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Montague Summers (1880–1948)

Teoksen The History of Witchcraft and Demonology tekijä

41+ Works 2,031 Jäsentä 9 arvostelua 3 Favorited

About the Author

Tekijän teokset

The Vampire (1928) 402 kappaletta
The vampire in lore and legend (1929) 316 kappaletta
The Supernatural Omnibus (1931) — Toimittaja — 139 kappaletta
Witchcraft and Black Magic (1946) 118 kappaletta
The geography of witchcraft (1927) 63 kappaletta
A Popular History of Witchcraft (1937) 60 kappaletta
The Supernatural Omnibus: Hauntings and Horror v. 1 (1976) — Toimittaja — 19 kappaletta
A Gothic bibliography (1940) 18 kappaletta
Physical Phenomena of Mysticism (1950) 17 kappaletta
Six Ghost Stories (2019) 13 kappaletta
Galanty Show: An Autobiography (1980) 6 kappaletta
Antinous and Other Poems (1995) 5 kappaletta
The Playhouse of Pepys (1935) 5 kappaletta
Essays in Petto (1928) 4 kappaletta
The Grimoire 4 kappaletta
Shakespeare adaptions (1922) — Toimittaja — 3 kappaletta
A Study of the Black Mass (2012) 2 kappaletta
The K-Factor 1 kappale
A Memoir of Mrs. Behn (2018) 1 kappale

Associated Works

Malleus Maleficarum : noitavasara (1487) — Kääntäjä, eräät painokset1,582 kappaletta
Compendium Maleficarum (1608) — Toimittaja, eräät painokset230 kappaletta
A Discovery of Witchcraft (1584) — Johdanto, eräät painokset222 kappaletta
Suuri kummituskirja (1990) — Avustaja — 170 kappaletta
Demoniality: Incubi and Succubi: A Book of Demonology (1690) — Kääntäjä, eräät painokset81 kappaletta
Demonolatry (1595) — Toimittaja, eräät painokset78 kappaletta
An examen of witches (1602) — Toimittaja, eräät painokset51 kappaletta
The Midnight People (1968) — Avustaja — 38 kappaletta
The Necromancers (1971) — Avustaja — 33 kappaletta
Bound for Evil: Curious Tales of Books Gone Bad (2008) — Avustaja — 24 kappaletta
The Works of Aphra Behn (1995) — Toimittaja, eräät painokset24 kappaletta
Nightmare Reader: v. 2 (1973) — Avustaja — 17 kappaletta
Pandaemonium (1951) — Johdanto, eräät painokset16 kappaletta
Prince of Darkness (1978) — Avustaja — 14 kappaletta
The complete works of Thomas Otway (1968) — Toimittaja, eräät painokset13 kappaletta
Roscius Anglicanus (1969) — Toimittaja, eräät painokset13 kappaletta
The Works of Aphra Behn, Volume I (1992) — Toimittaja, eräät painokset12 kappaletta
The Zaffre Book of Occult Fiction (2023) — Avustaja — 3 kappaletta
The nightmare reader (1973) — Avustaja — 2 kappaletta
The adventures of five hours — Johdanto, eräät painokset1 kappale

Merkitty avainsanalla




I had the impression before reading this book, having vague memories of reading one of this author's works many years ago, that he had been biased in favour of the Catholic church (he was an Anglian who converted to Catholicism) when it came to witchcraft, and regarded everyone accused by the Protestants as innocent people wrongfully persecuted, whereas those accused by the Catholic church were all witches. I didn't find that in the current book, but it would have been better if that had been its only fault, because this read like the worst kind of paranoid conspiracy theory, written in a sort of stream of consciousness in which various subjects were veered off from at tangents onto something else and then back again pages later. For example, early on during a discussion of pre-Christian magic, the narrative veers off into describing instances of conjoined twins that occurred through history before returning to the actual topic in question.

The bias in this book is against anyone who was ever accused of witchcraft by anyone, no matter how flimsy or improbable the testimony against them. And such people were all devil worshippers and Satanists, even centuries before the Christian church was established, and in civilisations and religions which had no concept of the Judaeo-Christian Lucifer/Satan figure, including the original South American beliefs of societies such as the Aztecs.

The Malleus Maleficarum, (Hammer of Witches), written by two Inquisitors, and notorious as a ghastly manual for how to convict people labelled as witches, is called a "noble" book, and the author never seems to grasp that the identikit nature of witch confessions (which to him are proof that they are all "true") was due to torture (which he acknowledges) and the use of manuals with ready made questions and answers in them.

