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The Discoverie of Witchcraft, by Reginald Scot (1584).
A controversial book published in the reign of Elizabeth I as a counterblast to those who believe in witchcraft.
The Discoverie is divided into 16 books (or chapters). It begins with a description of the impeachment and trial of witches and the practice of witchcraft. This is followed by an examination of the ideology and theology of “witchmongers”. The main argument takes place in this first part, and the rest of the work is spent enumerating examples and absurdities.
The author advises certain readers to skip book 4 because of its filthy and bawdy content. The middle part covers various magical words – kazam, abracadabra etc. – and a litany of charms and magical cures. Book 13 describes natural magic, with many references to Greek philosophy. A large section is then devoted to alchemy, astrology and conjuring tricks. The work ends with an epilogue that resumes Scot’s criticism of the belief in witchcraft.
Scot’s thrust is against witch mongers (for his purposes, witch hunters), particularly the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum (“The Hammer of Witches”) and the French jurist, Jean Bodin, author of, On the Demon Worship of Sorcerers – a “booke of divelish madnesse” (bk.1, c.5):
he that attributeth to a witch, such divine power, as dulie and onelie appertaineth unto GOD (which all witchmongers doo) is in hart a blasphemer, an idolater, and full of grosse impietie, although he neither go nor send to hir for assistance.