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Between the Devil and the Host


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Table of Contents

Introduction: At the crossroads Part I. History 1: Contexts 2: Imagining witchcraft in literature and law 3: A winding road to the stake 4: Mechanisms of justice Part II. Religion 5: Healing and Harming 6: Stealing the sacred 7: Broken bodies 8: Piety in the torture chamber Part III. Demonology 9: A candle for the devil 10: Demon lovers 11: Translating the Devil Conclusion Appendix: Polish witch trials 1511-1775 Bibliography

About the Author

Michael Ostling grew up in northern California. He fell in love with Poland while teaching English in that country during a break from university. He did his graduate work at the Centre for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto, and currently teaches witchcraft, Christianity, mythology and related subjects at Central Michigan University.


Michael Ostling offers a fascinating contribution to the interpretation of early modern witch trials and confessions, which prove to be as historically challenging in the Polish context as elsewhere in Europe. * Larry Wolff, Times Literary Supplement *
The author's religious-cultural approach to witches counters interpretations that tend to dismiss them as products of fantasy and superstition. An appendix, maps, and a table complement this stimulating book. * L. B. Gimelli, CHOICE *
This is an invaluable addition to regional studies of witchcraft in early modern Europe, bringing important recent Polish-language research into contact with interpretations and styles of inquiry currently being developed for other parts of Europe. * Stuart Clark, Journal of Ecclesiastical History *
A splendid study. * Brian Levack, English Historical Review *
Between the Devil and the Host is an exceedingly valuable book * Magda Teter, Polin *
In [Ostling's] brilliant analysis, the Polish witchstands at the crossroads of European and Slavic worlds, of high and low culture, of church and state, of formal court procedure and informal rites of reconciliation and counter-magic, of religion and "superstition," of reality and fantasy, and of culture and the individual. * Valerie Kivelson, Slavic Review *
will be welcomed by specialists and more general readers alike as a useful and insightful contribution to early modern witchcraft studies. * Hans Peter Broedel, Church History *
an excellent monograph that faithfully reflects a regional history while offering important insights to the field as a whole ... Between the Devil and the Host is a history of witchcraft written from the intellectual perspective of religious studies, with keen attention to English historical anthropology and extensive archival scholarship. It will serve well as an assigned text in both graduate and undergraduate courses on the European witch hunts, and it should be read by scholars of witchcraft in general. * Laura Stokes, American Historical Review *
makes for fascinating reading ... His framing of the wider question of what constitutes Christianity as an approach to reading witchcraft trials turns our attention to the margin between culture and self. His multidisciplinary approach (using comparative ethnology, folklore, and anthropology of religion) seeks to prove the very piety of the Polish Catholic peasant women accused of consorting with the devil through the motifs of diabolic copulation, host desecration, and invocation. * Wanda Wyporska, Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft *

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