In Defense of Witches

The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial

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Pub Date 08 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 22 Mar 2022

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Mona Chollet's In Defense of Witches is a “brilliant, well-documented” celebration (Le Monde) by an acclaimed French feminist of the witch as a symbol of female rebellion and independence in the face of misogyny and persecution.

Centuries after the infamous witch hunts that swept through Europe and America, witches continue to hold a unique fascination for many: as fairy tale villains, practitioners of pagan religion, as well as feminist icons. Witches are both the ultimate victim and the stubborn, elusive rebel. But who were the women who were accused and often killed for witchcraft? What types of women have centuries of terror censored, eliminated, and repressed?

Celebrated feminist writer Mona Chollet explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted: the independent woman, since widows and celibates were particularly targeted; the childless woman, since the time of the hunts marked the end of tolerance for those who claimed to control their fertility; and the elderly woman, who has always been an object of at best, pity, and at worst, horror. Examining modern society, Chollet concludes that these women continue to be harrassed and oppressed. Rather than being a brief moment in history, the persecution of witches is an example of society’s seemingly eternal misogyny, while women today are direct heirs to those who were hunted down and killed for their thoughts and actions.

With fiery prose and arguments that range from the scholarly to the cultural, In Defense of Witches seeks to unite the mythic image of the witch with modern women who seek to live their lives on their own terms.

Mona Chollet's In Defense of Witches is a “brilliant, well-documented” celebration (Le Monde) by an acclaimed French feminist of the witch as a symbol of female rebellion and independence in the face...


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Featured Reviews

This is an absolutely fascinating and hugely engaging book that taught me about one of my favorite historical subjects.

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A really wonderful historical read about witchcraft and witches, this book is a wonderful read and is extremely well-written.

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'In Defense of Witches' is a book that explores how the patriarchal witch invention has been perpetuated since the witch hunt days via women’s issues such as independence, motherhood, ageism, and health. Chollet argues that these “issues” represent the myth, symbol, stereotype, and image of the witch due to the misogyny and patriarchy that continues to control the world. The witch archetype was used as a tool of suppression in its heyday but still continues to exist in modern day societies through the topics that Chollet passionately explains. This is not a book that is meant to compare and contrast centuries old witch archetypes with the modern woman, but rather is meant to show how the witch hunt has continued to preserve and eternalize the subjugation of women. Chollet’s work will be an important contribution to the study of witches and gender going forward because she does not hold back in arguing that the past shameful history of witch persecutions continues to exist in the present day world amidst a flourishing amount of witch commodification. Informative and thought-provoking, 'In Defense of Witches' argues that the embers from those burned at the stake continue to light fires in modern day society where women are still under threat from those afraid of her power. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Excellent read! Excellently researched! Was a great edition to my non-fiction November to-be-read list. I would recommend to anyone who has an interest in feminism, witchcraft, historical witch trials, and the systemic oppression of women.

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All in all, this is a great basic feminist book with witchcraft tropes as the basis. I have positive emotions but it's not a new favorite. There were a few points that I haven't heard about before and want to mention. First of all, anti-Semitism and demonization of witchcraft share words such as sabbath and synagogue. They also use common stereotypes to make them both "evil". They both have hooked noses and want to "destroy" christianity. I don't know why I've never made that connection or heard of that before. Both women and Jews have been used as scapegoats over history and the oppressors weren't creative in their stereotyping. There were a lot of quotes I really enjoyed by both the author and her sources. One is "Once curbed and domesticated, both women and nature could be reduced to their decorative function....". Another is “They exist outside the gaze of man, beyond that of most others, for their solitude is populated with works of art and with people, living and dead, dear as well as unknown, encounters with whom- whether in flesh and blood or in thought, through their oeuvres- forms the foundations to the women's sense of identity.” from Erika Flahaut. Since the author is French I've learned about women I've never heard about. This is interesting but can be dense. The translation was well done and made the reading a pleasure.

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This was such an eye opening read! I would love to read it again at some point as I feel like there is so much to take in that I couldn't do in just one reading. This will definitely make you think differently about why women are treated the way they are.

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This book is INCREDIBLE. Breaking down the historic witch hunts and how those archetypes still feed into the patriarchy of today, this book is engaging, well written and hard hitting. At times I was delighted by what I read, at other times I was so mad that we live in a society where this book can, and needed to be, written. This book also highlights some ways in which the concept of witch and the previous archetypes have been taken back from the men who used them against us, which thrills me.

