The Witchmaster of the Waxhaws: Joshua Gordon’s "Witch Book"
Authors: Roark Atkinson, Ramapo College of New Jersey;
Douglas Winiarski, University of Richmond
Comment: Kenneth Minkema, Yale University
Tuesday, January 24
with an in-person reception at 4:30 PM
Free, Hybrid Event - hosted by the Massachusetts Historical Society
Among the best known yet least understood occult texts in early America, Joshua Gordon’s “Witchcraft Book” reveals a stunning culture of Scots-Irish folk medicine, cunning magic, and witch hunting that flourished in the backcountry settlements of the Carolinas at the turn of the nineteenth century. Combing through land records and other social history documents, Douglas Winiarski reconstructs Gordon’s family history and the backcountry Carolina community in which his spellbook was created and deployed to create an interactive digital map of Gordon’s plantation near modern-day Charlotte, which he leased from the Catawba Nation. Roark Atkinson traces Gordon’s spells back to their European antecedents and identifies cross cultural exchanges between Scots-Irish and German settlers and Native Americans. He also recovers a larger cultural context for the manuscript that encompasses the practices of enslaved African sorcerers. Through painstaking querying of various electronic text databases, Atkinson reveals surprising connections between the manuscript and transatlantic print culture.
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