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Book Review: "Witchcraft: A History in 13 Trials" by Marion Gibson

5/5 - a brilliant look at a dark stain...

By Annie KapurPublished 9 months ago • 3 min read
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Marion Gibson is a professor at the University of Exeter and specialises in Renaissance and Magical Literatures. That alone made me excited to read this book entitled: Witchcraft: A History in 13 Trials. I first imagined it would be like the book The Five and was initially won over by its attention to the lives of the women on trial rather than the men who sought to kill them. Interested as I was, I tried to make this book last over a couple of days instead of reading it in one sitting as I knew it was going to be quite a serious, academic text rather than one that was simply there to be entertaining.

In the first chapter of the book, we get an insight into a woman who was put on trial for being a witch, but we also get a look at her complicated married life, her professional-class last name and her interrogation by the court. One of the things I liked the most about this was the attention paid to the Malleus Maleficarum which is revealed to have been written by one of the men who features in the first chapter. Honestly, I have read parts of the Malleus Maleficarum but I had never really paid too much attention to who it was written by until now. It started to make sense and the author even describes why the book is called 'The Witch's Hammer' - it is quite disgusting and disturbing actually.

Image: The Times

As the book progresses, we are taken through time and country to reveal not only in Germany, but the USA, France and more that witch trials were everywhere and in every age and the women who suffered beneath them suffered horribly and alone. Always as add-ons to a male superior, they were tarnished goods to be sent away to the metaphorical chopping block. From King James I writing Daemonologie right up to the slave trade, the French Revolution and even our own modern day - from tight knit communities and their shocking allegations to a worldwide lust for character destruction - this book pretty much covers every bit of the witch trials and their continuation.

The only part I do not think I understood well enough mainly because I do not know enough about her or the case at hand was the final chapter on the witch trial of Stormy Daniels. Now, I do not live under a rock or on mars so I am aware she exists, but there has been so much talk about her that if I was not confused to begin with (which I was), I am very much confused now (which I am) when it comes to what actually happened concerning her. I think the book does a good job of explaining it but I think I may be at a slight advantage in some respects. Many of the people in this book I have not even heard of and so I reserve my biases and judgements and the same goes for this woman here - I can still reserve judgements because most of what I know about her has come from this book.

But, are witch trials still going on at the moment? Of course they are. It isn't all women either.

Image: National Geographic

I think that this book has been released at a great time. The social media witch trials are becoming evermore prominent and sooner or later, I think that Marion Gibson may have to release a second or even third edition with more chapters. The divisive nature that people bring to arguments can pin the entirety of any situational blame on one person and send an entire army of people with virtiolic hatred their way before or during an actual court of law even picking it up. This is why it is important to reserve judgement, steer clear of biases and be careful with how you interpret facts and fictions.

Marion Gibson's book teaches us the importance of how treading a fine line between being guilty and being thought to be guilty can be not only troublesome for the accused but in some cases, fatal. We should take great care not to come to a conclusion before we have every single fact we can muster. But back in the era of witch hunts, that didn't really matter at all, did it?

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About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

English Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

đź“ŤBirmingham, UK

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