Emerging from testimonies during witchcraft trials in Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries are consistent descriptions of the Witches' Sabbath: night flying, ritual cannibalism, etc. Most scholars dismiss these descriptions as torture-induced gibberish. Ginzburg (history, Univ. of California at Los Angeles) proves that these descriptions are bastardized accounts of ecstatic experiences practiced by a shamanic culture. In addition, he links the persecution of the witches with that of other social outcasts (lepers, Jews, and Muslims). Europeans thought that these groups conspired against society, which led to their wholesale slaughter. Very interesting and very convincing. For collections serving upper-level undergraduates and graduate students.-- Gail Wood, Montgomery Coll. Lib., Germantown, Md.
The Observer - Keith Thomas
"Ginzburg's learning is prodigious and his journey through two thousand years of Eurasian folkore a tour de force."
"Ecstasies is a work of uncompromising scholarship and erudition, but it is not intended for the scholar alone. It is also a rich tapestry of anecdote and incident, a chamber of horrors, curiosity shop, and medieval bestiary all in one."
New York Times Book Review - Wendy Doniger
"Ecstasies manages, with extraordinary candor, clarity, grace, and erudition, to steer between lurid sensationalism and dry-as-dust academic drivel, and between purely localized historiography and universalism. This is a big, bold, brilliant book."
"Ginzburg here partially rehabilitates an older point of view, that the witch-cult represented a survival of ancient mysteries, the practice of shamanistic ceremonies forbidden by official Catholicism. Ecstasies offers the result of Ginzburg's researches, in chapters as replete with odd learning and lore as Robert Graves's White Goddess."
London Review of Books
"By any standards, Ecstasies is a bravura performance. It is difficult to think of any other historian who combines such polymathic cultural erudition, grasp of textual and visual detail, and high theoretical aim-not to mention literary skill."
Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance
"[Ginzburg] charms by mixing the historic with the horrific, with writing in a way that creates page-turners out of scholars and general readers alike. Ginzburg . . . is a kind of necromancer, calling up the spirits of the dead to thrill us and to speak to us of marvels."
Barnesandnoblereview.com - Michael Dirda
"At times, Ecstacies can be demanding. . . . But persist, and you will be rewarded with truly haunting stories and speculations."