He pours scorn on unnamed writers (presumably contemporary with the date of his book in the late 1940s) who described the mass persecutions in Europe as a creation of the church, because he points to instances of devil worship in Roman times and other earlier civilisations. But he disingenuously ignores the point that when the church became dominant, it labelled all pagan gods and spirits as devils, thus converting pagan beliefs into devil worship. This was followed by the persecution of heretics - anyone with doctrinal differences from the Catholic church - which eventually morphed into the persecution of witches when the latter became equated with heretics, as it did in most countries apart from England. The only writers he finds fault with and actually names, are the brave sceptics, such as Reginald Scot, who wrote in the 16th and 17th centuries about the fallacies around witchcraft beliefs, and the injustice of persecuting innocent people who were for the most part, poor and old. Such writers were, of course, long dead even at the time of writing and hence unable to sue him for libel. But the only half-hearted charge he can make against Scot is to imply that he was an agnostic, which was not the case. Scot was willing to concede the existence of magic and witchcraft - he was a citizen of his time - but just not credulous enough to believe that it was all pervasive, and who rightly attributed a lot of accusations, especially those involving apparent demonic possession, to fraud or delusion on the part of the accusers.

The author accepts without question the propaganda by the church against Christian break away groups such as the Cathars, and gives sensationalist accounts of their supposed devil worship, which entailed child sacrifice, eating of children, rampant promiscuity and so on. Ironically, these are exactly the charges levelled against the early Christians by the Roman authorities and which have been used ever since against various disadvantaged communities, such as the Jews, as well as the various Christian sects throughout history which disagreed with the mainstream Catholic church. Far from being Satanists, the Cathars etc were followers of Christ but disagreed with the mainstream church on major doctrinal points. The book also has a slight anti-Semitic tone in places when describing instances of Jewish magicians-devil worshippers.

The author does not serve the reader well by treating the various types of magic such as divination, necromancy, scrying (far seeing), astrology and maleficium (magic used to harm people or animals), as all being witchcraft and/or devil worship. This ignores the fact that certain magics were associated with particular groups of people - for example, those who drew up magic circles and evoked demons using grimoires (spell books) or invoked spirits of the dead were generally educated and often wealthy men, who can be termed sorcerers. Most magic-working among the common people was folk magic, consisting of charms, potions, poultices and so on, or scrying to locate lost objects etc. There had long been tolerance for "white" witches, otherwise known as cunning folk or wise women/men, who provided medical treatment, located lost objects and helped people who thought they were bewitched to identify the perpetrator. Often their charms and cures were associated with Christian prayers. Such people were subjected to very minor penalties when the church bothered with them at all, even till the middle ages, but with the Reformation and the tensions between the original church, those who tried to reform it from within, and the emergent Protestant faiths, such people became swept up in witch persecutions. The author however follows the line in viewing them all as devil worshipping witches.

Similarly, the book has a sensationalist approach to aspects of the standard charge of witchcraft, as it came to be used in Europe. There is no appreciation that features such as the pact with the devil and the witches sabbat only gradually developed around the 16th century, then gained ascendancy in European thinking about witchcraft, but were much less influential in England until late in the period of persecution. These ideas were common among the educated classes who were exposed directly to them in such books as Malleus Maleficarum, and in time just the assumption of a pact with the devil was enough to condemn someone to death, irrespective of whether they had actually hurt people or animals, or damaged crops etc. Ordinary folk were much more focused on the possible harm that witches might do, rather than their religious beliefs. But the author believes in all these constructs literally, and states that people really did fly through the air or teleport to sabbats, took part in orgies with real devils, and changed form into animals.

In keeping with the paranoid tone, the author declares several times that Satanists were responsible for countless historical upheavals, such as the French Revolution, and that they were working harder than ever in the present day. As the book was published in 1946, it seems likely that the oblique mentions of current terrible events imply that he ascribes the entirety of WWII and the Holocaust etc to witches and Satanists. He informs the reader that witches constantly engage in a worldwide conspiracy to destroy civilisation, and deplores the general scepticism about witchcraft which set in during the 18th century.

All in all, this book is a precursor to the conspiracy theories found on areas of social media today. Unfortunately it is not possible to award zero stars so this will have to be a one star rating.
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kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
An interesting collection originally issued in 1931. I read the 1994 paperback edition by Bracken Books, with the same ISBN as the hardcover issued in the same year, oddly. It is a thick book but possibly has been edited down from the original, as another reviewer mentions several stories not in my copy.

