So, as all good witches, Wiccans, would-be demons and demonologists, researchers into the Arcane and Occult should do, I finally read "The History of Witchcraft and Demonology" by Montague Summers. And what a ride it was!
I must admit that, prior to buying and reading this book, my exposure to Summers was as a fleeting reference in many other works on the Occult that I had read or referenced over the years, and as the translator of The Malleus Maleficarum, (The Hammer of the Witches), the great Witch-Hunting treatise of the 15th Century, so, although the name was familiar to me, I really knew little of the man himself.
It must be remembered when approaching works like these that they really stem from an era prior to the current Age of Enlightenment and Freedom of Expression we have the good fortune to be living in. Additionally, works such as these build on the incredibly outrageous foundations of organisations like the Roman Catholic church, that associated witches and their covens and sabbats with Satanism in its purest form, so are flavoured and directed to interpret all forms of Witchcraft as forms of devil-worship and having no other purpose than the expression and proliferation of evil within society.
The truth is, of course, much more complex and different than the simple version these controlling religions and their ingenuees place on subjects like Witchcraft. Today we are wise enough to separate the activities and beliefs of any and every type of worship from the subjective assertion of evil. We know that evil is not the purvue of any one aspect of lifestyle or religious choice, but is potentially a part of ALL belief-and-behaviour-control systems, irrespective of whether they are a mass religion such as Catholicism, or an individual practising Wicca or Shamanism, and we understand that Evil is, in fact, a whole spectrum of of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that form part of the Human Psychological construct.
Having said all of that, maybe I was hoping or expecting more from Mr Summers than simply an updated re-hashing and regurgitation of that egregiously biased garbage spewed out by those institutions in their crude and malicious attempts to squash everything that did not fit into their narrow minded and viciously enforced one-god view of the world. Alas - I was sadly mistaken!
It seems that all Mr Summers was really intent on doing was re-cataloguing all of the so-called Satanic or Demonic occurrences over the previous two thousand years, denying any justification for these that the perpetrators may have had, in favour of blindly accepting and viscerally promoting the 'Christian' - and therefore the only right and true interpretation - of these events. Any argument that the practitioners of these rites might have put forward relating these practices to their pagan roots is ruthlessly ignored - even to the point of stupidly asserting that they are wrong simply and solely because the Church says they are wrong. And, because they are wrong, they are Satanic Devil Worship, and should be squashed as per the instructions given in the Malleus Maleficarum.
The thing I find hardest to swallow in all of Summers' reiterations of dogmatic hatred is that this man was a close friend and associate of the Great Beast 666 himself - Aleister Crowley, and the two could often be found in each others company, amicably discussing these matters. If Summers was as opposed to these beliefs and practices as his continuous denunciation of them would seem to indicate, the company of a monster such as Crowley should have been a total anathema to his sensitive being, and the kind of association that should have got dear old Mr Summers excommunicated by his Christian brethren! All of which would seem to indicate that Mr Summers was truly as shallow as his actions portrayed, and his continued revisitation of Satanic condemnations was really a device for generating interest, and therefore wealth and infamy, for himself, while his works are really simple re-tellings of other peoples efforts, and bear little if any truth around the true meanings and beliefs behind Witchcraft, Wicca, or any other pagan religious practices.