Magic, Witches and Parapsychology

Books received for review:

Butler, Alison, Victorian Occultism and the Making of Modern Magic: Invoking Tradition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

In the midst of increasing secularization and the birth of scientific naturalism, a curious group emerged in Victorian Britain. From 1888-1900, hundreds of men and women were initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at temples across Britain and in Paris. Amongst them were famous personalities such as William Butler Yeats, Florence Farr, Annie Horniman, Maud Gonne and the infamous Aleister Crowley. These men and women met in secret temples for even more secretive rituals, in order to learn the techniques of ritual magic. Members put this magic to use in various ways including attempting murder, preserving peace, and travelling to other planets.
This examination of the rituals and personalities associated with the Golden Dawn demonstrates how Victorian magic provided an alternative to the tightening camps of science and religion in an intellectual environment that heightened the allure of magic. Victorian Occultism and the Making of Modern Magic explores how nineteenth-century occultism encompassed many of the aspirations and ideals of the middle-class, while completely revolutionizing Western magic.

Pickering, Andrew, and David Pickering, Witch-Hunting in England (Amberley, 2010)

This book will address the origins of witch-hunting in England in the sixteenth century, the methods by which it was conducted, its distribution, its causes and consequences, and its decline. While addressing a general readership it will be a scholarly work that is informed by the historiography of the subject – e.g. feminist perspectives, functional explanations, post-modern interpretations. The text will be rich in primary source material including trial records and contemporary literature, including demonological texts and the papers of the Royal Society. Most of the illustrations will also be engravings from the period but some maps and location photographs will be included.

About the Author
David Pickering is an experienced reference books compiler. He has contributed to (and often been sole author and editor of) some 150 reference books, mostly in the areas of the arts, language, local history and popular interest. These include a Dictionary of Theatre (1988), an Encyclopedia of Pantomime (1993), Brewer’s Twentieth-Century Music (1994; 1997), a Dictionary of Superstitions (1995) and a Dictionary of Witchcraft (1996). Andrew Pickering is Senior Lecturer in History and Archaeology at Strode College, Somerset, and is Programme Manager of the History, Heritage and Archaeology Foundation Degree with the University of Plymouth.

Smith, Matthew D., Anomalous Experiences: Essays from Parapsychological and Psychological Perspectives (McFarland, 2010)

From the back cover:
Thirteen essays on the psychology and parapsychology of anomalous experience explore extrasensory perception, haunting experiences, apparitions, alien contacts, séance room phenomena, and out-of-body experiences. The contributors are Daryl Bem, Etzel Cardena, Jezz Fox, Chris French, Craig Murray, Ciaran O’Keeffe, Chris Roe, Simon Sherwood, Christine Simmonds-Moore, Paul Stevens, Caroline Watt, Richard Wiseman and Robin Woofitt

Feeling the future: studies of precognitive emotional arousal / Daryl J. Bem — Experimenter effects in parapsychology: three studies — With a remote helping task / Caroline Watt — The role of altered states of consciousness in extrasensory — Experiences / Chris A. Roe — Are our assumptions more anomalous than the phenomena? / Paul Stevens — Will we ever know whether extrasensory perception exists? / Jezz Fox — Towards a sociological parapsychology / Robin Wooffitt — Psychological perspectives — Anomalous experiences during deep hypnosis / Etzel Cardea — Haunting experiences: an integrative approach / Ciarn O’Keeffe and Steve Parsons — Apparitions of black dogs / Simon J. Sherwood — Psychological aspects of the alien contact experience / Christopher C. French, Julia Santomauro, Victoria Hamilton — Rachel fox and michael thalbourne — Observing the impossible: eyewitness testimony for — Darkroom seances / Richard Wiseman — Developing a dissociational account of out-of-body — Experiences / Craig D. Murray — Anomalous experiences and boundary thinness in — The mind and brain / Christine Simmonds-Moore.