Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review Volumes 32 and 33.djvu/534

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The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. A Study in Anthropology. Margaret Alice Murray. Oxford: at the Clarendon Press. 1921. Pp. 303. Price 16s.

"Rogo vos, oportet credatis, sunt mulieres plussciae, sunt nocturnae, et quod sursum est deorsum faciunt."[1] Miss Murray is as earnest as Trimalchio; it is likely in consequence that I shall find myself written down in her black books in the good company of Reginald Scot as an unscientific sceptic. But Miss Murray has laid herself open to an obvious retort. If quotations taken from their context may give rise to misleading interpretations, still more misleading is the treatment of a series of documents torn from the background of their own age and divorced from the serious study of their immediate historical antecedents. For obvious reasons, before propounding a theory of the origin of the superstitions connected with witchcraft couched in terms of a nebulous and hypothetical primitive religion, it is the duty of the investigator to make some attempt to master the historical development of medieval thought and superstition and the late classical ideas upon which they were largely based.

Upon general grounds the supposition that an organised cult of primeval antiquity survived into the seventeenth century a.d. without attracting the notice of any previous historian is one which is not easy to take upon trust. We are told that such a religion existed and that it was a fertility-cult, but its outlines are quite indeterminate. The two classical references given have no evidential value, and for detail we are, in fact, referred

  1. Petronius, Sat. 63.