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Magic and Superstition in EuropeMagic and Superstition in Europe

A Concise History from Antiquity to the Present

Michael D. Bailey

Narrated by 5395 Media LLC

Available from Audible

Book published by Rowman & Littlefield

The only comprehensive, single-volume survey of magic available, this compelling book traces the history of magic, witchcraft, and superstitious practices such as popular spells or charms from antiquity to the present day. Focusing especially on Europe in the medieval and early modern eras, Michael Bailey also explores the ancient Near East, classical Greece and Rome, and the spread of magical systems_particularly modern witchcraft or Wicca_from Europe to the United States. He examines how magic and superstition have been defined in various historical eras and how these constructions have changed over time. He considers the ways in which specific categories of magic have been condemned, and how those identified as magicians or witches have been persecuted and prosecuted in various societies. Although conceptions of magic have changed over time, the author shows how magic has almost always served as a boundary marker separating socially acceptable actions from illicit ones, and more generally the known and understood from the unknown and occult.

Michael D. Bailey is assistant professor of history at Iowa State University.


“Michael Bailey has written a sweeping, broadly accessible account of magic, religion, and 'superstition' over the past two thousand years. He has not only read deeply but also pondered the way in which our traditions have stigmatized especially those beliefs and practices that seem most closely threatening to us. This book deserves to be widely read”

— H. C. Erik Midelfort, University of Virginia

“Bailey's style of writing is captivating and the results of his archival research are impressive...useful guide for a wide audience and for any folklorists dealing with the topic of magic and superstition in cultural context.”

— Svitlana P. Kukharenko, University of Alberta

“Michael D. Bailey's Magic and Superstition in Europe: A Concise History from Antiquity to the Present successfully accomplishes the author's expressed aim of convincing readers that magic has always been, and continues to be, an important aspect of European history. Based on an impressive command of the vast (and constantly expanding) scholarship of the history of magic, the book skillfully weaves together seemingly disparate, and chronologically distant, stages in the history of Europe's magical traditions into intrinsically related parts of a coherent, comprehensive narrative. It should be welcomed as a masterful survey of major trends in European intellectual and religious history, explored through the prism of common magical traditions and (especially) learned magical practices and attitudes toward the occult.”

Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft

“An ambitious survey of the history of magic from the ancient world to the modern West. The broad scope of the book gives readers a useful comparative perspective on how different Western societies viewed and categorized magic and superstition, and how magical traditions changed and adapted to different historical circumstances.... Bailey ... shows admirable command and understanding of a wide range of material.”

The Catholic Historical Review

“This is a reliable, enjoyable and admirably lucid book from which students and experts alike will benefit.”

European History Quarterly

“Michael Bailey has chosen a subject of enormous significance in European civilization—its dark but alluring ‘other.' Magic and superstition have always been essential to the drawing of cultural and social boundaries and to perceptions of backwardness and modernity. Wisely declining to give them abstract definitions, Bailey allows them to appear instead as categories of separation and refusal in many different historical contexts. This is an ambitious but conceptually secure study.”

— Stuart Clark, University of Wales Swansea

“Bailey lays the groundwork for fruitful classroom discussions.”

Church History

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University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks