Cover Image: The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies

The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book is very intriguing. It is a very comprehensive guide to the creatures in a hidden realm. Learn about the origins of wizards, witches, and fairies. This book is very engaging and hard to put down. I was very interested in the witches and the fairies, although the wizards are quite fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I definitely recommend to all who are curious about the origins of witches, wizards, and fairies.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to netgalley, the publisher and the author for allowing me to have access to an eARC for this book in return for an honest review. 

Apologies for taking so long with the feedback. 

This was a great book with theory and concepts that got my brain thinking, this is very good for people who read a lot of fantasy books to think about the o origin of these stories.
Was this review helpful?
If you've ever wondered why we think things like Gandalf's pointed, floppy-brimmed hat in LOTR or why fairies are live under the hill and come out to steal milk and produce are "just how things are", Simon Webb's book on the origin of our contemporary knowledge of wizards, witches and fairies is a wonderful summary of why we think the things we think. 

Drawing on resources from archeology, ancient cave paintings and oral traditions, this book traces the origins of many of the things we, in 21st century life, have assimilated as part of a general cultural knowledge. I particularly enjoyed the tracing of the Merlin/Gandalf story back in time through Odin, as well as fast-forwarding to our current view of Santa Claus and St. Nicholas. Most of the preconceptions we have about what a wizard looks like, or what powers a witch has are rooted in centuries, even millenium-old traditions and stories, many of which have a base in historical fact. I also have a fascination with bog bodies, so the tie-ins to ritual sacrifices and how these traditions were tied into the beliefs of various cultures from Celtic to Indo-Europeans was of particular interest to me. I had a lot of "aha!" moments throughout the book and stopped to read my husband passages that resonanted really strongly with me. 

My one criticism of the book is that the book felt a bit disorganized. I felt that there was a lot of jumping around to different topics, rather than carrying through one concept from start to finish in terms of an historical perspective. I wound up having to bookmark and reference back to a few sections, just to pick up the narrative thread. 

I can see this book having a strong appeal for readers who want to know more about the origins of some of their favorite contemporary fantasy characters, as well as those who appear throughout literature of the past, including fairy tales and even casual superstitions like throwing coins into a fountain that continues today.
Was this review helpful?
I was intrigued and curious indeed when I saw this book. After I read it, I thought that it somewhat reminded me of The Great Cat Massacre by R. Darnton, especially the bit about the fairy tales and reasons behind it. It's a fogotten real truth and face of those modernized fairy tales everybody seem to love!
The topic is really interested indeed, although I haven't learned much new from this book. However I do like the ties with most recent movies and events, which just shows how this topic is still relevant these days. 
I do have to say, that at times book feels somewhat repetative, which can be both annoying and a good thing, as it's easier to remember the things from previous chapters in order to tie them all in. However, I would prefer it be less repetative. I am glad to see the various examples from all over the Europe, particularly Baltic states, which tend to be often forgotten. This being said, the appendix "The Magical Year" looks a bit rushed. If it would have been specifies that it is solely based on Western, more like British Isles traditions, it would be easier to pass as such. Except that it isn't. It briefly mentions other countries and regions for comparisons on random dates and somehow forgets Summer Solstice traditions in most of the Europe, especially Eastern and North-Eastern side of it, where it is actually a very big thing and has interesting ties with folklore... 
Despite all of this, I think this book is good introduction to the topic for the people who are entirely unfamiliar with it, it is well written, easy to read, is well paced and keeps reader's interest.
Was this review helpful?
The Origins of Wizards, Witches, and Fairies by Simon Webb is a nonfiction book about the historical and cultural origins of wizards, witches, and fairies and how these ideas have changed over time. I received an early copy through the publisher on NetGalley. I was interested in this book because I've never read about this aspect of history. It was well written and explored how stories change but at times it did feel like the same information was being repeated. I also would have preferred the images to be in the text instead of just in the back. However, I do feel like any with an interest in folklore and magic would enjoy this book.
Was this review helpful?
3.5 stars for enjoyment

I am to read more nonfiction this year and Occult is definetely one of my interests. I love it in fiction and I am fascinated by its manifestations in "real life."

My fascination with the magical and folkish side of the occult and supernatural has been a part of me for as long as I can remember and Simon Webb's The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies was amazing. The cover is absolutely stunning and I enjoyed how the chapters were separated and it will definitely be one of those coffee table / conversation starters for likeminded friends.

I do wish it had more illustrations and that more global magical folk had been represented.

Disclaimer: In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Pen & Sword History, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies.
Was this review helpful?
A concise, informative, well researched and interesting book that made me learn something new.
It was a fascinating read as it goes back in time and made us learn how we came to tell some stories or some myths came into being.
Even if it's a concise read there're plenty of information.
Recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Was this review helpful?
*Copy provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

A non-fiction book about the historical origins of witches, wizards and fairies. Well, it had everything to be amazing but, sadly, it was not. I believe that for lovers of the topics provided, it gave nothing new to reflect upon and provided mostly known and tiresome information. However, for those that are just starting on the path of historical fantastical knowledge it might be a good start. Sadly, I wanted more.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you for the arc on this title.

An interesting read that I would recommend if you like folklore - in particular, wizards, witches and fairies. 

A quick read with just over 200 pages.
Was this review helpful?
This book tells the fascinating story of the origin of our ideas about wizards, witches and fairies. It combines folklore and scientific findings to give us an  image of the origins of wizards, fairies etc., as clear as possible.
It was an interesting read and it is well written and well researched.
Was this review helpful?
I didn't realize that I needed such a reading! The book speaks in a scientific, anthropological way about childhood stories, giving them meaning and reflection that many may not realize. Of course, a major theme for wizards and their image, but there is much more. I recommend.
Was this review helpful?
This book dissects the anthropological origins of magical beings, with a particular focus on wizards. The wizard’s female counterpart, witches, get a bit more attention in the second half of the book, whilst fairies are the main focus of chapter ten. It discusses the earliest origins of the myths and how they have been warped by oral tradition, changing times, and fanciful literary and artistic renderings. It explores the possible truths behind the magic, linking various pieces of (often quite morbid) evidence together into a bigger picture.

The concept of this book intrigued me immediately and I was not disappointed by chapter one which explored the idea of a universal magical realm being re-used subconsciously by fantasy creators. This was made even more enticing when Webb linked the setting of this realm with Bronze Age Europe. I now want to re-read every fantast book I have ever read to see if I can find these common threads for myself.

The Bronze Age interpretation was referred to many times throughout this book, but it was not the farthest point in history which Webb dared to analyse. His theory stretches right back to one of the earliest races of human, the Yamnaya. Whilst I found his detailed descriptions of the Yamnaya fascinating, a lot of it was not directly relevant to the magical focus which had drawn me to read this book in the first place. Likewise the final chapter, which discusses pagan holidays, did seem rather surplus to requirement however interesting the ideas presented were.

As well as the Yamnaya, multiple other characters recur throughout the book; most notably Odin, Santa (who have more in common than you might realise), and devil figures such as Krampus, Cernunnos and the Lord of Animals. This repetition did make the text seem a bit drawn out at times, although I cannot fault the shock factor of some of these initial comparisons. 

Another shock factor which added a certain level of grotesque realism to the argument was the frequent use of bog bodies, and their very violent methods of murder, as supporting evidence. Some of the more modern examples also include a few morbidly specific details which were recorded at the time. 

Overall this book presented a well-rounded argument for the ancient origins of wizards and how they evolved over time and how their motifs are so clear in our culture’s collective memory today. At times it was a bit repetitive and it occasionally took a slight detour in its focus, but these small flaws should not put you off from reading this book if you have a genuine interest in the subject matter.
Was this review helpful?
I was super excited to be granted this wish. Unfortunately, I was expecting something different from this book. I couldn't finish it, I gave up around 75% in. There was some very interesting information in the book. However, I found the writing very repetitive and at times I got too bored to continue with it.

Thank you so much for granting me this wish!
Was this review helpful?
"The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies" is a fascinating and entertaining romp through the world's folklore, myths, and legends. From Boudicca to Cinderella, from Julius Caesar to King Arthur, these well-known and loved stories are explained and examined.

You will recognize stories from your childhood, now seen through adult eyes. This book is extremely well-researched and presented in an easy-to-follow layout. The author draws interesting parallels between ancient mythology and our current fascination with all things magical. I especially liked the chapter on cauldrons and wands. 

I found enjoyment in reading a chapter or two at a time -- that gave me time to ruminate on what I had just learned. This book would be a wonderful reference and foundation for all spinners of yarns. I highly recommend this book for any adult with an interest in mythology, folklore, and fairy tales.
Was this review helpful?
This was super interesting. I would like to thank Pen & Sword for providing me with an advance readers copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program. Anyone looking for a comprehensive telling of wizards, witches, and fairies in how they came about in their true form, how portrayal in pop culture compared the the past has evolved, as well as how perception and characterization has changed over time. Would be a good resource book for anyone needing reference and for anyone interested in such topics.

