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Embracing the Darkness brings the twilight world of the witch, mage and necromancer to vivid and fascinating life. The book leads the reader through a shadowy landscape where, in an age before modern medicine, the onset of sudden illness was readily explained by malevolent spellcasting: and where dark, winding country lanes could terrify by night, as the hoot of an owl or the shriek of a fox became the desolate cries of unseen spirits, ghouls and spectres. Witchcraft has profoundly shaped the Western imagination, and endures in the forms of modern-day Wicca and Paganism. Embracing the Darkness is an enthralling account of this fascinating aspect of the Western cultural experience.

‘John Callow’s cultural history of witchcraft is a vivid, compelling, bizarre and terrifying history of devils, witches, demonic seduction and witch-hunts – deeply researched, highly readable and strangely relevant for our own times’.

Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The Romanovs


‘Be warned: this is a dangerous, seductive book which contains the power both of metamorphosis and time travel. Open at any page and step into the past as living breathing history … The author’s genius is to explain the strange transformation of the witch from a female archetype of fear and hate to a modern-day sympathetic and aspirational figure and forerunner of feminism’.

Rachel Holmes, author of African Queen and Eleanor Marx: A Life



‘This is one of the most fascinating books on witches and witchcraft that I’ve read for some time. Through a sharply discerning lens, separating cultural assumptions from historical fact, John Callow looks at the history of witches and the variety of ways in which they have been viewed … Embracing the Darkness may lead the reader through shadows, but it is a most enlightening book’.

Gary Lachman, former bass guitarist with Blondie, author of The Secret Teachers of the Western World and Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius 


‘The great virtue of Embracing the Darkness lies in its eschewing any simplistic, reductionist explanations of witchcraft in favour of a series of detailed, finely nuanced accounts that give the reader a much richer appreciation of the many ways that the witch has been constructed and imagined in Western culture. It’s a terrific example of contextual scholarship’. 

Professor Philip C. Almond, University of Queensland


‘A compelling treatment of the witch in culture, literature and art – with a strong social and political critique evident throughout. Callow shows a nuanced appreciation of pagan history, and indeed a sensibility, in Western Europe’s understanding of witchcraft and magic’.

Christina Oakley Harrington, Founder & Director, Treadwell’s Bookshop, London


‘The book is eclectic in the best possible way. Each chapter deals with a different appearance of the witch or witches, some well-known and others more obscure. The response to each subject is personal and poetic and deals with “high” and “low” culture with an egalitarianism which is to be commended … This is a fantastic book’.

The Enquiring Eye, (Journal of the Witchcraft Museum, Boscastle), Issue 2.


‘John Callow’s cultural history of witchcraft is a wonderful read. An historian with several books on witchcraft and on the 17th century, Callow is an enthusiastic writer who draws you along with him … Any cultural analysis is inevitably selective; Callow’s selection, even when gruesome, is compelling. Above all he is a consummate storyteller, concluding that the witch is a vehicle for transformation’.

The Fortean Times, Issue 372, November 2018


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