Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guest Post & Giveaway - Mary Sharratt - Daughters of the Witching Hill


I'm thrilled to have author Mary Sharratt stopping by to guest post today. I thoroughly enjoyed her new novel Daughters of the Witching Hill.

"Magic vs. Witchcraft in Early Modern Britain
by Mary Sharratt

Mother Demdike, the heroine of my novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill, was a cunning woman of long standing reputation. When interrogated by the authorities, she made no attempt to deny her perceived powers. So who were these cunning folk?

Belief in magic and the spirit world was absolutely mainstream in Elizabethan and Jacobean Britain, indeed the whole of Europe in this era. Not only the poor and ignorant believed in spells and witchcraft—rich and educated people believed in magic just as strongly. Dr. John Dee, conjurer to Elizabeth I, was a brilliant mathematician and cartographer and also an alchemist and ceremonial magician. In Dee’s England, more people relied on cunning folk for healing than on physicians. As Owen Davies explains in his book, Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History, cunning men and women used charms to heal, foretell the future, and find the location of stolen property. What they did was technically illegal—sorcery was a hanging offence—but few were arrested for it as the demand for their services was so great. Doctors were so expensive that only the very rich could afford them and the “physick” of this era involved bleeding patients with lancets and using dangerous medicines such as mercury—your local village healer with her herbs and charms was far less likely to kill you.

In this period there were magical practitioners in every community. Those who used their magic for good were called cunning folk or charmers or blessers or wisemen and wisewomen. Those who were perceived by others as using their magic to curse and harm were called witches. But here it gets complicated. A cunning woman who performs a spell to discover the location of stolen goods would say that she is working for good. However, the person who claims to have been falsely accused of harbouring those stolen goods can turn around and accuse her of sorcery and slander. Ultimately the difference between cunning folk and witches lay in the eye of the beholder. If your neighbours turned against you and decided you were a witch, you were doomed.

Although King James I, author of the witch-hunting handbook Daemonologie, believed that witches had made a pact with the devil, there’s no actual evidence to suggest that witches or cunning folk took part in any diabolical cult. So what did cunning folk like Mother Demdike believe in?

Some of Mother Demdike’s family charms and spells were recorded in the trial transcripts and they reveal absolutely no evidence of devil worship, but instead use the ecclesiastical language of the Roman Catholic Church, the old religion driven underground by the English Reformation. Her charm to cure a bewitched person, cited by the prosecution as evidence of diabolical sorcery, is, in fact, a moving and poetic depiction of the passion of Christ, as witnessed by the Virgin Mary. The text, in places, is very similar to the White Pater Noster, an Elizabethan prayer charm which Eamon Duffy discusses in his landmark book, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580.

It appears that Mother Demdike was a practitioner of the kind of quasi-Catholic folk magic that would have been commonplace before the Reformation. The pre-Reformation Church embraced many practises that seemed magical and mystical. People used holy water and communion bread for healing. They went on pilgrimages, left offerings at holy wells, and prayed to the saints for intercession. Some practises, such as the blessing of the wells and fields, may indeed have Pagan origins. Indeed, looking at pre-Reformation folk magic, it is very hard to untangle the strands of Catholicism from the remnants of Pagan belief, which had become so tightly interwoven.

Unfortunately Mother Demdike had the misfortune to live in a place and time when Catholicism was conflated with witchcraft. Even Reginald Scot, one of the most enlightened men of his age, believed the act of transubstantiation, the point in the Catholic mass where it is believed that the host becomes the body and blood of Christ, was an act of sorcery. In a 1645 pamphlet by Edward Fleetwood entitled A Declaration of a Strange and Wonderfull Monster, describing how a royalist woman in Lancashire supposedly gave birth to a headless baby, Lancashire is described thusly: ‘No part of England hath so many witches, none fuller of Papists.’ Keith Thomas’s social history Religion and the Decline of Magic is an excellent study on how the Reformation literally took the magic out of Christianity."

Read an excerpt of Daughters of the Witching Hill.

Thank you so much for stopping by Mary!

And one lucky reader will win a copy of Daughters of the Witching Hill for their bookshelf. Simply comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada, ends Saturday June 5th at 6 pm EST.

107 comments:

Mystica said...

Can I enter if I have a friend's mailing address in the States? If so, please enter me for this wonderful book.

mystica123athotmaildotcom

Marjorie said...

I would really like to win and read this novel.

cenya2 at hotmail dot com

bermudaonion said...

Sounds like a scary time to me! No need to enter me.

Jo-Jo said...

I would love a chance to win this book!
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Linda said...

Over the past few weeks I've read several reviews and author posts about this book. It sounds so fascinating. I would love to read it. Thanks for the giveaway.
lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

Debbie F said...

