The God of The Witches by Margaret Alice Murray


THIS book being intended for the general reader as well as for the student of anthropology the authority for each statement is not always given in the text. For the benefit of those who wish to pursue the study further there is a bibliography for each chapter at the end of the book. For a complete bibliography of English records the reader is referred to Wallace Notestein's History of Witchcraft in England (Washington, 1911). In my Witch Cult in Western Europe (Oxford University Press, 1921) the bibliography is chiefly of the British Isles, France, Belgium, and Sweden.

Though I am concerned with the existence through the Middle Ages of a primitive religion in Western Europe only, there is no doubt that the cult was spread in early times through Central and Eastern Europe and the Near East. There it survived, underlying, as in the West, the official religion of the country, Christianity in Europe, Islam and sometimes Christianity in the East. The literati of those countries were of the faith there in the ascendant, consequently the Old Religion was seldom recorded, for Paganism belonged there as here to the inarticulate uneducated masses who remained for many centuries untouched by the new religion. I have not attempted to give every known instance of the beliefs and ritual of the "witches"; all I desire to do is to present to the reader a fairly complete view of the cult from contemporary evidence. I have also, as occasion arose, compared the Witch-Cult with other religions of ancient and modern times.

My grateful thanks are due to my sister, Mrs. M. E. Slater, and to Mr. G. A. Wainwright for much kind help and many valuable suggestions; and to Mr. F. Rutter, Town-clerk of Shaftesbury, for the information which he so kindly furnished concerning the Prize Besom.

In conclusion, there is one request I wish to make of my readers. Since my Witch Cult in Western Europe appeared I have received many letters containing criticisms, some complimentary, some condemnatory, of that book. If other correspondents honour me with similar private criticisms of the present volume, I ask of them that they will sign their communications, even when the opinions they express are adverse. Anonymous letters, of which I received a number, reflect no credit on their writers.