Saturday, February 05, 2011

How I discovered witchcraft

Actually how I discovered "The Discoverie of Wichcraft" by Reginald Scot.

I love how the Internet connects so many sources of information, but Wikipedia is my downfall. All those articles hyper-linked, just waiting for a click, you know, just to see. It always turns into reading the whole article, then clicking through all the links I find there. I usually end up with several browser tabs open to a wide variety of articles. But the pièce de résistance of most articles is the External Links section.

It all started with a Dallas media blog, Frontburner, posting an article that The Illusionist would be playing at the Angelika Dallas. This is an animated film by the makers of The Triplets of Belleville (Les Triplettes de Belleville. I innocently went to wikipedia and searched for illusionist. I knew the first article would be about actual magicians and not the film, but I also knew that hyperlinks would lead me to my destination. Eventually.

The article about illusionists was fascinating. I read a bit about Houdini, Herrmann the Great (the stage magician that introduced the look we all know and expect of a classic magician- top hat, goatee, and tailcoat), and Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (a watchmaker turned magician who was Houdini's namesake).

But the link that grabbed me, was about a book called "The Discoverie of Witchcraft" by Reginald Scot. Published in 1584 (27 years prior to the King James Bible), the book was an expose on medieval witchcraft, including methods used by charlatans to fool the unsuspecting. Because it was critical of the Church's prosecution of those accused of witchcraft, it was not well recieved by clergy, and when King James came to the throne in 1603, he allegedly had all available copies burned.

In the External Links section of the article is a link to, where you can download a complete text or even scanned images from an 1886 reprint of the book. I can't resist having copies of such obscure books, so I downloaded a pdf and am browsing through it. I love the old language even if I doubt I'll ever read the entire thing.

Thank you Al Gore!

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