For October we are featuring books in our collection on law and magic!
Books selected by Susan Gualtier.
Books selected by Susan Gualtier.
October 14, 2021
The nearly two dozen studies in this collection explore the very rich ways in which the rule of law and the practice of magic enrich and inform each other. The authors bring both a U.S. and a comparative law perspective while examining areas such as law and religion, criminal law, intellectual property law, the law of evidence, and animal rights.
Topics include alchemy in fifteenth-century England, a discussion of how a courtroom is like a magic show, stage hypnotism and the law, Scottish witchcraft trials in the eighteenth century, the question of whether stage magicians can look to intellectual property to protect their rights, tarot card readings and the First Amendment, and an analysis of whether a magician can be qualified as an expert witness under the Federal Rules of Evidence.
For nearly three centuries, Malleus Maleficarum (the witches’ hammer) was the professional manual for witch hunters. This book by two of the most famous Inquisitors of the age is still a document of the force of that era’s beliefs.
Includes trial transcripts and testimonies, and eyewitness accounts of “Satanic influences. Contains primary source material.
In January 1692 in Salem Village, Massachusetts, two young girls began to suffer from inexplicable fits. Seventeen months later, after legal action had been taken against 144 people, 20 of them put to death, the ignominious Salem witchcraft trials finally came to an end.
Mary Beth Norton gives us a unique account of the events at Salem, helping us to understand them as they were understood by those who lived through the frenzy.
This book illuminates the origins of the great European witch hunts by placing early witch trials in the comparative light of other criminal proceedings in Basel, Lucerne and Nuremberg.
The study reveals that the increasingly harsh treatment was paralleled by mounting judicial severity in general, as well as by a keen interest in social control.
This book is an analysis of early modern witchcraft trials and legal procedures in Ukrainian lands, along with an examination of quantitative data drawn from the different trials. Kateryna Dysa first describes the ideological background of the tribunals based on works written by priests and theologians that reflect attitudes towards the devil and witches. The main focus of her work, however, is the process leading to witchcraft accusations. From the stories of participants of the trials she shows what led people to enunciate first suspicions then accusations of witchcraft. Finally, she presents a microhistory from one Volhynian village, comparing attitudes towards two ‘female crimes’ in the Ukrainian courts.
The study is based on archival research together with previously published witch trials transcripts. Dysa approaches the trials as indications of belief and practice, attempting to understand the actors involved rather than dismiss or condemn them. She takes care to situate Ukrainian witchcraft and its accompanying trials in a broader European context, with comparisons to some African cases as well.
On March 23, 1944, as the Allied Forces were preparing for D-Day, Helen Duncan - “Nell” to her six children and four grandchildren - stood in the dock of Britain’s highest criminal court accused of witchcraft.” “At the time of her arrest, Helen Duncan was Britain’s most controversial psychic - a celebrity medium with a notorious reputation.
During her seances, she channeled spirits who spoke from the world beyond - and on a few occasions, as far as British Intelligence was concerned, these “visitors” seemed to know too much. Inexplicably, Helen’s seances were accurately revealing top-secret British ship movements. This information, were it to fall into the wrong hands, could determine not only the success of the upcoming Allied invasion, but also the fate of Britain. Intelligence authorities wanted “Hellish Nell” silenced.
Using diaries, personal papers, interviews, and declassified documents, Nina Shandler resurrects this strange episode and explores the unanswered questions surrounding the trial: Did “Hellish Nell” really channel spirits of the dead who gave away wartime secrets? Was she a calculating charlatan or the innocent target of obsessive wartime secrecy? Why did the Director of Public Prosecutions try her as a witch, not a spy? At times comic, at times tragic, The Strange Case of Hellish Nell is a true-crime tale laced with psychic phenomena and wartime intrigue.