Educational - Read it!,
This review is from: Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England (Penguin History) (Paperback)
Firstly, I would like to say that one reason that I like to write reviews of books is that it helps me to summarise what I have read and thereby clarify in my own mind what I have learned.
I was drawn to Religion and the Decline of Magic as it was mentioned in the bibliography of a work on 18th century British society and crime and grabbed my attention. The main headings are Religion, Magic, Astrology, Prophecies, Witchcraft and Allied beliefs - ie Ghosts, Fairies and Superstitions; and the book attempts to analyse these areas in 16th and 17th century England.
Well, my verdict is generally positive. I feel that the time I have invested in reading this book has been well spent and that I am in some ways better equipped to understand the sometimes enigmatic aspects of our society. After all, there is no better way of trying to make sense of the human condition than to go back and examine our behaviour in the past. So if you are the investigative type and are interested in researching our social history, then this is in my opinion a book worth reading. I will refrain from commenting on the substance of this work. Personally I feel that matters of religion and superstition are essentially subjective and that everyone will draw his or her own conclusions. This book serves to highlight the evolution of religion and other beliefs/superstitions as far as the historical record will allow. One thread which runs throughout is that `Religion, astrology and magic all purported to help men with their daily problems by teaching them how to avoid misfortune and how to account for it when it struck.` And this of course persists to this day albeit more for the former than for astrology or magic. However, it would be perhaps premature to dismiss the latter two as extinct. Perhaps those intellectuals who began to drop astrology in the latter stages of the 17th century would be surprised at its persisting popular appeal into the 21st.
This is a fairly long book but I did not really find any of the content misplaced and in a way the volume had a more pervasive effect on me than I might have expected. And a little humour...`A puritan minister was said in 1618 to have hurled curses from the pulpit at those who walked out of his lengthy sermons`.