Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath
Why this book?
I first picked up this book hoping to find whether Western Europe ever had agrarian fertility rituals/beliefs equivalent to those I was studying in Eastern Europe. But then I simply couldn’t stop reading, because it was so compellingly written as well as chock full of fascinating information relating to my interests. Ginzburg presents both the historical records and his deeply perceptive insights into the processes by which age-old farmers’ customs (including dancing), aimed simply at having enough food for the year, were reinterpreted as evil witchery and Satanism by Roman Catholic officials attempting to eradicate everything outside the Christian church as they knew it. (Eastern Orthodox officials, with far more territory to convert, confined themselves largely to condemning murder, adultery, and incest, and reallocating people’s entrenched customs to Christian saints.)