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Witchcraft and Black Magic


IT will be news to many that “the Cult of Satan, stilkembhnsiastically recruiting in every land, has enoraao increased even within the last five and twenty Aears“. All the more reason for a historical demonstration of this thesis. The writer orsJhis book deprecates the “few freakish and facile pens” and the “books made of paste and scissors” which have dealt with it already; but he does not seem to realize how nearly his own pages come into this condemnation. Though he quotes several of the well-known collections of material in his introduction, he seldom gives ‘chapter and verse’ for his statements, and is content, for example (p. 16), with the Daily Telegraph's account of “a much-talked-of case”, in April 1934, when what is expected is at least a reference to the Law Reports: similarly, “a recent writer 1929” is insufficient authority for a dictum about “white witchcraft”. No one doubts (p. 27) that Blackstone (“Commentaries”, 4, 60; 1765) wrote that “to deny the possibility, nay, the actual existence of witchcraft and sorcery is at once flatly to contradict the revealed word of God”, and quoted “examples” and “prohibitory laws” which “at least suppose the possibility of a commerce with evil spirits”; that John Wesley (“Journal”, 1768) rather quaintly wrote that “the giving up of witch craft is in effect giving up the Bible”; that Dean Inge (p. 24), preaching in 1932, had “not the slightest doubt that Christians are enjoined to believe- in a positive, malignant, spiritual power”; or that Dr. Heywood, Bishop of Ely, on June 23, 1938, commeriting on late frosts, thought that “discarnate rebellious spirits may have some temporary and limited power to exercise evil influences in the realm of Nature as they apparently have in the realm of humanity: a belief which the author of this book supports (p. 32), and devotes himself to substantiate. His “Supernatural Omnibus” is in its twentieth thousand. The older witnesses cannot be cross-examined now; but what we want to know is documented experimental detail about “one of the best known figures in the University of Oxford not much more than ten years ago”, who “was commonly believed to entertain a familiar”, and had a spare shadow which vanished if he passed St. Aloysius's or Blackfriars (p. 48). What happened at St. Mary's or the Friends' Meeting House? We look for evidence, likewise, about “Polstead, Suffolk, a district notoriously infested by witches”(p. 49); about Mother Redcap of Horseheath, Cambs., who died in 1926 (Sunday Chronicle, Sept. 9, 1928); or the “famous Paris clairvoyante” (name suppressed), whose familiar “St. Gabriel” foretold a fire at a bazaar (p. 103). Egyptian magic is only illustrated (pp. 109–110) from the British Museum's mummy No. 22542, with the comment that “it is a grievous and a very terrible thing that an exhibition of mummies and mummy-cases is permitted”.

Witchcraft and Black Magic

By Montague Summers. Pp. 228 + 16 plates. (London: Riden and Co., Ltd., 1946.) 28s. net.

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MYRES, J. Witchcraft and Black Magic. Nature 158, 726–727 (1946).

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