A Razor for a Goat

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

Elliot Rose
WITH A NEW FOREWORD BY RICHARD KIECKHEFER
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt14jxwd8
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  • Book Info
    A Razor for a Goat
    Book Description:

    Originally published in 1962, Elliot Rose?s A Razor for a Goat was one of the first studies to debunk the dominant theory of the time that witchcraft had been an organized pre-Christian religion. A new introduction situates it within the discipline today.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7043-3
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    RICHARD KIECKHEFER

    WhenA Razor for aGoat first appeared in 1962, it was recognized as a biting critique of the views of Margaret Murray, then the prevailing orthodoxy in the study of witchcraft.¹ Now, forty years later, Rose’s book may perhaps seem more of a revisionist work within Murray’s school of interpretation. So much has happened in the historiography of witchcraft that what seemed at first a wide gulf between Rose and Murray now appears narrower, and factors shared by the two have become clearer.

    In more than one way Rose's book bears the mark of the period that produced it....

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
    E.R.
  5. CHAPTER ONE Which Witch Is Which?
    (pp. 3-21)

    Few people nowadays are witches; or, if they are, they are not often ready to admit it. This is a pity, not only because there are many occasions in modern life when a witch might be useful, but also because it means we have, most of us, no chance of finding out anything about witchcraft by positive and direct evidence. Indeed, when there are, for practical purposes, no witches, and when everything written about them is so vague, contradictory, or conjectural, we have not even a steady peg to hang the word “witch” on. In default of such a peg,...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Light from the Obscure Men
    (pp. 22-39)

    The direct evidence for the practices of the witch-cult is derived almost wholly from a single type of source, and mainly from a relatively short period. This, of course, is the judicial material produced in the great scare of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (which I shall call for the sake of brevity the Age of Neurosis). It is important to note that this period was the only one in the history of Christian Western Europe that has produced any bulk of such material; and not only do most of the known trials fall within it but so also...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Dianus versus Diabolus
    (pp. 40-55)

    “Dianus,” according to Frazer, and the Hebrew “Held,” which we translate “Lucifer,” both mean “The Shining One.” This is a trivial coincidence, but may serve to illustrate what enormous differences of opinion may be at the bottom no more than variant interpretations of a word. Many of the differences between the Anti-Sadducee and the Murrayite views of the Sabbat may appear, or could with a little ingenuity be shown, to be differences about names rather than things. There remain one or two possibilities which would clinch the argument one way or the other. If it could be shown that the...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR 1066 and All That
    (pp. 56-78)

    Miss murray’s presentation of English history, inThe God of the WitchesandThe Divine King in England, is not likely to deceive anyone who checks it by the authorities she quotes, let alone by recent works of scholarship; but it may mislead him in the other direction. It leaps rapidly to the eye that these books contain an incredible number of minor errors of fact or of calculation and several inconsistencies of reasoning. It would be unwise to leap as rapidly to the conclusion that they cannot also contain genuine insights; there have been historians of respectable eminence (Froude,...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Divinity That Doth Hedge
    (pp. 79-105)

    It will come as no shock, to anyone who has read so far, to learn that I personally believe the whole human-sacrifice theory of the Murrayites is nonsense from beginning to end. There may be some who would like to hear my reasons for this view.

    In no single instance of all those put forward by Miss Murray is there not an alternative and a better explanation of the facts. The reader can, I think, afford to take this as established; if he cares to do so, he may go throughThe Divine King in Englandapplying Occam’s razor (the...

  10. CHAPTER SIX A Hunt for a Huntress
    (pp. 106-129)

    ….Nevertheless, it should not be omitted that some wicked women, won over to Satan’s side (retro post Satanam conversae) and beguiled by deceits and hallucinations of devils, believe and profess that they ride out on beasts by night with Diana the goddess of the Heathen and a numberless multitude of women, and cover great distances in the silence of night, and on particular nights (cents nocttkws) are summoned to this service. But would that they only perished in their faithlessness, and did not drag down many with them into the same unfaith! For a numberless multitude, beguiled by this false...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN What Song the Syrens Sang
    (pp. 130-151)

    For the purposes of the last chapter, I have been working on the assumption that the beliefs generally held about witchcraft in the age of persecution, including some of those held by witches, originated outside witchcraft in historical times, and became transferred to, or adopted by, the cult by a syncretic process we have still to consider. It is, however, time, if we are to preserve a balanced mind on this problem, to give the opposite view its head; and I shall now consider the cult as a possible pagan survival, at least for much of the present chapter. That...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT The Gargoyles of Notre Dame
    (pp. 152-177)

    I have chosen to take the year 1215 as a landmark, specially on account of its Lateran Council. This (the fourth) is important as the occasion when the Western Church produced its final answer on the subjects of dispute between itself and the Albigensians (the time being intermediate between the first and second Albigensian Crusade). It was the time when the movement away from “feudal” Christianity (described in appendix B) became official; and something was then done to clarify the Church’s view of the devils. These, it was emphasized, were part of the same creation with man, and created good,...

  13. CHAPTER NINE The Powers of Darkness
    (pp. 178-199)

    For some chapters past we have concentrated wholly on an attempt to extract some sense from the historical and anthropological possibilities, on the assumption that these alone needed to be considered. But there remains the outright Anti-Sadducee view, the view that witches really adored a real Satan, and enjoyed, perhaps still enjoy, supernatural privileges as his devotees. There also, of course, remains the “Freudian” type of explanation, the view that the whole thing was a romp of degenerates. That the cult did itself degenerate, and into something of this kind, is I think tenable but not very likely; at least...

  14. CHAPTER TEN A Tell-tale in Their Company
    (pp. 200-230)

    I had already come to the conclusions set out in these last few chapters and was proposing to myself to round off with some judicious remarks on mass psychology and a telling appendix or two, when it occurred to me to wonder: is it not very remarkable that no effort has been made in our day to re-create the “Dianic cult”? Miss Murray’s theory that witchcraft is entitled to serious consideration as a religion, and had in fact been the real religion of Britain till very recently, was put before the world in 1921. At that time the view was...

  15. APPENDIXES
    (pp. 231-246)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-252)
  17. Index
    (pp. 253-257)