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Witch: The Wild Ride from Wicked to Wicca [Hardcover]

Candace Savage
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The witch has always been a figure electric with possibility and, sometimes, with menace. A legendary shapeshifter, she has recast her image to fulfil the dreams and nightmares of each passing century. She is the devouring mother, the vengeful wife, the possessed devil worshipper, the resentful old hag and the high priestess. Yet throughout her proud and painful history, she has remained shrouded in mystery. This book views her portrayal from 15th century Europe to the present day and includes literary and visual representations of witchcraft.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Greystone Books, Ltd (2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1550548018
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550548013
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 18 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,806,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Candace Savage is the author of numerous intemationally acclaimed books, including Beauty Queens, Cowgirls, Aurora and Bird Brains. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well written and somewhat eye opening book 2 Jan 2002
By A Customer
I have read many books about Wicca, many by the famous Wiccan authors and have always wanted to know how it all began and how Witches have been so wrongly portrayed throughout history. This book tells you just that. It is well written, starting with "how it all began" and progressing all the way through to the modern day, punctuated with some wonderful images, consisting of paintings and pictures throughout history which only add substance to the text. Overall I learnt a great deal and anyone wanting to know the real origin as far as the "history books" are concerned will be extremely pleased that they bought this book. Factual and informative, as you would expect from the British Museum Press.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Appallingly incorrect!!! 5 Sep 2007
For a hardback lavishly illustrated book I was very surprised at the excellent price. I expected high quality from this publisher and to all intents and purposes this book provided it, or so I thought. I enjoyed four of the long chapters although I did chringe at some of the more appalling 'american' terms used within the book, they really irritated me and made it seem almost immature. The chapters, Secrets of a Shapeshifter, Conjuring a Nightmare, Old Wives Tales and Romancing the Witch often gave different outlooks and opinions on the causes and problems of the ideas and trials of a witch even though this is clearly written from a feminist point of view it was still interesting. The book is brightly coloured through out, illustrations are of woodcuts, paintings, pictures, photographs and are nicely presented and printed with clarity unlike some books. I found it to be informative, and will use some of the stories mentioned to look into other areas and cases of witch trials although some of the interpretations I found to be unusual.

