The God of the Witches

by Margaret Murray.Oxford University Press, $3.75.
By applying the knowledge of an expert anthropologist to the hash of contradictions and absurdities recorded of European witchcraft, Dr. Murray has evolved a theory which makes infinitely better sense than the standard one of devil worship. Witchcraft, according to Dr. Murray, was the survival of the preRoman religion of Europe, a faith so old that some of its rituals are represented in Paleolithic cave painting. Since Christianity was imposed on much of Europe by fiat of local rulers, the old religion endured for centuries, surviving in isolated spots until the seventeen-hundreds. Dr. Murray frankly likes the followers of the old horned god, who stuck to their beliefs with the same stubborn courage for which Christian martyrs are still admired, and views their religion as, on the whole, a very amiable sort of paganism. Her case is supported with lively, often amusing detail, and she writes with skill as well as enthusiasm.