I've been reading WITCHCRAFT AND MAGIC IN EUROPE edited by Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark and have found the series incredibly informative. Although some may stumble over the text owing to the arcane demands of scholorship, as "text books" go, these works are the best. I may be biased as I never seem to tire of the subject of magic (what is it anyway??) especially when it is intelligently and objectively discussed. I also think anyone who truly wants to understand the connections between modern Christianity and Paganism must read these books as they combine information from written texts, including theological works, with archeology. You simply can't discuss witchraft and magic in Europe without reference to Chistianity--particularly the Roman Catholic Church. I feel these authors are very objective, but that may be because they recognize there was something very different about Jesus compared with the other magi of the ancient world.
'Ancient Greece and Rome' contains four scholarly essays. The first, by Daniel Ogden of the University of Wales in Swansea, covers "Binding Spells, Curse Tablets and Voodoo Dolls in the Greek and Roman World." Ogden investigates the cache of curse tablets unearthed at Bath in England as well as archeological findings from other parts of the Roman empire. The student of Britannia will find the connections with Persia, Greece, Rome, and Egypt fascinating.
In the second essay, "Witches and Sorcerers in Classical Literature" Georg Luck of Johns Hopkins University discusses the concept of magic and it's many definitions as well as the practicioners of magic in all their incarnations. After reading his essay, I have a much better idea of what literary critics mean when they describe a modern work as a 'classic'. For example, resurrecting the dead was the aim of the necromancer (a type of sorcerer). What else could Dr. Frankenstein have been up to? And what the heck was Dante doing in hell?
These essays complement each other and the last essay ties them all together. I was raised Roman Catholic and am familiar with the teachings of the Church as well as the early writings of the Church elders, so I found the connections between magic and religion Valerie Flint of the University of Hull made in her essay intriguing.
Flint's essay, is entitled, "The Demonization of Magic and Sorcery in Late Antiquity: Christian Redefinitions of Pagan Religions." Flint suggests the Roman Catholic Church condemmed the practicioners (Sorcerers and Magicians), offered them salvation, and then adopted many of their practicies. Goddesses and Demigods became saints, healing for a fee took on a new meaning, statues were transformed, prayers for crops took a new twist, sacrements and sacrifices were retained, and daemons took two forms--devils and angels.
There is much information about witchcraft in ancient Europe in this book, but it's no light reading. From scrolls found in early BC (how they were made and where they were found)to Demons in the "today" Christian Bible. It basically informs you of(almost) every idea, story(old and new, fiction and nonfiction)and myth on witchcraft in history. I enjoyed this book (though it took me a while to get through it) Be warned, TEXT BOOK reading.