I’ve always had a fascination with the supernatural, having lived in a number of places that can only be called ‘haunted’ and had numerous events in my life which I genuinely have no explanation for other than being ‘other-worldly’ it’s something that has been a constant companion throughout my life, which is one reason I picked up Witchcraft: A Secret History by freelance writer and journalist, Michael Streeter.
Witchcraft: A Secret History takes the reader not only through the history of Witchcraft but also dispels some of the myths surrounding it, in particular those surrounding the self-styled “Wickedest Man In The World”, Aleister Crowley, who is given only the briefest of mentions. The book’s timeline takes us back through the earliest days of history to Sumer and a winged demon called Lilitu who came to be known as Lillith in the Hebrew texts through to the pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses and how these earliest figures became incorporated within the Greek and Roman pantheons and their various mythologies, at the same time looking over to Western Europe and the Norse and ancient gods of the Druids, of which some of these beliefs still survive today. One of the main aspects throughout the book was the focus on the goddess aspect and its influence on the rise of feminism throughout the ages.
Broken down into 3 parts ranging from the earliest days to the modern world Witchcraft: A Secret History presents the history of the subject in small easily digestible parts, which makes the book easily accessible to anyone even mildly interested and for those with a deeper interest looking for something more referable. The earliest looks at the ancient through the early days of Christianity and the medieval period which saw the growth of Christianity and its effects upon Witchcraft and pagan religions. The second part focuses predominantly on the rise of Christianity and the tragedy which encapsulated the witch trials of that era, also known as The Burning Times, which have been highlighted through the acts of the self-styled ‘Witchfinder General’ Mathew Hopkins who saw to the deaths of numerous so-called witches in the mid-seventeenth century and culminating with the tragedy of Salem, which in many ways saw the beginning of the end of witch trials, not only to avert from such a thing happening again but as science sought more natural answers. The third part is good at witchcraft in the modern world and the Wicca religion which has grown since the mid-twentieth century.
Witchcraft: A Secret History is a highly enjoyable book that treats the subject with the respect it deserves. While it is useful to remind ourselves that men were also persecuted through its history it is women who suffered far worse, mainly due to the misguided patriarchy which deemed them in league with the devil in the early ages. Streeter acknowledges this and gives due homage to those women who not only suffered but also spearheaded the movement in many ways to become the primary leaders within witchcraft and the Wicca religion. who without the goddesses, such as Isis and Diana would likely not have achieved to survive and give strength to both women and men to the modern-day.
• Witchcraft: A Secret History by Michael Streeter is published by White Lion (£14.99). To order a copy go to www.quartoknows.com
Founder and Editor of Pilgrim House, currently undertaking a research degree at Bangor University and working on a book on Folklore and early Welsh Christianity. Tom’s other work on music, poetry, health along other writings and images can be found at tomasstanger.com