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The Night Battles

Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Carlo Ginzburg
with a new preface
translated by John and Anne C. Tedeschi

Publication Date
Binding Type

A remarkable tale of witchcraft, folk culture, and persuasion in early modern Europe.

Based on research in the Inquisitorial archives of Northern Italy, The Night Battles recounts the story of a peasant fertility cult centered on the benandanti, literally, "good walkers." These men and women described fighting extraordinary ritual battles against witches and wizards in order to protect their harvests. While their bodies slept, the souls of the benandanti were able to fly into the night sky to engage in epic spiritual combat for the good of the village. Carlo Ginzburg looks at how the...

A remarkable tale of witchcraft, folk culture, and persuasion in early modern Europe.

Based on research in the Inquisitorial archives of Northern Italy, The Night Battles recounts the story of a peasant fertility cult centered on the benandanti, literally, "good walkers." These men and women described fighting extraordinary ritual battles against witches and wizards in order to protect their harvests. While their bodies slept, the souls of the benandanti were able to fly into the night sky to engage in epic spiritual combat for the good of the village. Carlo Ginzburg looks at how the Inquisition's officers interpreted these tales to support their world view that the peasants were in fact practicing sorcery. The result of this cultural clash, which lasted for more than a century, was the slow metamorphosis of the benandanti into the Inquisition's mortal enemies—witches.

Relying upon this exceptionally well-documented case study, Ginzburg argues that a similar transformation of attitudes—perceiving folk beliefs as diabolical witchcraft—took place all over Europe and spread to the New World. In his new preface, Ginzburg reflects on the interplay of chance and discovery, as well as on the relationship between anomalous cases and historical generalizations.

Reviews

Reviews

A work of genuine intellectual distinction. It is an unusually original contribution to the study of witchcraft in early modern Europe, but its importance is far from being exhausted by that description.

A tour-de-force of reconstruction, building out of scattered and fragmentary sources a whole world for the reader to inhabit.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6.125
x
9.25
Pages
240
ISBN
9781421409924
Illustration Description
4 b&w illus., 4 halftones, 3 line drawings
Table of Contents

Preface to the 2013 Edition
Foreword by Eric J. Hobsbawm
Translators' Note
Preface to the English Edition
Preface to the Italian Edition
I. The Night Battles
II. The Processions of the Dead
III. The

Preface to the 2013 Edition
Foreword by Eric J. Hobsbawm
Translators' Note
Preface to the English Edition
Preface to the Italian Edition
I. The Night Battles
II. The Processions of the Dead
III. The Benandanti between Inquisitors and Witches
IV. The Benandanti at the Sabbat
Appendix
Notes
Index of Names

Author Bios
Featured Contributor

Carlo Ginzburg

Carlo Ginzburg has taught at the University of Bologna, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. The recipient of the 2010 International Balzan Prize, he is author of The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller and Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, also published by Johns Hopkins.
Featured Contributor

Carlo Ginzburg

Carlo Ginzburg has taught at the University of Bologna, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. The recipient of the 2010 International Balzan Prize, he is author of The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller and Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, also published by Johns Hopkins.