FOREWORD TO THE FIRST
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,
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.