- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics (September 30, 2014)
- ISBN: 9780143106180
- Source: Publisher
Our country has had a long-lasting obsession with witches, dating back to the infamous Salem witch trials. The animosity and fear toward witches, however, reaches even further back in time. The existence of witches appeared several times in the Bible with vague details about their evil presence. They emerged again in medieval England.
In this treasury of historical accounts, Howe has cultivated a richly detailed volume showing the progression of societies terror for this group of individuals. With excerpts from a witch hunting manual written by King James to transcripts from those accused of witchcraft in Salem,The Penguin Book of Witches is not only a study of our societies fascination with witches but an exploration of how individuals perceived different than the general masses were treated with animosity and horror. Women were accused of witchcraft for the most minor of offenses, including behaving in a manor that strayed from what society deemed normal and appropriate.
While a good portion of this volume deals with the Salem witch trials, Howe also showcases cases of witchcraft not as familiar or renowned. I cringe to thing how modern women would fare if we were held to the same standards as some of these women. It’s probable that the majority of female society would be deemed witches. What is most frightening, however, is how our society still considers it appropriate to control the lives, and bodies, of women.
The Penguin Book of Witches is the perfect sort of book to curl up with on a cool, fall day. While I didn’t read through it in one sitting, I found myself picking it up and reading a section whenever I could find a free moment. Howe kept the formatting of the accounts, not modernizing it in any way, so it does take a bit of concentration to become comfortable with the language and style used. All this said, this was a completely mesmerizing read, wholly fascinating and incredibly informative. Highly, highly recommended.