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Early New Englanders used magical techniques to divine the future, to heal the sick, to protect against harm and to inflict harm. Protestant ministers of the time claimed that religious faith and magical practice were incompatible, and yet, as Richard Godbeer shows, there were significant affinities between the two that enabled layfolk to switch from one to the other without any immediate sense of wrongdoing. Godbeer argues that the different perspectives on witchcraft engendered by magical tradition and Puritan doctrine often caused confusion and disagreement when New Englanders sought legal punishment of witches.
Godbeer examines the use of folk magic by ordinary men and women in early New England and shows that, even though Protestant ministers of the time clearly condemned these practices, there are significant affinities between religious faith and magical practices. Appealing reading in the tradition of John Demos' Entertaining Satan.
Acknowledgments; Preface; Introduction; 1. 'Magical experiments': divining, healing and destroying in seventeenth-century New England; 2. 'The serpent that lies in the grass unseen': clerical and lay opposition to magic; 3. 'Entertaining Satan': sin, suffering, and countermagic; 4. 'Sinful curiosity': astrological discourse in early New England; 5. 'Insufficient grounds for conviction': witchcraft, the courts, and countermagic; 6. 'Rape of a whole colony': the 1692 witch-hunt; Epilogue; Appendices.