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This was a very interesting read. I enjoyed reading this book and will definitely recommend to friends that may find it as interesting as well

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Today, news media and people in trouble still use phrases like "witch hunt" to describe what they find an unfair assault on the character of a person.  Writer Mona Chollet presents a highly researched look at witches as feminist icons.  The three types of women that she looks closest at are those who were most often accused of witchcraft. These include the independent women, the childless woman, and elderly women.   In Defense of Witches goes through the history of terrorism against women, censorship, and repression. This is definitely not an easy or happy read, so put that out of your mind at the start.  Chollet's writing is impassioned and smart, exploring the myth and the factual of women living on their own terms. If you don't finish In Defense of Witches mad about misogyny, that would be surprising.  This book is long, filled with resources, and very clearly well researched. It is definitely more about women and the complications of fighting against a patriarchal system that can be damning.

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Publication date: March 8, 2022 (in English - it has been out for a while in French and most of the European languages). <b>I have read the French edition and am basing my review off of that read.</b> Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review an advanced reader's copy of this book. This in no way affects my review, all opinions are my own. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. Mona Chollet's In Defense of Witches is a “brilliant, well-documented” celebration (Le Monde) by an acclaimed French feminist of the witch as a symbol of female rebellion and independence in the face of misogyny and persecution. Centuries after the infamous witch hunts that swept through Europe and America, witches continue to hold a unique fascination for many: as fairy tale villains, practitioners of pagan religion, as well as feminist icons. Witches are both the ultimate victim and the stubborn, elusive rebel. But who were the women who were accused and often killed for witchcraft? What types of women have centuries of terror censored, eliminated, and repressed? Celebrated feminist writer Mona Chollet explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted: the independent woman since widows and celibates were particularly targeted; the childless woman, since the time of the hunts marked the end of tolerance for those who claimed to control their fertility; and the elderly woman, who has always been an object of at best, pity, and at worst, horror. Examining modern society, Chollet concludes that these women continue to be harassed and oppressed. Rather than being a brief moment in history, the persecution of witches is an example of society’s seemingly eternal misogyny, while women today are direct heirs to those who were hunted down and killed for their thoughts and actions. With fiery prose and arguments that range from the scholarly to the cultural, In Defense of Witches seeks to unite the mythic image of the witch with modern women who seek to live their lives on their own terms. Witches are not evil.,..nor is my beautiful baby black cat! The history of persecution is well presented and may even change your mind about these women who are in tune with nature and the world around them better than most people are. It is decidedly feminist in nature and the fact that women are still being punished now is ... crackers. Read this book - you might change your mind. I will recommend this book to friends, family, patrons, book clubs, and people reading books in the park as we do … I have had some of my best conversations about books down by the Thames! As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I simply adore emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube Millionaires/snowflakes / literally-like-overusers etc. ") on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🔮🔮🔮🔮🔮

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In Defense of Witches by Mona Chollet is an excellent nonfictional account of the history and evolution of the labeling of women through time and the subsequent treatment of the associated victims. Truly fascinating! Through time, almost as old as history itself, women have been targeted, ostracized, blamed, and pointed at in times of uncertainty, instability, and change. Women whom have pushed the boundaries, not followed the lines, been slightly “different”, refused to follow societal constraints, or just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Some were easier to blame then others based on many situations and personalities, but nevertheless it seems to be a similar occurrence despite the culture, the time period, or the place…and the author did a great job bringing forth all of these concepts, patterns, and presenting them in a well-researched book that was fascinating, terrifying, and yet incredibly interesting read. It is clear the author has done her research, and I highly recommend this read for anyone interested in social history of women, the evolution of the concept of a “witch”, or just sociology in general. Fascinating stuff. 5/5 stars Thank you NG and St. Martin’s Press for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.

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Mona Chollet's In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial is bound to become a feminist classic of scholarly work on historic and often unnamed women, and how their legacies and stories intertwine with our own today.

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I would like to thank Netgalley and St Martin's press for the ARC. Opinions expressed are my own. Mona Cholet's original in French deep dives into the witch trials of Europe and also delves into the impact of it in our current day including the representation of witches in media. Witch hints in Europe started in 1400 and went through Renaissance rill 1560. The last ones were in the 18th century. Mona explains her initial fascination with witches. It started with Snow white's witch who appears as a warty old woman. She also tells the story of Flutter who lived alone on a mountain not caring what the local people thought. She was a bringer of positive news for her little village. This lead to the author having a positive connotation for witches rather than the negative one that society has formed. The oldest stories we have track women as evil or having evil intentions. Be it Pandora or Eve. Witch-hunters are revealed as both obsessed with and terrified by female sexuality. There was an intent by men to demonize women who held any kind of opinion. Anything was construed as unworthy of women and therefore a witch trait. I quote this from the book "Talking back to a neighbor, speaking loudly, having a strong character or showing a bit too much awareness of your own sexual appeal: being a nuisance of any kind would put you in danger. According to a paradoxical dynamic familiar to women in all eras, every behavior and its opposite could be used against you" Mona makes you realize how hard women had it. She has done extensive research on the witch hunts and trials and it shows. I absolutely recommend this as a read for every woman.