I too have read lots of the reviews on this one! I really want to read it! thanks!

dcf_beth at verizon dot net

amandawk said...

I have heard great things about this book.
Please enter me.
amandarwest at gmaildotcom

Gwendolyn B. said...

I've read a lot about the Salem witch trials, but I'm only just beginning to read about European "witches." It seems like this was such a confusing time period -- one minute you HAD to be Catholic and the next you were burned for it! I've been following this book tour, and would love to read Ms. Sharratt's book. Thanks so much for the chance to win a copy!

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

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misskallie2000 said...

I have read some great reviews of this book and would love to win.
Thanks for the opportunity to enter. Pls count me in



misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

fredamans said...

This book looks fantastic! Thanks for hosting!

freda.mans[at]sympatico.ca

donnas said...

Sounds like a really good book. Thanks for the chance.

bacchus76 at myself dot com

debbie said...

It sounds like a great book, I would love to read it.
twoofakind12@yahoo.com

Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict said...

I would love a chance to win. quirion@me.com


Sounds interesting!

Kelsey said...

I love the cover and the synopsis sounds so interesting!

Thanks for the chance to win.

Kelsey
krae991 at yahoo dot com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Okay, saying my usual "don't enter me" is darn hard here, babydoll. I really liked The Real Minerva. But... stupid TBR mountains...

I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book, of course.

Margie said...

I'd like to read this one. Thanks for the giveaway.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

MoziEsmé said...

I'd love to read this!

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

christa @ mental foodie said...

This sounds very interesting!!

cytljjb @ gmail . com

Wendy said...

This sounds great! I loved The Vanishing Point and this one sounds just as good if not better :)

wendyhines (at) hotmail (dot) com

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a good read!

billiondollarprincesss@hotmail.com

Amber said...

Wow - this sounds like my kind of book!
Thank you for the giveaway :)
hurdler4eva(at)gmail(dot)com

Mary said...

Sounds fascinating! I'd love to read it.

mryward(at)yahoo(dot)com

mindy said...

this looks just wonderful thanks for the giveaway minsthins at optonline dot net

ryleesgran said...

I WOULD LOVE TO READ THIS book


mjmeeks5@netscape.net

409cope said...

This sounds like a great book to curl up in the tub with.cardshark42(at)hotmail(dot)com

mensa63 said...

Just the kind of read I like to get into late in the night when the house is quiet, and all the ghosties are in attendance.

abfantom said...

This sounds like an interesting book that I'd like to read. Please enter me in the giveaway.

abfantom at yahoo dot com

John said...

I think the historical context of this book would make it interesting. Thanks for the chance!

Illuviel said...

Mary Sharrat's historic fiction is immersive and enchanting: detail, diction and tone all combine to bring you into her characters' worlds. Based on the excerpt I've read, Daughters of the Witching Hill is no exception and I look forward to reading it in full and giving it a place in my library.

Illuviel said...

(p.s. please don't enter me)

Fine Insanity said...

Sounds like a great book! Thanks for the chance!
fineinsanity at live dot com

hbbs55 said...

please enter me, I would like to read this book!

ellie said...

Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the giveaway.
eswright18 at gmail dot com

Deedles said...

Sounds like a great read. I'd love to be entered.
djeanq(at)gmail(dot)com

Sue said...

Looks good. Thanks for the giveaway.

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

Tarah said...

I would really enjoy this book!

Tarah
tarah716[at]ymail.com

snowluvnferret said...

This looks intriguing!

rugerpuppies at hotmail dot com

Min K said...

sounds like something I'd enjoy

Pat said...

Looks like a great book

pbabcock2004(at)verizon(dot)net

linett said...

would love to read this, thanks

toughturtles said...

Thanks for the opportunity to enter

mmentor said...

sign me up

Brent said...

Please enter me.

Wise Owl, Editor said...

I am a folllower and I would love to win the Book Thief.

wiseowlreviews@aol.com

Deborah Wellenstein said...

Love it-thank you!

Nicole C. said...

I would love to read this book.

choateorama(at)gmail(dot)com

ChristyJan said...

Sounds like a great read ~ please enter me

hawkes(at)citlink.net

Zia said...

I've heard such good things about this book and would love to be entered in the giveaway.

Zia
ziaria(at)gmail(dot)com

Smooshy said...

enter me!

Carol M said...

This sounds really good! I would love to read it! Thank you for the giveaway!
mittens0831 at aol dot com

comethespring said...

Howdy, please enter me!

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littlelatina said...

I'd love to read this

Shannon said...

