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Welsh Witches: Narratives of Witchcraft and Magic From 16th and 17th Century Wales, Richard Suggett, Atramentous Press. A cunning woman living on the outskirts of town who sells healing charms and potions to the village folk gets bullied by a local ruffian. After striking her across the face, his arm mysteriously goes numb and limp. Soon, members of his household fall ill one by one with no abatement in sight, until the local magistrate is called and the charmer is brought before a grim-faced court on charges of Witchcraft. Though it may sound like the preamble to a Hammer Horror film, this is merely one of the gripping stories of Late Renaissance life found within the pages of this captivating book.
Suggett, a well-respected researcher and historian has been elbows deep in the records of the Court of Great Sessions of Wales, where he’s turned up a score of actual trial records, examinations and witness depositions of healers, conjurers, confidence tricksters, midwives and magicians, all while shining a sobering light upon the surprising nuance of those dark times. These alone are worth the price of admission, but Suggett’s notes and commentaries bring them all together beautifully.
Spanning two turbulent centuries, Welsh Witches is a stark snapshot of religious madness in a land that was comparatively tolerant of (if not indulgent toward) healers and cunning folk at the time. However, the tumultuous conflicts and pontiff-centered politics of the Reformation pushed even the more level-headed toward reprehensible acts of hatred against their fellow citizens.
A fascinating study of Witchcraft, folklore and judicial overreach from the land of the dragon flag.