Witchcraft: The Basics: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Witchcraft: The Basics

1st Edition

By Marion Gibson


192 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2018-06-21
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Witchcraft: The Basics is an accessible and engaging introduction to the scholarly study of witchcraft, exploring the phenomenon of witchcraft from its earliest definitions in the Middle Ages through to its resonances in the modern world. Through the use of two case studies, this book delves into the emergence of the witch as a harmful figure within western thought and traces the representation of witchcraft throughout history, analysing the roles of culture, religion, politics, gender and more in the evolution and enduring role of witchcraft.

Key topics discussed within the book include: 

  • The role of language in creating and shaping the concept of witchcraft
  • The laws and treatises written against witchcraft
  • The representation of witchcraft in early modern literature

  • The representation of witchcraft in recent literature, TV and film

  • Scholarly approaches to witchcraft through time
  • The relationship between witchcraft and paganism

With an extensive further reading list, summaries and questions to consider at the end of each chapter, Witchcraft: The Basics is an ideal introduction for anyone wishing to learn more about this controversial issue in human culture, which is still very much alive today. 


'Marion Gibson is one of the nation's finest scholars of the literature of witchcraft, in the broadest sense, and this book represents a crown to the decades of research and authorship which have won her that distinction. Like all she has done before, it is original, accessible, and has a wonderfully wide sweep.'

Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol, UK

'Marion Gibson offers an outstanding introduction to witchcraft and to the texts that have created and shaped our understanding of witchcraft over time. She deftly unpacks early modern demonologies and trial records, as well as plays and poetry, providing expert guidance on how to read these sources and decipher the depictions of witchcraft they convey. She also examines trends in modern scholarship and in modern popular culture that have shaped and reshaped the notion of what a witch could be. This book offers a truly interdisciplinary blend of history, literature, and cultural studies.'

Michael D. Bailey, Iowa State University, USA

Table of Contents


Chapter One The early modern context: a case study of early modern Britain

Chapter Two The seventeenth and early eighteenth century context: America as the major case study

Chapter Three Witchcraft in early modern literature: "the witchcraft renaissance"

Chapter Four Witchcraft Studies

Chapter Five Witchcraft Today: Religious Redefinitions

Chapter Six Reinventing the good witch

Further Study Reading List


About the Author

Marion Gibson is Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures at Exeter University and works on witches, magic, paganism and the supernatural in literature. Her previous publications include: Rediscovering Renaissance Witchcraft (2017), Imagining the Pagan Past (2013), Mysticism, Myth and Celtic Identity co-edited with Shelley Trower and Garry Tregidga (2012), Witchcraft Myths in American Culture (2007), Possession, Puritanism and Print: Darrell, Harsnett, Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Exorcism Controversy (2006) and Reading Witchcraft: Stories of Early English Witches (1999).

About the Series

The Basics

The Basics is a highly successful series of accessible guidebooks which provide an overview of the fundamental principles of a subject area in a jargon-free and undaunting format.

Intended for students approaching a subject for the first time, the books both introduce the essentials of a subject and provide an ideal springboard for further study. With over 50 titles spanning subjects from Artificial Intelligence to Women’s Studies, The Basics are an ideal starting point for students seeking to understand a subject area.

Each text comes with recommendations for further study and gradually introduces the complexities and nuances within a subject.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General