Although many books on magic and witchcraft have been published in recent years, a good comprehensive history of the subject has been lacking. The gap is now filled by Richard Cavendish's A History of Magic, which deals with magic in the West from prehistoric times to the present. Mr Cavendish does not ask us to believe in magic - though he points out that some of its oldest claims are now widely accepted - but to trace the effects of belief in it on human behavior. Through the centuries magic has been inextricably entangles with the history of religion and is interwoven with art and medicine, folklore and superstition, astrology and fortune-telling, and the daily lives of generations of ordinary men and women. On the way the story takes in elements as diverse as Pythagoras and Orpheus, the Hermetica and the Neoplatonists, amulets and hieroglyphics, sacrifices and dream interpretation, the magic of herbs and healing, the history of astrology, the lore of curses and spells, folk customs, and ceremonies, Christian magic, Jewish traditions and the Cabala, Joan of Arc and Gilles de Rais, Nostradamus, Paracelsus and Faust, the witch trials, the Black Mass and Rasputin, Yoga and Tantrism, Madame Blavatsky, W. B. Yeats, and C. G. Jung. Mr. Cavendish brings a balanced sense of order to this complex and often perplexing material. A History of Magic is a lively and penetrating analysis by a leading authority, providing for the first time a clear, accurate account of a complex and fascinating subject.
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