Shepard’s work here though is medicinal and related to medieval folklore; the unicorn horn (variously the horn of a rhinoceros or narwhal, and sometimes that of an antelope or even a chunk of petrified wood) was rumored in those days to sweat in the presence of any poison and to act as a souped-up sort of bezoar taken internally. The content is at times dense, and it draws on many primary sources both antiquated and then-modern.
This fine work is the culmination of a great deal of study by John Taylor in the middle of the 19th century. As with many works from the period, it both lambastes prior christian populations for their superstition while exonerating them partly on the basis that their interpretation of christian dogma was, first, misled by the authorities of their age and, second, that this was partly the fault of primordial pagan influence and the working of sorcery in late antiquity.
Its primary content is related to the burning times, both with regards to conceptions of Satan and of witches and witchcraft in general, but it also manages to provide a few older examples including the rites of the snake cults of the near east and the topic of the infamous shape-shifting Lamia. It blames King James and his “Daemonologie” and the Malleus Maleficarum for many tens of thousands of deaths.