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Witchcraft Out of the Shadows: A Complete History [Paperback]

Leo Ruickbie
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

31 Mar 2011
Today witchcraft is on everyone's lips, on television, in film and in literature, but few know, or are even able to guess at, its shadowy history. This in-depth investigation discovers how the ideas we have about witchcraft took shape thousands of years ago in the myths and religions of the ancient world. It also looks at why these ideas were expressed so violently during the era of the witch trials. Finally, it reveals how witchcraft has been transformed into one of the most radical and fastest growing religions of our age - a religion of equality and compassion that still has the power to unsettle even the bravest amongst us. With new analyses, fresh insights and groundbreaking material drawn from the author's doctoral research into the mysticism, magic and social meaning of Wicca, this is the first book to bring witchcraft fully out of the shadows.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd; New edition edition (31 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0709092008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0709092001
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,037,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

"Witchcraft, Wicca, paganism, magic, the occult and the paranormal, these are the things that keep me up at night, discussing them, writing about them and sometimes experiencing them."

Dr Leo Ruickbie holds a doctorate from King's College, London, for his thesis on modern witchcraft and magic, and was awarded a master's from Lancaster University with distinction for his work on the theory of re-enchantment. He is the author of several books including Witchcraft Out of the Shadows: A complete History (Robert Hale, 2004) and Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician (The History Press, 2009). His articles have appeared in Paranormal, Pagan Dawn, Watkins Review and other publications. He is a peer reviewer for JASANAS, the Journal of Alternative Spiritualities and New Age Studies, and has advised the International Society for Human Rights on witchcraft persecution in West Africa. He has also publicly exhibited on the subject of 'La Sorcellerie en France' ('Witchcraft in France') in several towns in France, and runs an educational website based around his published works.

Product Description


Factual and unjudgemental… a fascinating read. I highly recommend this book to anyone with the slightest interest in the "Craft". -- Marty Dodge,, December 3, 2004 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Author

I have written Witchcraft Out of the Shadows to do just that: bring witchcraft out of the shadows of misunderstanding and confusion, to explain its real history and development.

My PhD work at King's College, London, took modern witchcraft as a test case for analysing Max Weber's sociological theory of disenchantment and developing a counter theory of re-enchantment. My findings on the nature of magic, mystical experience, ritual activity, conceptualization of deity and the demographics of those involved refuted many of the existing stereotypes and provided new insights into scientifically uncharted areas. It was these important findings that I wanted to take from the narrow academic world to a wider audience, to share what I had found.

But this was only part of the story. The history and sociology of witchcraft has tended to concentrate on the late Medieval and Early Modern period, the so-called Witch-Craze - the age of burnings, hangings, trials and torture. It is an important period, but this over-emphasis has produced a distorted picture of the phenomenon of witchcraft.

With Witchcraft Out of the Shadows I have re-analysed and re-interpreted the history of witchcraft, recovering long ignored material from Ancient Greece and Northern Europe, and have placed my PhD research findings in a broader historical context.

So it was with a sense of discovery, of finding a new place in that 'other country' of history, that I started writing the book and with the enthusiasm of an explorer back from exotic lands that I want now to tell what I have found. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant work! 1 Mar 2006
By A Customer
Dr Leo Ruickbie is to be congratulated on undertaking such an extensive work and on the skill with which he condenses millennia and simplifies complex historical processes into an understandable and readable book. This book is an intelligent and highly accomplished addition to the subject written by one of the leading experts in the field – from his excellent website I have learned that Ruickbie has been awarded a doctorate from King’s College for the work on which this book is, in part, based.
Witchcraft and Heresy
On pages 66-70 Ruickbie explores the development of ‘heretical witchcraft’. He begins by quoting from the Malleus Maleficarum, the Inquisition’s handbook of witch persecution: ‘Those who try to induce others to perform such evil wonders are called witches […] such persons are plainly heretics.’ His argument is that heresy and witchcraft became linked in the Inquisitor’s mind and therefore played a fundamental role in the development of the persecution of witchcraft. He does not, as one reviewer suggests, say that the two are the same, in particular, he does not say that Catharism and witchcraft are the same, but that they were described in similar ways by the authorities that persecuted them. This is a big difference and shows Ruickbie’s keen insight into the development of the persecution of witchcraft. There is no sheer conjecture here as Ruickbie carefully documents the material linking the two views and cites other authorities on the history of witchcraft to support his well-presented argument.
Witchcraft and Freemasonry
Gerald Gardner’s connection with Freemasonry is, as Ruickbie demonstrates, beyond question.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
What a great educational book on the history of witchcraft. While it is not a real page turner, it is a very interesting book to read and learn from. I am very glad to have it in my library.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intelectual integrity 22 Feb 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have read this book twice and I agree with other reviewers that Leo Ruickbie's book is a welcome addition to our library of witchcraft knowledge. But with caution. My enjoyment of the book started to wane when I noted a number of errors.
His claim that witchcraft and heresy are irrefutably linked (Ch3 page67) seems to be a rather presumptious statement. His attempt to link Catharism with Witchraft is pure conjecture and extremely unlikely because the two systems of thought are completely irreconcilable. His statements about Cathar belief is straight out of the Inquisitors mouth, and is not supported by modern researchers nor indeed by any of their original scriptures that have survived to this day. Indeed the things he says the Cathars practiced are very much the same that the Catholic Church said of us during the burning times.
The next dissapointment can be found in chapter 5 (page 116).
Here he is showing his lack of knowledge concerning the structure of Freemasonry. He refers to the Masonic lodge that Gerald Gardiner joined in Ceylon (Sphinx Lodge -Indian Constitution)as operating "three degrees of initition called Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master. I have been a Freemason for over 30 yrs and have yet to be in a lodge which refers to the second degree has anything other than "Fellowcraft", or indeed the comment on page 118 where Leo Ruickbie incorrectly states that the Royal Arch is the highest degree in Masonry. There is no higher degree in Freemasonry than that of Master Mason.
The Royal Arch degree is one of many so-called "red" degrees as apposed to the three "blue" degrees of Craft Masonry.
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