A Review of ‘Witchcraft in The Western Tradition’ by Jennifer McNabb

This is a 6 hour lecture by the Great Courses, produced by audible. I listened to it over the last few weeks and was impressed with the lecturer’s knowledge.

This lecture series, contrary to what you’d expect based in the title, is not about witchcraft. It’s actually about the history of witchhunts in the West, starting in the pre-Protestant Era of Christianity and progressing up until the 1990’s, with the Satanic Panic.

What this lecture series does well, it does really really well. It covers the great witch hunts in the west, devoting time to how they changed throughout history and in different locations. It covers everything from the Spanish Inquisition to the Salem Witch Trials.

The lecturer brings in topics like mental health, possible psychotropic drugs (though this was probably not historically accurate), demonology, witch hunts disproportionately punishing women, the Protestant Revolution, discussing the ethics/infectivity of torture in criminal investigations, the rise of the Enlightenment, the fall of the pre-eminence of the Catholic Church, the colonial era, and comparing the witch hunts to McCarthyism in the USA.

Unfortunately, I wanted to know more about actual witchcraft in the West, aka paganism with an emphasis on ritual thinking. The lecturer briefly discussed wicca and the Golden Dawn, but that was basically it. I like learning about our world’s many and diverse religions, and witchcraft/magic is a religion. This lecture series doesn’t cover the religion of witchcraft.

That said, I cannot in good faith deduct points from this lecture series based upon my desire to learn about the religion of western witchcraft. The lecturer did an excellent job of discussing the history of Witch hunts, focusing on the victims. This was a compelling narrative. This was a bite-sized lecture series, but was a heavy meal of tasty tasty info.

I’m giving this 5 out of 5 stars. I don’t often give books 5 stars, but I think this deserves it. Highly recommended.

STARS: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS (5 Stars=Perfect, 4 Stars=Great, 3 Stars=Good, 2 Stars=Fun but Flawed, 1 Star=Not Recommended)


Genres/Tagwords: Christianity, History of Religion, Nonfiction, Witchcraft, Witch Hunting, History Book

Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:

  • None

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