I was finding the book to be fairly good right until I got to to the last chapter being number five, which was called Lifting the Curse which was when it all fell apart. I was aware that the author was American, I was not aware however that she would use the American interpretation of 'wicca' to mean all witchcraft of today, in particular she believes that is a predominantly female movement, and her biggest mistake from which I am still reeling is that in this section that purports to be about Wicca today, has no mention of Gerald Gardner whatsoever. The father of Wicca is not mentioned which I find astounding.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Feminist View of Witches 23 Nov 2000
By R. Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Candace Savage's succinct history of witches, _Witch: The Wild Ride from Wicked to Wicca_ shows a real enthusiasm for her subject. It is also a fine history of how curiously people have behaved when confronting the supposed supernatural, and how fashions can change our view of history. Savage shows that black magic was for millennia subject to legal prosecution, but that the medieval church wasn't particularly worried about black magic or the women who supposedly practiced it. Priests who heard reports from women who said they had flown during the night and taken part in satanic rituals were encouraged to maintain disbelief. Reasonable men were not to take such things seriously. One priest of the time wrote of such dreams, "Who is imbecile enough to imagine that such things, seen only in the mind, have a bodily reality?" The church itself lapsed in its wise toleration when it opposed a couple of dissident sects in France around 1400. The sects allowed women to administer baptisms and so on, so in prosecution, the church tortured them until it got confessions of copulating with the devil, riding broomsticks, and eating infants. Witches were seen everywhere if something bad happened; they sowed disease and discord; they were the Devil in female shapes; they were Public Enemy Number One.
Against the wishes of many Bible believers, the image of the witch was changed during the enlightenment from a vicious devil-worshiper to a foolish little old lady. Still later they became the subjects of children's literature and cautionary lessons about what roles women really should fulfill. Finally, through the faulty scholarship of one Margaret Murray they were erroneously revealed as priestesses practicing an age-old pagan cult and proudly defying the Christian church. Scholars agree there was no such organized religion practiced by witches, but of course that doesn't matter. Savage shows in this profusely illustrated book that whether we need a scapegoat on whom to blame barrenness, a negative role model with which to warn our children, or a high priestess of cultural renewal, the image of the witch will always be there to scare or inspire, reinforcing the regrettable idea that there is something anomalous, something otherworldly, something not quite human, about a powerful woman.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, but worth the read. 25 Oct 2000
By Jeremiah Wolfe - Published on Amazon.com
When I picked up this book I was expecting a history of witchcraft from an occult prospective. I was not expecting an examination of the Archetypal female witch through history from a feminist point of view. Despite my wrong expectations, I found this book to be extremely fascinating. The author follows the evolution of society's perception of the witch and how these perceptions helped to shape the roles of women. The material is presented is well written and insightful. The author's conversational style of writing draws the reader in, as she guides us through this sometimes-gruesome sometimes-funny history. While it is too short to a "definitive work," it does present all the information someone with a casual interest would want. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this work and recommend it.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dead right..... 21 July 2001
By Dianne Foster - Published on Amazon.com
The cover of WITCH by Candace Savage depicts a motly assortment of characters terrorizing a frightened youth. The scene is a reproduction of "The Spell" by Goya, who painted it in 1797 at the height of the witch craze. The picture shows a conjurer in a yellow robe bending over a youth in white. A group of old hags in the background (presumeably witches) are dressed in black. Icons in the painting include the traditional witch imagery of owl-light, bat-wing, and mangled bablies.
WITCH is an extremely well-written and concise account of the "witch" story in the west. To label the book as a "feminist" tract is misleading, and a not so subtle manner of saying it is second-rate. WITCH provides the lay person with a solidly written and historically researched account. Many longer and more scholarly accounts by male historians tell the same tale in much more detail. WITCH is not propaganda, nor is it biased by a political agenda. The book is written for the layperson who does not wish to wade through the thousands of tomes written on this subject. Savage provides a nice bibliography if you wish to know more. She has sourced and cited her study from beginning to end. One drawback is that her work is based on secondary research, so if a primary source has an error she repeats it--but she cites the source so you can go to the original if you have a question.
WITCH is an art book filled with beautiful drawings, paintings and depictions of witches and their trials and tribulations over the past 500 years. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Other societies had/have witches, but the witch in the West is a direct out-growth of an amalgam of beliefs associated with the Bible. One of the most important points Savage makes is that the "witch craze" did not take place in the Middle Ages as most believe. The persecution of witches by the Roman Catholic Church was incidental. The Church was after heretics--such as the Cathars and Waldensians. Think of it as bringing in Al Capone for tax evasion. Witchcraft was a means to an end. The fact that the accused eschewed orthodoxy was the real issue.
Savage says, "The Reformation began as a movement to cleanse the church of "pagan" superstition. Christianity had been corrupted by Satan, the Protestants said, and they found his mark even on the Mass..." Savage reiterates what many historians point out...the worst persecutions of "witches" took place after the Protestant Reformation, and in predominantly Protestant countries. One-half of all the people executed for witchcraft died in Protestant Germany. Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland were dangerous places for old ladies with no friends. The night Shakespeare's play "MacBeth" opened in England, and three witches stirred their cauldron on stage, people were being burned and hung for witchcraft all over Europe.
When the average person pictures a witch s/he visualizes a woman with a pale skin wearing a tall hat and flowing black cape--the typical dress of the 16th Century Puritan. In his painting "The Fight Between Carnival versus Lent" painted at the height of the Reformation, Brueghel depicts a "mock" battle in the foreground with colorfully arrayed miscreants ready for sin while the forces of repression dressed in black flood into the background.
Savage covers the story of witches into the 19th and 20th centuries, where behaviour once categorized as evil became "sick" or demented. Freud and his friends soon determined that much of the "hysteria" of the witch craze was a form of projection.
By the 20th Century, new targets of victimizaton were at hand in the form of Communists and others deemed "evil" by the established forces and folks lost interest in witches. Savage does not explore these other "witch hunts" but rather continues her tale with an overview of modern Wicca. This book is short and to the point and a good synopsis for anyone who wants a brief overview and a lovely work of art.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Witch 21 Sep 2010
By Pam McBrown - Published on Amazon.com
Witch explores the female figure, the witch, from ancient times to modern day Wicca. Savage connects the ideology of the witch to the negative connotations of the female psyche in a patriarchal dominated society. This book is a must read for those interested in female studies.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Valuable for its information on medieval & renaissance witch persecutions; lacking in reference to religious Witchcraft (Wicca) 4 Jan 2006
By DeerWoman - Published on Amazon.com
(It should be noted that this book is almost entirely about historical/anthropological witchcraft; it contains very little information relating to modern Neo-Pagan religious Witchcraft and/or Wicca.)

'Witch: The Wild Ride from Wicked to Wicca' is an engrossing, entertaining, and lavishly-illustrated essay which aims to trace the figure of the witch from the middle ages to modernity. Although it is in large part scholarly and well-researched (it is published by the British Museum Press after all), it is still highly accessible as a leisurely read.

