Review: Witchcraze by Anne L. Barstow

by Anne L. Barstow

As the name, and the cover of the book clearly indicate, this book is about the witch hunts throughout Europe with some mention of those in America. Barstow discusses the past research done on the witch hunts and how it focuses mostly on class issues but does little analysis of gender. The fact is that there is a pattern of class in the witch hunts across the European cultures who had them, but the pattern of gender is just as strong. Barstow seems to subscribe to the idea of intersectionality* that is popular in post modern feminism. These women are poor but they are also women.

She goes into detail about why women are in the position to be persecuted in such a way. This is doe region by reason, taking into account the changes in religious power, economic situations and political power shifts.

Witchcraze is a very entertaining book. She gives plenty of different cases of different women, with actual quotes from historical documents, to keep the book from getting dry. She also describes her ideas clearly and thoroughly. It is very much an over view of the witch hunts, which is a great introduction, but if you want a lot of detail on a specific area, then look elsewhere. All of the areas she covers can get confusing, as the book is organized by topic/issue, rather than by region. She is very clear about when she is switching regions, but they tended to get jumbled in my head. It was a very interesting book. I was especially pleased to see the gender analysis being so prominent.

*Intersectionality – The idea that people’s race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. cannot be teased apart. They are intersecting parts of their identities that affect each other and create that person’s life as a whole. Certain parts of their identities may be emphasized in different arenas of their life, but no matter where a person is they are going to be, for example, a White, working class, gay male who identifies as a man.

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About Tori

I am a graduate student working on my masters in Women and Gender studies. My masters thesis is on the gender nonconformity and ambiguity in modern film.
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One Response to Review: Witchcraze by Anne L. Barstow

  1. steve says:

    This interests me – i’ve had a little contact with people involved in what we call White Magic in the rural UK. Magical practices certainly haven’t died out and one still-active area – Horse Magic – suggests it may not be correct to attribute all witchcraft to women. Until the Industrial Revolution agriculture was the backbone of the economy; most people worked on the land and every farm had teams of horses. Rather like today’s garage mechanic, and possibly the forerunner of the vet, was the local Horse Witch – always a man, with their lore passed from father to son down through the generations. Horse Witches are said to still be used by the racing industry today. I’m not aware that the men experienced the persecution visited upon women but the fact is that their office was firmly established and routinely called upon. Why, I wonder did the men get away with it but women didn’t?

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