A Razor for a Goat: A Discussion of Certain Problems in the History of Witchcraft and Diabolism

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University of Toronto Press, 1989 - History - 257 pages

First published in 1962, Elliot Rose's A Razor for a Goat is a study of witchcraft as a religion, whether the religion was a form of pagan survival or a depraved Christian (or anti-Christian) heresy. Rose surveyed witch-scares, fairy folklore, 'ritual' deaths, the Canon Episcopi, and goliards for evidence for witchcraft, and to make some suggestions about the reality behind the popular beliefs on witchcraft societies and Sabbats. One of the first studies to debunk the dominant theory of the time that witchcraft had been an organized pre-Christian religion, A Razor for a Goat is listed on many anthropology, religion, and history course bibliographies.

This reprint has a ten-page foreword by Richard Kieckhefer that gives a historiographical examination of the importance of this book, and situates it within the discipline today. Closely reasoned, and written with a rare wit, A Razor for a Goat is a classic study and excellent survey of the literature and history of witchcraft.


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I personally found this book excellent when I first read it. It provides a lot of food for thought, just like later works such as Triumph of the Moon (Hutton), Magickal Beginnings (d'Este and Rankine) and the various books by Heselton would do for Wicca. I think this is a must read for anyone interested in Witchcraft in the historic sense, as well as those who are interested in practising Witchcraft in the twentyfirst century. 


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About the author (1989)

Elliot Rose was a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. Richard Kieckhefer is a member of the Department of Religion at Northwestern University.

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