The Psychology and history of Witchcraft have been discussed since the middle ages.
The witch is a uniquely powerful image in Western society. It is a symbol alternately vilified, ridiculed and idealized by differing sectors of society and is a powerful symbol in Western mythology. This book traces the evolution of the modern representations of Witchcraft and Paganism from the popular imaginings of witchcraft in 16th-century England to their contemporary manifestations amongst neo-Pagan and Wiccan religious movements in America, Australia and Great Britain today. Tracing how this symbol is continually constructed and reconstructed by the neo-Pagan movement is indicative of broader social, political and cultural issues arising out of the interaction of Romantic and Enlightenment epistemes in Western society.
Central to this process is the locating of representations of witchcraft within the twin discourses of romanticism and enlightenment modernity. Beginning with the aftermath of the English witch hunting craze of the 17th century, the book examines how the witch transformed from a symbol of ridicule during the enlightenment to an idealised symbol of romantic rebellion which led to its systemic adoption by romantic religious and political movements. Along the path it examines the development of the neo-Pagan movement from 19th-century Romantic pagan revivals to Gardner’s Wiccan movement, the sixties counter culture, the rise of eco-feminist neo-Paganism and the contemporary phenomena of ‘teen witches’ and pop commercialization.
Dr. David Waldron is a lecturer at the University of Ballarat.
Psychology and history of Witchcraft