There is definitely a woman-centered focus to the work, but while the lens through which the author approaches the material is often palpable, it is understandable and even justifiable by the nature of the historical information itself. The branders of witches and witch-hunters themselves specifically targeted women, and they promoted a worldview which demeaned women as spiritually weak and morally inferior to men, viewing females as agents used to taint the more righteous gender. The primary resources of that era makes those ideas quite clear. The quintessential witch is always envisioned as female. And, of course, the proportion of women arrested, tortured, and/or killed under pretense of witchcraft verses that of men is undeniable. Thankfully though, the author does not go so far as to paint the witch persecutions as the "women's holocaust" and she rightfully identifies the figure of nine million individuals killed during the infamous "Burning Times" to be inaccurate. Overall, I found it to be a highly enjoyable, informative book, however, it definitely has its faults.

The author asserts that medieval intellectuals and theologians essentially invented the witch as a diabolical threat to the order of the Christian universe in order to deliberately accomplish certain social and political goals: "For a start, this scholarship suggests that the idea of the female witch was largely the work of spin doctors. Rather than emerging authentically from medieval folk culture, the witch was the brain child of theologians, lawyers, and other intellectuals who (with the deepest sincerity) conjured her up to satisfy their own political and cultural needs."(9) While the author certainly presents ample evidence that those intellectuals did give the specter of the witch greater definition as an individual who had made a pact with Satan to obtain supernatural powers, fully outlining her role, her habits, her demeanor as well as how to deal with her upon capture (even artificially projecting their definition onto the distant past), they could not have invented the witch whole cloth. I found it odd that there was no mention of etymology whatsoever, even when the modern religious incarnations of Witchcraft as a constellation of Neo-Pagan belief systems are briefly touched-upon. The word "Wicca" is simply thrown into the mix in the last chapter without any sort of background information as to the origin of the word and its original meaning as the Old English word for witch (specifically a male witch as a female witch was referred to as a wicce). No real effort is made to discern what "witch" implied before said paranoid, misogynist intellectuals took hold of it in the dark ages to mark a peculiar sort of heretic. They did not invent a word to label her from thin air, so there must have been some raw materials, however nebulous, to work with in the first place. Unfortunately, Savage does not even attempt to investigate that material; she only accompanies the witch from the middle ages onward, and the middle ages, understandably so, occupy the majority of her attention.

Another significant disappointment arises in the last chapter where the author hopes to address contemporary Neo-Pagan religious Witchcraft. While the previous chapters show signs of rigorous research on the author's part (evidenced by the bibliography and quotations from primary source material), the last chapter seems to have fallen by the wayside. Her overview of the modern Witchcraft movement is regrettably simplistic and one-sided, and in this particular case her chosen feminist lens proved to be extremely exclusionary of fundamental information which did not tie in nicely with the woman-centered thread of her book. For instance, she defines Wicca as "feminist witchcraft" and considers it only as a dimension of the "feminist spirituality movement." Her quoted primary source material on religious modern Witchcraft stems from only two books, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess: 20th Anniversary Edition and Dreaming the Dark : Magic, Sex, and Politics, which are by the very same author no less. While there is most certainly a very strong feminist current to some modern forms of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, including some strands of Dianic Wicce which are explicitly women-only groups and Starhawk's own ecofeminist Reclaiming Tradition, it is inaccurate and short-sighted to label the entirely of Witchcraft as simply a permutation of "feminist spirituality." One gets the impression from her writing that Witchcraft in the modern religious sense only arose in the late 1960's and early 1970's, a suggestion that is at least a decade too late. She completely ignores the true roots of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft in what is referred to these days as British Traditional Wicca, and absolutely no mention is made of important (male) individuals including Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders, Robert Cochrane, Raymond Buckland, etc. The omission of Gardner is especially grave since she devotes an entire chapter to Margaret Murray's thesis; I would have imagined that Savage would have turned up some information on him if only because Murray wrote the foreword to Gardner's seminal book Witchcraft Today. One might also think that since Savage was familiar with Ronald Hutton's books Stations of the Sun and The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy, both of which she cites under the heading "Witches and (Neo)Pagans," that she would also be aware of his highly relevant The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, but apparently not . I was also puzzled by the fact that significant works of literature relating to witchcraft including Leland's ARADIA: Gospel of the Witches and Michelet's 'La Sorcière' were only mentioned in very brief captions and not within the bulk of the text itself.

Despite these drawbacks though, 'Witch' is still a worthwhile, concise overview of the witch in history. It is especially valuable for the information it provides on the medieval and renaissance witch persecutions.
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