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Not nearly as provocative as its title might suggest, Mona Chollet's "In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial" explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted: 1) The Independent Woman - especially celibates and widows 2) The Childless Woman 3) The Elderly Woman Working within this framework, noted French feminist Chollet crafts an extensively resourced and researched collection of prose, personal reflections, and critical theory in determining that the legacy of the witch hunts continues and, as I think would likely surprise no one, women continue to be on trial in ways very directly connected to those witch hunts of yesteryear to this day. If you're expecting some sort of poetic journey through the world of witchcraft, you will likely find "In Defense of Witches" a tiresome and perhaps even meandering read. Chollet, unsurprisingly for those who know her work, leans far more heavily into feminism than the fantastic and is absolutely relentless about doing so. While the structure of "In Defense of Witches" may seem loose, it's a book that rewards those who persevere with it through the very end as Chollet's structure really comes to life when seen through the lens of its wholeness and it's Chollet's ability to argue both academically and personally that makes this a particularly impactful and effective work. You may not agree with everything that Chollet writes, and if you're not a feminist you likely won't, but it's practically undeniable that Chollet argues well and she documents precisely and beautifully. There's a thin line of emotional resonance that radiates throughout the pages of "In Defense of Witches," a bit surprising given Chollet's devotion to academics but a line that gives the book an additional layer of power. "In Defense of Witches," I would dare say, is also a wee bit funny especially when Chollet lays into herself for her occasionally living into those gender stereotypes she works so passionately to derail. I'm not sure I'd be considered the target audience for "In Defense of Witches," though I enjoyed it thoroughly and am undoubtedly influenced by it. I had to laugh a bit as I arrived about 2/3 of the way through the book only to realize I'd arrived at book's end with the remainder of its pages largely devoted to Chollet's remarkably extensive source material. The ultimate conclusion, if you will, is that these witch hunts from the past continue in the present and are far from some romanticized period in our history. Indeed, they deserve to not be romanticized but to be permanently placed in the past along with all the other cultural and institutionalized forms of misogyny. Women have always been hunted down and killed for their thoughts and actions, though the methods have changed and the justifications varied. With intelligence, insight, and tremendous wisdom, Mona Chollet has crafted an engaging and influential journey through feminism past and present and the price that women continue to pay for being women.

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This book was not what I was expecting but what I absolutely needed. I love how it pointed out all of the ways that women still face oppression today but wish it would’ve had more on the specific treatment of Black women and other Women of Color as they face sexism and racism. . Could definitely see this book being dissected in Women’s Studies’ classes for years to come.

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I received an advanced readers’ copy in exchange for an honest review Very powerful book – definitely the most encompassing on this topic. Recommended for all feminists and women’s studies students to read. Definitely an important book of this moment. I will be passing it on to my fellow crones of a certain age.

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In Defense of Witches by Mona Chollet is a very well-researched yet very accessible look at how the witch hunts and the popular perceptions of witches has persisted to this day in different form but with the same intent. While some would like a Readers Digest version of the book and have it stop after the introduction, it is in the details where the commonalities between witch hunts and current patriarchal restraints, both subtle and blatant, become evident. Just saying it is so does little to convince anyone, but showing instance after instance, interspersed with feminist theory, pulls the rug out from under any doubters. It is often in the more low-key elements of culture that seeds are planted that grow into the timber that supports the patriarchy, so Chollet offers many instances from popular culture to highlight just how society tries to "keep women in line." If you've read or watched some of the texts discussed, you'll probably want to revisit them. Not only to see what you may have overlooked but to also better understand how to actively engage with other texts in the future. I was personally most interested in the ways that the witch hunts we widely think of as a thing of the past have simply morphed into more subtle, and in some ways more sinister, forms of control and punishment. Looking at the information as laid out for the reader, I have a much better understanding and appreciation for the various ways women can and do re-appropriate not only words but indeed their own sexuality and make them work to their benefit and happiness rather than as means of controlling them. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

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The subject matter is compelling, as it affects the lives of every woman who’s ever lived since the first witch was born. As a woman who’s experienced her unfair share of oppression, I jumped at the chance to read this book. This is not a book to be taken lightly. The subject matter and the way it is so thoroughly examined can be exhausting to read. I took it in small doses, as I needed frequent breaks to think about what I’d just read. I suspect this well-researched (there’s 562 footnotes!) book will end up in many Women’s Studies classes. What kinds of women are persecuted? It was an eye-opener to realize that I fit all three categories the author chose to examine: The Independent Woman, The Childless Woman, and I’ve recently started edging my way into the Elderly Woman. It’s no wonder I’ve felt the need to defend my lifestyle and beliefs ever since I first moved out on my own. The witch hunts have never ended, and we need to recognize that. My thanks to author Mona Chollet, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital advance review copy of this book. This review is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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