Nocturnal Histories: Witchcraft and the Shamanic Legacy of Pre-Christian Europe

August 2009

2009 will mark the twentieth publication anniversary of Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg’s landmark study Storia notturna, translated as Ecstasies: deciphering the witches’ Sabbath. This work transformed the study of European witchcraft, discussing the phenomenon from the gendered perspective of its practitioners rather than merely its persecutors. Its core thesis—that much of the Christian faith in Europe was underlain by centuries-old strata of pre-Christian cults and essentially shamanic practices—set the agenda for two decades of subsequent research.

With Ginzburg himself as guest of honor, this seminar aims to bring together historians, archaeologists, students of religion, folklorists, and literary scholars to discuss the current state of thought around this fundamental subject, and to map out a new trajectory for the future of witchcraft studies.