<b>The Story</b>
I enjoyed the commentary on preservation of oral history, context, meaning, application, conduct, as well as proposed theories about such beings and how they were portrayed in literature and pop culture today.

I would have liked to have seen a bit more related to how such characters are portrayed and used in other media, such as the fairies in The Legend of Zelda and other video games, but that’s just personal preference for my curiosity when it specifically comes to fairies.

Etymology was interesting and the book went into detail of the symbolism in their clothing, decor, flutes, and horns. There were some aspects that were incredibly informational where it was less persuasive and what was more persuasive had less information, which was pleasant to read through without being dry, but also in some ways I think that came down to overall tone and maybe more an objective of the book than oversight.

<b>The Writing</b>
It’s a very approachable book. 

I received an ARC so I won’t comment on the organization as I think it was still being refined and I deeply appreciated the topics it touched upon no matter the order.

A lot of time research shows in the depth of date and reference accuracy, originating concept, and overall depiction. Some presuppositions that make you feel like you’re on the bandwagon, other times there were questions particularly related to Christianity, that I think were answered with certain historical figures and references rather than overall concept or message. As a result, at times there was lot of opinion, commentary, personal tone that I found to be interesting but came with more questions than answers, particularly how Christianity is mostly the sole contrast to the examples that were given. One to argue with rather than from point of discovery and possible relationship. Mentioned religious appropriation of other cultures but I would wonder if overall it proposes the question of asking if law and formalities preceded nature and behavior, or the other way around? Of which speculation that no one could ever confer as a hijacking of Christianity, not as a title of religion, but overall relationship.

<b>Illustrations</b>
These were super beautiful and interesting.

<a href="https://ericarobbin.com">Blog post</a>
Was this review helpful?
I appreciate the publisher allowing me to read this book. This is an incredible reference perfect for anyone interested in magic.
Was this review helpful?
Sorry, but I've been unable to get going with this book. It seems to rely on illustrations, as it refers to them in the text,  but there are no illustrations. Also, the layout is a bit mixed up with page headers appearing in the middle of the text and sentences left hanging but picked up again following a big gap.

I won't give a low-star review to a book I haven't finished,  and I won't be sharing this 'review' publicly.
Was this review helpful?
I was so thrilled to be granted this wish that I do not now how to explain what happened. 

I will just state that this book was no made for me. I don't know why I expected something different.

Thank you so much for granting the wish.
Was this review helpful?
This was a super interesting read! I went into it thinking it would be a tale of magic, but it provides a very grounded, well-researched historical perspective on how common archetypes of wizards, witches and fairies came to be, and how it has permeated into our common cultural consciousness from 4000-5000 years ago to today. It illuminates how ubiquitous all these archetypes are in our daily lives, yet we never stop to wonder at its origins - well, this book delves into it. I loved how it incorporated many recent pop culture references as well, such that a reader will be able to relate what is said to something they are familiar with. At the same time, it espouses enough history in an accessible way that a reader unfamiliar with history (like myself) is able to understand. And a little bonus that made my Linguistics student heart pitter-patter with excitement: There's some discussion on linguistics!

I came away really feeling like I truly learnt something, and it really enriches my understanding of wizards, witches and fairies. While the conjectures postulated in this book are more grounded in reality, debunking much of the mysticism surrounding wizards, witches and fairies, it doesn't necessarily take away from the mysticism; instead, I felt like I got a deeper appreciation for how these myths and folklore came to be, and the power of human imagination and the oral tradition, to have endured for so long and morphed into what it is today. Truly fascinating!

I also really appreciated the inclusion of pictures/illustrations, although in the e-ARC I received, the pictures were all included at the end of the book, so it did make it kind of hard to see what the author was referring to during the book, since I would have had to scroll all the way down to do so and then scroll all the way back up, so I only saw the illustrations once I finished the book.
Was this review helpful?
I was really excited to get a chance to read this book as I am very keen on anything supernatural and their origins. 
But as I read I found the conversation to be circular and didn't quite explain the origins. 

There were multiple references to popular depictions of wizards, witches, and fairies. I am assuming that it done to make the content more relatable. However, it didn't quite do it for me. 

It did read like a reference book which perhaps is the goal, but it didn't work for me. 

Thank you NetGalley and Pen and Sword History for giving me the opportunity to read this. 

#TheOriginsofWizardsWitchesandFairies #NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?