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5.0 out of 5 stars The Rural Shamanic Tradition of NE. Scotland, 21 July 2010
This review is from: Visions of Isobel Gowdie: Magic, Shamanism and Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Scotland (Paperback)
Emma Wilby's masterpiece delves beneath the demonized visions of Isobel Gowdie of Auldearn to find shamanic narratives. Isobel's confessions to witchcraft, given or extracted in 1662, are four of the fullest accounts of popular spirituality of the 17th century. By sifting the evidence and bringing supporting material of shamanic testimony and folk belief, as well as revealing the network of envisioned story, beliefs in spirits of location and faery relationships obtaining at that time, Emma Wilby opens up the reality of vision and dream in the rural community of North-East Scotland, exploring the magical meetings of farming folk and their context, which is set in a time of poltical and religious change in the lives of the rural poor. She explores how Isobel and her neighbours met and how their magic stems from the cunning lore of the land as well as from faery and folk narratives that form a distinct way of bringing comfort, solidarity and neighbourly revenge. Wilby doesn't shirk the clear fact that Isobel and her companions bring harm as well as healing: the dark magic is not cleaned up or glossed over as the fabrication of her interogators who were looking for devilish practices. This book is argued from all sides with clear and non-partisan focus so that the reader is enabled to clear away the imprint of demonic witchcraft and understand the pith of Isobel's confessions in their true context. This book offers 604 pages of revelation for those who have the will and patience to follow a remarkable discovery of the 17th century mind and soul I recommend it highly to all who are interested in the nuts and bolts underpinning shamanic work and ethics. The Vision of Isobel Gowdie is a great corrective to the speculative cognitations of those who are largely ignorant of their ancestral traditions.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not so mad, Isobel!, 15 July 2012
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This review is from: Visions of Isobel Gowdie: Magic, Shamanism and Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Scotland (Paperback)
Following the author's rediscovery of the original confession transcripts, Wilby reappraises documents so strange and perplexing that authors such as Katharine Briggs labelled them as 'strange, mad outpourings'.

Wilby conducts an in-depth analysis of the content of Isobel's testimony, taking an interdisciplinary approach. She separates Isobel's voice and beliefs from those of her interrogators and fuses together a hypothesis based on `dark' shamanism, false-memory generation and mutual-dream experience, along with literature on marriage-covenant mysticism and protection-charm traditions in order to show how Isobel's confessions might have reflected an actual self-identification as a practitioner of harmful magic.
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