Witchcraft

I've seen many books about witchcraft written by Christians that are paranoid, hysterical, and irresponsible in their particular brand of wish-fulfillment and confirmation bias. Witchcraft by Charles Williams is not one of them. With his typical erudition, Williams lays out the history of magic and witchcraft, both real and imagined, and the Church's response to these ideas through the ages. The reader emerges with a sympathetic understanding of the witch-hysteria of the late Middle Ages, while at the same time realizing the horror and evil that were accomplished in the name of Christ.

I particularly found it interesting that at least a few of the cases seemed to have a factual bases. Witchcraft in some form was real and its practitioners, whether following some ancient rites or merely enacting the images popularly attributed to the magic arts, committed stomach-turning atrocities that will make even the most hardened reader blanch. The two stories from the book which stand out in my mind as best illustrating these two sides to the issue are the twin cases of Joan of Arc and Gilles de Rais. Both were condemned and executed around the same time in France. Saint Joan was clearly innocent. de Rais was clearly, and grotesquely, guilty.

Unlike some of Williams's writings, Witchcraft is eminently readable. Like all of Williams's writings, it is highly engaging and thought-provoking. Even for those who are not particularly interested in the subject matter, the book is worth the read for the observations of human nature which go a long way in explaining, not only medieval witch hunts, but also our modern cultural "witch hunts".

Comments

Erica said…
Of course witchcraft is real! Have you read those horrible Potter books? Who teaches young children to fly on brooms? Blasphemy!