Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath


Readers of London pal, Ethan Doyle White's, blog Albion Calling, may have seen the recent interview with Professor Ronald Hutton there in which he, among other things, discusses his book on Shamanism. He says there were two reasons why he wrote a book on Shamanism, the second reason being "Carlo Ginzburg's promotion of a universal archaic shamanism as a key influence on early modern images of witchcraft." We all know who Carlo Ginzburg is, right? Author of books useful to modern Witches such as The Night Battles, originally published under the title I benandanti, and particularly Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath, originally published as Storia notturna: Una decifrazione del Sabba.

Ginzburg's work is often cited by Pagans as some sort of "proof" regarding Witches that counters Hutton's and other sceptical Witchcraft historians' work. But there is no need to polarise the approaches. It's not really an "either-or" situation. Historians of Witchcraft - including Ginzburg - are discussing this, that is Ginzburg's theories of Witchcraft, and there are published results from the Harvard Colloquium Nocturnal Histories: Witchcraft and the Shamanic Legacy of Pre-Christian Europe. I have a copy of this if anyone wants it.

The history of Witchcraft is an ongoing project, and as you can see from Hutton's latest interview there is some pretty interesting scholarship fermenting away right now at Bristol. (Can't wait for that!) Anyway, the main purpose of this blog post is to direct readers to an interesting review essay on Ginzburg by Perry Anderson at the London Review of Books (yes its old, but still worthwhile to get an understanding of Ginzburg's methodology), also a review of Storia Notturna (from 1990, and only partial unless you subscribe, but still interesting). 

9 comments:

Peter Muise said...

Caroline, I would love a copy of the Harvard proceedings if you still have that available! My email address is listed on my blog.

Phantasm - Jasmine said...

I would love a copy as well. I really appreciate your generosity. :)

Caroline Tully said...

Peter, I've sent you a copy, but Jasmine I can't find your email address.

~Caroline.

Anonymous said...

Were the Harvard proceedings published in some forum, or are you referring to some more informal product?

Thanks!

Caroline Tully said...

Yes, the Harvard proceedings were published here:

Antiquity / Volume 84 / Issue 325 / September 2010, pp 864-879

Witchcraft and Deep Time–a debate at Harvard.

Stephen Mitchella1, Neil Pricea, Ronald Hutton, Diane Purkiss, Kimberley Patton, Catharina Raudvere, Carlo Severia, Miranda Aldhouse-Greena, Sarah Semplea, Aleks Pluskowski, Martin Carver and Carlo Ginzburg.

Abstract

Archaeology, consistently warned off religion by wise old heads, here rushes deeper into the thicket to tackle the thorny topic of ancient witchcraft. The occasion was a seminar at Harvard organised by Stephen Mitchell and Neil Price to mark the twentieth anniversary of Carlo Ginzburg's influential book on the connections between witches and shamanism – and by implication the possible connections with prehistoric ritual and belief. Archaeology was by no means the only voice at the meeting, which was attended by scholars active in history, literature, divinity and anthropology. The discussions revealed much that was entangled in the modern psyche: ‘don't let's tame strangeness’ was one leitmotiv of this stimulating colloquium. A romantic attachment to the irrational is a feature of our time, especially among academics. But maybe taming strangeness is an archaeologist's real job…

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much!

Caroline Tully said...

Do you want me to send you a copy?

Anonymous said...

That is exceedingly kind of you, but there's no need. My university affords me access to Antiquity in electronic form (there's a joke somewhere in that fact...) and I've downloaded a copy. Thank you anyway!

Upnorth Progressive said...

Caroline, I would love a copy of the article, please