Current Issue Abstracts

Volume 17, Number 1, Spring 2022



New Approaches to Witchcraft Histories: A Celebration of the Work of Ronald Hutton
Laurel Zwissler, Michael Ostling

Professor Ronald Hutton (Professor of History at University of Bristol, Fellow of the British Academy in Archeology and Early Modern History) is a preeminent historian of religion, magic, and witchcraft across a broad swath of time, from ancient practices through early modern demonology to contemporary instantiations. Over the course of his career, he has joined rigorous historical method and engagement with diverse disciplines, including archeology, folklore, ritual studies, and anthropology. Moreover, his interests in continuities and evolutions in religious categories, worldviews, and practices have put him in productive conversation with contemporary practitioners of new religious movements, including Paganism, Shamanism, and feminist Witchcraft. As the pieces gathered here attest, he is widely appreciated not only for his many historical contributions, but for his active generosity and openness to multiple viewpoints 

The Man with the Waistcoat and Cravat: Ronald Hutton's Contributions to Anthropology, Folklore, and Pagan Studies

Sabina Magliocco


Decolonial Magic: Africana Religions in America and the Work of Ronald Hutton
Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh


Writing in a Field with Many Audiences, Outlooks, and Opinions: Celebrating the Work of Dr. Ronald Hutton
Chris Miller


The Witch as Invention and as Archetype: Hutton's Heraclitan Historiography
Michael Ostling


History as Anthropological Time-Travel: The Work of Ronald Hutton
Laurel Zwissler


Ronald Hutton


Albert the Great on Revelatory Dreaming and Prophecy: Making Magic Theological with Pseudo-Dionysius
Athanasios Rinotas

The medieval philosopher Albert the Great (ca. 1200-1280) dealt with the topics of revelatory dreaming and prophecy in a number of his works. The aim of this paper is to show how Albert worked to develop a "grand unified theory" of prophecy, drawing together naturalized ideas of foreseeing possible to human cognition with the faculty of prophecy as he knew it from the Bible and the Church fathers. This article shows how Albert treats revelatory dreaming in tandem with prophecy; he relies on natural features of light and "species" to explain how prophets saw the future in the "mirror of eternity," structuring a unifying theory of prophecy depicted especially in his commentary on the Pseudo-Dionysius corpus and De somno et vigilia (On sleep and waking).

The "Spiritualized Devil": Practical Demonology and Protestant Doctrines in Scottish Witchcraft Confessions
Ciaran Jones

Histories of the Devil in the Scottish witch trials have often focused on the confessions of accused witches and have tended to center on notions of practical demonology, that is beliefs about the Devil and witches that surfaced during the interrogation process. But the Devil of practical demonology was only one permutation of wider Christian demonic belief. Drawing on Christina Larner's idea of "the new popular demonic," recent studies of English and German witchcraft confessions, and several overlooked anecdotal narratives in manuscript and printed Scottish witchcraft confessions, this article argues that the doctrines of total depravity and mental temptation extended to the legal environment of the interrogation, and even influenced some accused witches' understanding of the Devil. By exploring Protestant spirituality in accused witches' confessions, this article works to develop a better understanding of how ordinary parishioners expressed orthodox Christian knowledge about the Devil.

Witch in the Scales: Bible Weighing in England and America
Simon Young

This article looks at a score of English and American records from the early 1700s to the early 1800s involving Bible weighing. This was an ordeal by which a suspected witch was weighed against a church Bible: if the suspect proved heavier than the Bible he or she was judged to be innocent; if lighter guilty. Taken together, our sources allow for a reconstruction of the mechanics of a test which was kinder to accused witches than swimming or other ordeals.. Despite taking place after the end of the British and American witchcraft trials, Bible weighing sometimes involved the guiding hand of the local authorities – secular or ecclesiastical. Indeed, it is argued that Bible weighing was well-suited to the period after the end of the legal persecution of witches. The origins of Bible weighing are not known: England, Germany or the Lowlands are suggested as possibilities.

Specter Haunting the Study of Spiritualism
Sam Stoeltje

In a 2015 article, "Toward a Critical Hauntology: Bare Afterlife and the Ghosts of Ba Chúc," anthropologist Martha Lincoln and religious studies scholar Bruce Lincoln made a provocative intervention into the scholarly trend describing itself as "hauntology." They argued that practitioners of "hauntology"—a concept, or deconstructive non-concept, originating in Jacques Derrida's Specters of Marx—have limited themselves in their dedication to "literary" or "imaginary" or "figural," or in the authors' ultimate schema, "secondary haunting," found in, for example, novels and films, as opposed to what they term "primary haunting."


Eternal Light and Earthly Concerns: Belief and the Shaping of Medieval Society by Paul Fouracre (review)
John H. Arnold


A Defence of Witchcraft Belief: A Sixteenth-Century Response to Reginald Scot's 'Discoverie of Witchcraft.' ed. by Eric Pudney (review)
Stuart Clark


The Magic of Rogues: Necromancers in Early Tudor England by Frank Klaassen and Sharon Hubbs Wright (review)
Carole M. Cusack


Jacob Böhme and His World ed. by Bo Andersson et al. (review)
Timothy Grieve-Carlson


The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp by Mira Ptacin (review)
Jade Hagan


Christian Sorcerers on Trial: Records of the 1827 Osaka Incident by Fumiko Miyazaki et al. (review)
Avery Morrow


Cursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern Times by Thomas Waters (review)
Stanislav Panin


Take Back What the Devil Stole: An African American Prophet's Encounters in the Spirit World by Onaje X. O. Woodbine (review)
Taylor Tate