Sorceress (the English translation of La Sorcière) by Jules Michelet, is still one of the most vivid, dark and confronting studies on witchcraft ever produced. Long before Murray, it positions the medieval witch within a diminishing ancient culture of nature worship and the ruthless efforts of Christianity – with its radical hostility towards nature and life – to overwrite it. Michelet’s was an authority on the history of the Middle Ages, and his insistence that history should concentrate on ‘the people, and not only its leaders or its institutions’ placed him ahead of his time as a godfather of micro-history.
Starting in the 13th century the book moves on towards belladonna, the Sabbath and pacts with Satan, into the hells of the Burning Times – social contexts, church intrigues and mass hysteria always included. Via Basque witches, the Black Masses and demoniacal possessions we enter the satanic decadence of 17th century France, and finally the end of the witch burning era in 18th century, with the trial of Charlotte Cadière.
Though a solid work of history, the reader is not served a simple bone dry exposition of facts and theories, but something that tastes like a Bloody Mary.