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Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath

Weaving early accounts of witchcraft—trial records, ecclesiastical tracts, folklore, and popular iconography—into new and startling patterns, Carlo Ginzburg presents in Ecstasies compelling evidence of a hidden shamanistic culture that flourished across Europe and in England for thousands of years.

368 pages | 18 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1991

History: European History

Medieval Studies

Religion: Comparative Studies and History of Religion, Religion and Society


"Ginzburg’s learning is prodigious and his journey through two thousand years of Eurasian folkore a tour de force."

Keith Thomas | The Observer

"Ecstasies is a work of uncompromising scholarship and erudition, but it is not intended for the scholar alone. It is also a rich tapestry of anecdote and incident, a chamber of horrors, curiosity shop, and medieval bestiary all in one."


"Ecstasies manages, with extraordinary candor, clarity, grace, and erudition, to steer between lurid sensationalism and dry-as-dust academic drivel, and between purely localized historiography and universalism. This is a big, bold, brilliant book."

Wendy Doniger | New York Times Book Review

"Ginzburg here partially rehabilitates an older point of view, that the witch-cult represented a survival of ancient mysteries, the practice of shamanistic ceremonies forbidden by official Catholicism. Ecstasies offers the result of Ginzburg’s researches, in chapters as replete with odd learning and lore as Robert Graves’s White Goddess."

Washington Post

"By any standards, Ecstasies is a bravura performance. It is difficult to think of any other historian who combines such polymathic cultural erudition, grasp of textual and visual detail, and high theoretical aim-not to mention literary skill."

London Review of Books

"[Ginzburg] charms by mixing the historic with the horrific, with writing in a way that creates page-turners out of scholars and general readers alike. Ginzburg . . . is a kind of necromancer, calling up the spirits of the dead to thrill us and to speak to us of marvels."

Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance

"At times, Ecstacies can be demanding. . . . But persist, and you will be rewarded with truly haunting stories and speculations."

Michael Dirda |

Table of Contents

1. Lepers, Jews, Muslims
2. Jews, Heretics, Witches
1. Following the Goddess
2. Anomalies
3. To Combat in Ecstasy
4. Disguised as Animals
1. Eurasian Conjectures
2. Bones and Skin

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