Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Witch Craze" Seminar in Australia

Here's an event that makes me wish I lived a little closer to Queensland, Australia than, you know, halfway around the world. Next week the University of Queensland will be hosting an academic seminar at its St. Lucia campus on the "witch craze" that went on in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The seminar will feature Professor Philip Almond from the Centre for the History of European Discourses, who has published several recent books on the subject.

During the period there were many demonic acts reported. On one occasion, a Lancashire Assizes court was told by one young female witness of the involvement of her grandmother and aunt in a sordid tale of murder, cannibalism and sexual misdemeanour.

During the lecture, Professor Almond will provide answers to many of the questions most commonly asked about the period.

Discussion points include Satanic cults, the persecutions of witches, witchcraft and the role and actions of demonologists during the period.

His most recent books in witchcraft and demonology include Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early modern England (2007), The Witches of Warboys (2008), and England's First Demonologist: Reginald Scot and the Discovery of Witchcraft (2011).

His latest book The Lancashire Witches: Politics, Persecution and Murder in Early Modern England will be published in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire witch trials.

So far I haven't had a chance to read up on Almond's work, but from the titles listed it sounds like they cover a lot of interesting material. Most academics who study these persecutions focus on the social forces that led community outsiders to be accused of witchcraft, and there are many countries in the world today where similar forces are still at work and causing a lot of harm. As a magician, I'm also interested in whether or not the accused may have been engaged in esoteric practices that met with disapproval from community and religious leaders - and how well those practices really worked.

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