Thursday, January 24, 2013

REVIEW: America Bewitched by Owen Davies

Title: America Bewitched
Author: Owen Davies
Series: none
Publication Date: expected May 1, 2013
Publisher:Oxford University Press
Pages: 333
Format: ebook
Copy provided by: NetGalley
ISBN: 978-0-19-957871-9
Buy it Link: Amazon / Barnes and Noble
Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Synopsis: The infamous Salem witch trials of 1692 are etched into the consciousness of America. Nineteen people executed, one tortured to death, four others perished in jail—the tragic toll of Salem remains a powerful symbol of the dangers of intolerance and persecution. As time passed, the trials were seen as a milepost measuring the distance America had progressed from its benighted past. Yet the story of witchcraft did not end in Salem. As Owen Davies shows in America Bewitched, a new, long, and chilling chapter was about to begin.
Davies, an authority on witches and the supernatural, reveals how witchcraft in post-Salem America was not just a matter of scary fire-side tales, Halloween legends, and superstitions: it continued to be a matter of life and death. If anything, witchcraft disputes multiplied as hundreds of thousands of immigrants poured into North America, people for whom witchcraft was still a heinous crime. Davies tells the story of countless murders and many other personal tragedies that resulted from accusations of witchcraft among European Americans-as well as in Native American and African American communities. He describes, for instance, the impact of this belief on Native Americans, as colonists-from Anglo-American settlers to Spanish missionaries-saw Indian medicine men as the Devil's agents, potent workers of malign magic. But Davies also reveals that seventeenth-century Iroquois—faced with decimating, mysterious diseases—accused Jesuits of being plague-spreading witches. Indeed, the book shows how different American groups shaped each other's languages and beliefs, sharing not only our positive cultural traits, but our fears and weaknesses as well.
America Bewitched is the first book to open a window on this fascinating topic, conjuring up new insights into popular American beliefs, the immigrant experience, racial attitudes, and the development of modern society.

My Review: I received an advanced reader copy for purposes of an honest review from Net Galley. My opinions are my own and are in no way influenced by receiving this book.
In my life I've lived in two cities much affected by the American history of witchcraft. One is New Orleans where I was born and raised for much of my life, with voodoo and witchcraft as much a part of my blood as gumbo and Mardi Gras. After Hurricane Katrina, I migrated northward to Massachusetts where I now live only 20 minutes from Salem itself, the very epicenter of the American Witchcraft craze. And that was why I chose to review this book, because witchcraft didn't end in 1692. True witchcraft, as a religion, and a way of life, continues on to this very day, whether it be called Wicca, witchcraft, or by another name.
This book brought to light many facts about the history of witchcraft in America that I was unaware of. I found the book to be very detailed, but at the same time, very dry. This would be a great book for research purposes but don't expect to be able to curl up and immerse yourself in another person's life. I can see having this book on your bookshelf, but not re-reading it over and over. However, it doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a really interesting book. I'm always curious about history and I enjoy learning about the horrible Salem witch trials. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention! I haven't heard of it before.