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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant work!
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...
Published on 1 Mar 2006

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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intelectual integrity
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...
Published on 22 Feb 2006 by E. Frankland


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant work!, 1 Mar 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: Witchcraft Out of the Shadows: A Complete History (Hardcover)
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. It is important to point out that Gardner was involved in Freemasonry more than 30 years ago and with a number of orthodox and unorthodox branches of it. Ruickbie defers to the authority of the occult historian Andre Nataf who clearly describes the three degrees of the Blue Lodges to which Gardner belonged as Apprentice, Journeyman and Master. That ‘Journeyman’ can also be referred to as ‘Fellow Craft’ is a small point. Again Ruickbie does not claim that the Royal Arch degree is the highest attainable in the Blue Lodges on p. 118 – he has just stated that Master is the highest on p. 116. There is nothing inaccurate here. The governing body of Freemasonry in England, Wales and the Channel Islands – the United Grand Lodge of England – officially recognises the Royal Arch as a degree above the basic three-fold system. What Ruickbie convincingly shows here is how Gardner’s involvement with Freemasonry structured his later organisation of Wicca and potential readers should not be put off by one reviewer’s storm in a teacup.
Witchcraft Today
I found the third part of the book exploring witchcraft today to be utterly unlike anything I have come across before. There is so much new information here, carefully analysed and discussed, that it is worth paying twice as much for these chapters alone. But taken as a whole, this book provides the most insightful history of witchcraft that I have read to date.
It would be presumptuous to criticise such academically rigorous work and indeed I - as an historian specialized in the middle ages - can find no fault with it. The breadth of knowledge displayed in Witchcraft Out of the Shadows and the elegance of style with which it is written make this a welcome change from the usual plethora of books on witchcraft. This is a book worth buying, worth reading and re-reading. Like me you will refer to it often and look forward to reading more from this refreshing new writer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great educational book on the history of witchcraft., 28 Oct 2010
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Mrs. Alice S. Franceschini (Petaluma, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Witchcraft Out of the Shadows: A Complete History (Hardcover)
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
By 
E. Frankland (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Witchcraft Out of the Shadows: A Complete History (Hardcover)
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. All the so called "Red" degrees, operate under their own various constitutions and are not officially connceted to the Craft degrees although many freemasons are members of many of them. If the author had talked to a Freemason during his research for the book he would not have made such a glaring error.
My concern with the book is where I see such obvious errors and presumptious statements stated as fact, on subjects with which I am conversant, that I have to doubt the integrity of the rest of the book on matters that I have to accept on trust that they are correct.
On the positive side, the book is written in an inteligent way but just because it seems scholarly does not mean that it can be relied upon for sound information. I would advise caution if you are looking for a diffinitive history of Witchcraft. I think that is yet to come.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first book to bring witchcraft out of the shadows, 23 Jun 2004
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This review is from: Witchcraft Out of the Shadows: A Complete History (Hardcover)
This is an incredible book: once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. Leo has a great, highly readable style with which he manages to convey a lot of information. The book is divided into three sections. The first deals with the beginnings of witchcraft in the ancient world and how it developed through the Dark and Middle Ages up to the Early Modern period. There's masses of information on Hecate, for example, that I just haven't found anywhere else. The second part deals with the origins of modern witchcraft, the influence of the Golden Dawn, the role of Aleister Crowley and the part played by Gerald Gardner. The chapter on Gardner is pure genius. There's a complete break down and analysis of the Book of Shadows. Gardner is totally dissected! The third part is all about witches today: who they are, what they do and why they do it. Most of this stuff is from Leo's unpublished PhD research. He ends with an analysis of the crisis facing Christianity in the West and discusses an exciting new development that he calls re-enchantment. My favourite chapter was the one on magic. It gives you such an amazing insight into how witches define and use magic, and the effect it has on them. Finally, the book lives up to its title. This book really does bring witchcraft out of the shadows. And did I mention there is also a website to go with it. It all adds up to quite a package. I'm impressed.
Witchcraft Out of the Shadows is on the reading list at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and it should be on your bookshelf too.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It has its merits, 10 Oct 2010
This review is from: Witchcraft Out of the Shadows: A Complete History (Hardcover)
I am not completely convinced by this book. It was as if it was trying to be another Triumph of the Moon by Hutton. It is a useful companion read to that book however, but I am not sure that I would go as far as to recommend it. I think its worth reading if you are truly interested in different perspectives and the few extra snippets that the author has to offer. The kind of book I would have been happier to have borrowed from a friend or library, instead of spending money on it. But it has its merits, so thus ***
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice try, but shows a lack of knowledge and much misinformation, 8 July 2009
This review is from: Witchcraft Out of the Shadows: A Complete History (Hardcover)
This book showed promise. A nice hardback, showing a history of witchcraft, both the historical practices in Europe, and the Neopagan religion, is something that would have been very useful.

The only problem is, Ruickbie seems to not know his facts. I am no expert in European witchcraft, so I have no idea how accurate his claims here were. However, his claims regarding the rise of Neopagan religion are full of innacuracies.

Ruickbie, whilst dismissing almost everything Gardner says as a lie, makes a great deal of the fact that Gardner once mentioned in the Bracelin biography that he had been a Freemason in Sri Lanka, and that this was a HUGE influence on the future Gardnerian Craft. The problem that arises here however is that research has shown that Gardner never was a member of the Masonic Lodge - Ruickbie has based an awful lot of the basis of his ideas upon a falsity.

Ruickbie also completely ignores all the vitally important research of Philip Heselton (see his "Wiccan Roots" from 2000 and "Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration" from 2003), despite his book being published in 2004 - Ruickbie simply hasn't looked at the research material in writing his book.

In all, this book is a shame. If Ruickbie had a better understanding of the subject matter upon which he was writing this could have been a very good book. Ruickbie might be a good sociologist, but he is no great historian.
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Witchcraft Out of the Shadows: A Complete History
Witchcraft Out of the Shadows: A Complete History by Leo Ruickbie (Hardcover - 29 Oct 2004)
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