Current Issue Abstracts

Volume 16, Number 1, SPRING 2021



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The "Urinary Experiment": Material Evidence of Magical Healing in Early Modern England
Annie Thwaite

This article, the second of two parts–the first appearing in MR&W Vol. 15 No. 2 (2020)–examines historical and textual evident concerning some objects known as "witch-bottles," stoneware jugs filled with ingredients, heated, and often concealed as a means of curing bewitchment in early modern England. I here provide a complementary examination of material evidence available from Early Modern Britain and the eastern seaboard of North America, placing these material remains in context of the historical and textual evidence for the healing practice surrounding these objects that was the topic of the first article.

The Magic Serpent German Amulet Rolls in Time of War and Pestilence
Don C. Skemer

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, handwritten amulet rolls in Latin and German were produced and used in Central Europe for many purposes, such as personal protection, military invulnerability, and conjuring spirits. At least fifteen such amulet rolls survive. The article evaluates physical and contextual evidence for these rolls, especially those with known or localizable owners; explores their relationship to the Clavicula Salomonis; and shows how they were designed, produced, and used to meet demand for magic and supernatural power during recurrent waves of war and pestilence.

Male Embodiment of a Female Witch Body: A Hypothesis
Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth

This article addresses Stuart Clark's frequently cited assertion that early-modern demonologists could conceive only of female witches. By keeping to the realm of ideas and early-modern intellectual discourse, as does Clark himself, I suggest that historians are overlooking the subtlety of Clark's position; once this subtlety is recognized, it opens the door to a more nuanced conceptualization of early-modern witchcraft that allows both women and men to be witches even while the witch itself remains female. I will illustrate the utility of considering "witch" as a concept distinct from the person categorized as a witch. In the second part of the essay, I will speculate as to how a person (man or woman) might come to embody the concept of witch. I hypothesize that an invisible female witch body, understood analogously to the early-modern royal body, was what allowed a person to be categorized as a witch. 

The Last Conspiracy: Sabbat, Apocalypse, and Anti-Catholicism in English Demonological Treatises (C. 1587–1648)
Agustin Mendez

The elaborated concept of witchcraft, one of the intellectual foundations of Early Modern European witch-hunts, has frequently been considered marginal or even absent from English elite demonological discourse, which was usually assumed to be a moderate or an incomplete version of the continental theorizations about witches and demons produced during the same period. This article aims to demonstrate that both the core elements of the sabbat stereotype and the belief in the idea of a diabolical conspiracy to overthrow Christian society were crucial to the representation of witchcraft fashioned in English demonological treatises between 1587 and 1648. The use of these ideas in England, however, had distinctive features. I suggest that the intellectual and cultural context of English Reformation, particularly the development of apocalyptic ideas and anti-Catholicism, determined the English conceptualization of witchcraft as a conspiracy.


Magic: A History, from Alchemy to Witchcraft, from the Ice Age to the Present by Chris Gosden (review)
Michael D. Bailey

W.T. Stead: Nonconformist and Newspaper Prophet by Stewart J. Brown (review)
Timothy Grieve-Carlson

Gods and Humans in Medieval Scandinavia. Retying the Bonds by Jonas Wellendorf (review)
Łukasz Hajdrych

Spirit-Filled World: Religious Dis/Continuity in African Pentecostalism by Allan Heaton Anderson (review)
Mookgo Solomon Kgatle

American Indian Medicine Ways: Spiritual Power, Prophets, and Healing ed. by Clifford E. Trafzer (review)
David Martínez

The Witchraft Reader ed. by Darren Oldridge (review)
Michael Ostling

Religious Interaction Ritual: The Microsociology of the Spirit by Scott Draper (review)
Christophe Pons

Invoking the Akelarre: Voices of the Accused in the Basque Witch-Craze, 1609–1614 by Emma Wilby (review)
Amanda L. Scott

Believing in Bits: Digital Media and the Supernatural ed. by Simone Natale and Diana Pasulka (review)
Tommy Symmes