The book features an introductory essay by Montague Summers, known to me for his works on the supernatural, including the Malleus Maleficarum and the witch persecutions which plagued Europe, particularly in the 16-17th centuries. Summers professes his belief in the supernatural in this essay and his stance that it isn't possible to write convincing fiction in the genre unless the writer actually believes in the supernatural. I'm not sure I subscribe to that myself, but the essay is an interesting summary of the history, not only of supernatural fiction up to the late 1920s, but of writing about the supernatural from early times. It mentions some writers of whom I was unaware previously, and no doubt was a valuable resource to readers in the pre-Internet age. Also interesting is his reference to "A well-reputed writer, whose name I will by your favour omit, gave us some excellent stories at first, but in his eagerness to create horror, to thrill and curdle our blood, latterly he trowels on the paint so thick, he creates such fantastic figures, such outrageous run-riot incidents at noon and in the sunlight, that it is all as topsy-turvey as Munchasen." Given the time this was written, I'm tempted to believe he is talking about H P Lovecraft, who is otherwise conspicuous by his absence from Summers' thorough review of the field.

The book mainly features nineteenth century writers, and there are classics such as Charles Dicken's The Signalman and J Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, which is probably the earliest fiction centred around a female vampire, certainly predating Stoker's Dracula with its wives of Dracula and ill-fated Lucy. Nowadays, we have been exposed so much to this genre through TV and films, and in my case from reading ghost stories from an early age, that the stories do not have the power to shock and chill that they would have had in their own time, plus the earlier ones are sometimes written in a style that today we find convoluted and over formal. But there are nevertheless some interesting tales, such as Brickett Bottom by Amyas Northcote in which a young girl befriends an old couple with disastrous results, and two pyschological stories by Vernon Lee, the pseudonym of Violet Paget. In the first of these, Armour Dure, a young Polish historian, residing in an Italian town for the purpose of writing a history of it, becomes increasingly obsessed with a femme fatale of two centuries previous. Oke of Okehurst is told from the point of view of a disinterested painter who spends a few months at a stately home to paint his host and hostess, but who becomes embroiled in the psychodrama in which the very strange wife identifies with a murderous female ancestor whom she resembles. I don't recall coming across this writer before, and according to Summers, she had ceased publication after 1890 when both these stories appeared. Perhaps it is not co-incidental that they have a more modern sensibility shared by Bram Stoker's Dracula, published in 1897.

One story which would not appeal to current tastes is towards the end of the book. The Story of Konner Old House by E and H Heron concerns the apparent haunting by the black servant of a former owner, who was implicated in the death of the owner's daughter. The answer turns out to be a prosaic one, but the story employs a word which is not acceptable to today's readership. Ironically, the concluding tale, set in Haiti, is free from any such racist terms.

I found one point interesting in a story by Roger Pater, otherwise not that remarkable. This is one of the tales from his collection about a priest's psychic encounters. Early on in De Profundis, the priest and his listener discuss the nature of ghosts. The priest expresses an idea that I originally thought was original to the late Nigel Kneale's play for the BBC, The Stone Tape. Pater does nothing with this notion - "that a place or a thing, such as a weapon or article of furniture - almost anything, in fact, which has played a part in events that aroused very intense emotional activity on the part of those who enacted them - becomes itself saturated, as it were, with the emotions involved. So much so, in fact, that it can influence people of exceptional sympathetic powers, and enable them to perceive the original events ....' The priest, who hears the dead, claims he can hear such recordings, but in this story, he hears the here-and-now complaints of a dead nun, reacting to contemporary events. To find this idea expressed in a story published in 1923 was astounding. I have no idea if Kneale read it and later developed the idea so effectively in his play, perhaps without remembering where he had seen it, but if not, it is an example of how the same idea can arise spontaneously at different times.

To conclude, an interesting survey of mostly lesser-known ghost, vampire, werewolf and zombie stories of the 19th and early 20th centuries, which for the most part found their first publication in magazines of the time. I've rated it 3-stars overall to reflect its varying quality.
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kitsune_reader | 1 muu arvostelu | Nov 23, 2023 |
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Georges_T._Dodds | 1 muu arvostelu | Mar 30, 2013 |
I have a weakness for Nahum Tate's Lear. Sorry, Shakespeare. I can't help it.
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StephanieFysh | Mar 28, 2013 |



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Associated Authors

Richard Barham Contributor
Perceval Landon Contributor
Bram Stoker Contributor
W. B. Seabrook Contributor
Roger Pater Contributor
Vincent O'Sullivan Contributor
Amyas Northcote Contributor
E. Nesbit Contributor
Rosa Mulholland Contributor
Frederick Marryat Contributor
Vernon Lee Contributor
Miss Braddon Contributor
Jasper John Contributor
E. and H. Heron Contributor
John Guinan Contributor
Amelia B. Edwards Contributor
Charles Dickens Contributor
Wilkie Collins Contributor
Daniel Corrick Introduction, Editor/Introduction
Thomas Duffett Contributor
John Dryden Contributor
William D'Avenant Contributor
Nahum Tate Contributor
Vince Wilson Foreword


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