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This book is an excellent primer on the Salem Witch Trials- it contains mostly a slew of primary source documents; letters from the era, trial proceedings, and- at the end- the culminating document which ended the era for good, namely the recanting and apology of the jury involved for having condemned innocent people to death. While I have strong opinions on the subject of why the trials happened (my theory is a fusion of the ergot, property, and social panic theories and accepts none completely) I kept my own words to a minimum and relegated them to the foreword.
Some of the claims made especially during testimony are bizarre in the highest degree- flying objects strange creatures, demonic sexual intercourse, and what we would now deem both ghosts and psychic attack. Some of the stories told are chilling, especially when one considers that most of the accused were tortured and mistreated, even if only about a tenth of them ended up actually executed.
I figured now was a great time to pitch a few of the edited works I’ve released since it seems we have entered another burning times in which allegation and presumption and emotion are superior to evidence, logic, reason, and enlightenment. While this is sad and means innocent people will suffer, it is hardly unprecedented even in modernity- remember that even extremely modern eras have been pockmarked by moral panics which are based not on evidence but emotion. I’d almost be more worried if this era did not contain at least a minor moral panic regardless of the stupidity of each such moralistic period of hand wringing and disingenuous he-said-she-said nonsense.
First we have DEMONOLOGY by none other than King James. Other than the Malleus Maleficarum itself this is the premier text of all moral panics in the history of mankind and probably killed tens of thousands of people- more than almost any text other than those that are themselves canonical within religious paths themselves. This work contains a great deal of odd material especially related to James’ own philosophy on witch hunts.
Second, we have Workmans’ DEMONOMANIA which rationalizes the witch hunts of yesteryear in an early sense while slightly missing the mark in some aspects of science as now generally recognized.
Third and finally we have a work on COTTON MATHER and witchcraft, which technically apologizes for and defends the perpetrators of the Salem witch trials on several grounds. A short work, it is nonetheless well written.
As we wait for the Lesser Keys I figured that revisiting a few works on persecution made sense, given the political climate of today.
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This interesting little volume is roughly similar in some ways to the Book of Forbidden Knowledge (which became and has remained one of my top selling titles.) It is a mix of different lore, delivered from a skeptical-but-not-atheistic position on subjects ranging from the divining rod (dowsing), to omens and apparitions, and the Salem Witch Trials- this last is covered in some degree of depth indeed, about 50 pages of content giving the backdrop, opinions of the era, and some of the names and trials of note from the entire series of events there.
A short treatment on Satan and demonology gives way to this more historical content and it is subsequently capped off with a two page ramble about the need to refute fire and brimstone ideology and irrational superstition. The original edition came with about ten pages of ads (removed in my edition) for other works which ranged from mesmerism and palmistry to brief annotated historical guides.