Thank you for entering me. =)
tiredwkids at live dot com

Cheryl F. {The Lucky Ladybug} said...

I'd love to read this :) *Thanks* for the giveaway!
theluckyladybug[at]gmail[dot]com

Michelle B said...

I would love to be entered into this giveaway the book sounds great
angelsspot(at)hotmail(dot)com

Tore said...

I would really love to read this book. Please enter me in contest. Thank you. Tore923@aol.com

Betty2222 said...

I know I would love this book!

corrineb201@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

I loved Mary Sharratt's "Vanishing Point" and I'm excited to know she now has another novel. I learn so much from her books. Would love to win this!

lewis474@comcast.net

Terri said...

I visited the Salem Witch Museum years ago and found it fascinating. I'd love to read this.

Valorie said...

I would love a chance to win. <3

Valorie
morbidromantic@gmail.com

Debi said...

Please enter me. Sounds like a great read.

debraldufek AT hotmail DOT com

enyl said...

This would make a great addition to my classroom library; my student's are currently fascinated by quality historical fiction.
enyl(at)inbxo(dot)com

Andria said...

I would love a chance to win. Thank you.

Melanie said...

This sounds like it will be good. Please enter me.

peacelily_2006(at)yahoo(dot)com

Alexandra said...

I would really like to have this!Count me in!
d.alexandra2@yahoo.com

debbie said...

I would love to read this.
twoofakind12@yahoo.com

Kelly said...

I would love to read and review this!

kamijisatsu@gmail.com

nfmgirl said...

Sounds good! Please count me in. Thank you!

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

Jon_Lefkove said...

Please enter me for this wonderful book.

Betty2222 said...

I've got to read this!

corrineb201@hotmail.com

gcpeach17 said...

I just finished a book about cunning women. Please, ente me in this giveaway. I would love to read this.

gcpeach17 at aol dot com

sweetsue said...

I am interested in this subject. Enter me please!
smchester at gmail dot com

EBJ said...

It sounds like the author has done some good historical research. I would enjoy reading this.

Jenn S. said...

Sounds like a great read. Count me in. :)

ktgonyea said...

I want to win :)

ktgonyea at gmail.com

skooterbear said...

i'd need to win this one, because its a great contest 2 share with my family and friends

Lauri W said...

Looking forward to reading "Daughters of the Witching Hill" - thanks for the giveaway !

lauriwilson@gmail.com

Sarah E said...

Please enter me in this giveaway!

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

tdean30 said...

Would love to read this. Thanks for the great giveaway.

tdlsfm(at)gmail(dot)com

wwe11 said...

This looks really good.
erma6323@sbcglobal.net

Aisling said...

This sounds like a fascinating book - those times were certainly full of wonder and danger. I'd love to read it. Thanks.

Nickolay said...

I love books with a supernatural Twist. Thanks for the chance

jason(at)allworldautomotive(dot)com

ellie said...

Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the giveaway.
eswright18 at gmail dot com

idahomom said...

I love to read. Thanks for the chance.

Anonymous said...

Happy June!

theyyyguy@yahoo.com

Valeen said...

Sounds intriguing! I would love to read this. Thanks for letting us know about it!

sweepyhead at gmail dot com

Becca Ann said...

I would definitely love this book!

Breanne said...

sounds like my kind of book!

prplrush said...

Thanks for a great review this book sounds very interesting!

annemarie562000 said...

I would love to read this book!

annemarie562000(at)yahoo(dot)com

Falon Goes.... said...

I would love to read this book. Thanks for the chance!

falongoesgreen @ gmail dot com

Melissa B. said...

I love to read anything about witches.

waxtheknob said...

I comment, therefore I am.

Cheers!

waxtheknob@gmail.com

dddiva said...

This is fascinating to me would love to read the book- thanks for the chance to win.

Charlene said...

My kinda book,thanks for the chance :)

motherabagail531 at yahoo dot com

kathy pease said...

Thank you for the Great giveaway please count me in :)

Swtlilchick said...

I have always been interested in
the witches and their powers.I would love to read this book,it sound
intriguing

CharlieGurl57(at)aol(dot)com

susan1215 said...

Sounds like a good book

lilyk said...

Please enter me into the contest. Thanks!

pat jasmin said...

sounds like a good book..would love to win this

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good read
Diane Baum
esldiane@gmail.com

Heather said...

Love to read historical fiction! Thanks for the chance to win this!

purango said...

I would love to win this book. It sounds very interesting. garrettsambo@aol.com

FDP 4 Life said...

i would love to win, thanks for the giveaway
susansmoaks at gmail dot com

twifanheather said...

Sounds so good! I'd love to read it! :)

Ambre said...

This book looks like fun summer reading!