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|Print List Price:||£18.99|
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The Demonology of King James I: Includes the Original Text of Daemonologie and News from Scotland Kindle Edition
|Length: 384 pages|
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From the late 1400s to the late 1700s, tens of thousands of people were executed for witchcraft in Europe; the most infamous contemporary book, the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches), was first published in 1486. James I (1566-1625) came along midstream, so to speak. In late 2014, the British media jumped on the discovery of protective witchmarks (hidden scratches made under floorboards, in ceilings joists and within a fireplace) in a bedroom used by James. These would have been created just after James made certain first-time occult practices a capital offence in 1604 (shortly after he became king of England and Ireland) and after the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Macbeth, with its ghost scene and the three witches (or weird sisters), probably written between 1599 and 1606 and first performed in 1611, was consistent with James and the times.
While the Daemonologie in its original and modernized versions and News from Scotland (original and modernized versions as well) make up the bulk of the book, I was mainly interested in the introduction, “James and the Witches” (pp. 1-43) and, particularly, the explanatory notes following each chapter. From those we learn the following, for example:
For Jacobean science, a meteor was any natural atmospheric phenomenon. “There were aerial meteors (winds), aqueous meteors (rain, snow, hail, dew), luminous meteors (rainbows, the aurora, halos), and igneous meteors (lightning, shooting stars).” (pp. 133-134)
“[James] seems to be suggesting that the execution of a witch is a kind of offering to God that will be compensated for by the lifting of the curses placed on the witch’s victims.” (p. 135)
“As far as James was concerned, anyone accused of witchcraft must be guilty, since God would never allow an innocent to be so slandered.” (p. 184)
Thrawing “involved tightening a binding around the head by twisting a stick through it, in a manner similar to a tourniquet.” (p. 207)
The skills of “The Wise Wife of Keith” as both midwife and healer were held in high regard in Edinburgh and the surrounding towns. “One technique she used was to take the disease of the sick person onto herself, then, after suffering with it until the morning, cast it off onto a dog or cat.” (p. 211)
Checking the WorldCat database, it is surprising that only a couple of dozen reporting libraries own this title, with just a smattering of those being academic libraries. Another title that readers may wish to consider is the highly regarded (and quite addictive!) The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland, by Steve Roud.