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Witchcraft and related beliefs

In the early modern period witchcraft was defined as a criminal offence and was the focus of major trials and persecutions of varying degrees throughout early modern Britain and Europe.

It attracted widespread debate and serious concern, generating a substantial amount of writings and pamphlets debating the subject and its broader belief system.

Special collections is very fortunate to hold a wide range of materials covering the subject and its many facets.This resource guide is designed to highlight these sources as well as those relating to different aspects of witchcraft beliefs such as religion, superstition, and demonology, to give a comprehensive guide to this broad yet complex belief system.

Mother Shipton


Books, tracts and pamphlets examining witchcraft trials, magic, sorcery, and the reality of witchcraft.

Image of God


A selection of devotional and didactic literature conveying themes relevant to witchcraft beliefs, such as conversion, spiritual warfare, and proper Christian conduct.

Burning of the Martyrs


Various works concerning Protestantism, its role as the true religion and the demonising of other beliefs, especially Catholicism.

Antichrist Stormed


A selection of anti-Catholic books and tracts presenting Catholicism as a heathen religion with sinful and sometimes magical overtones.

Folly of Atheism


A selection of late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century works designed to stem the growing tide of atheism, reigniting the debate on the reality of witchcraft and apparitions.

Devil and Witches


Various writings including continental works, demonologies, and religious tracts relating themes relevant to demonology or the theory behind witchcraft beliefs.

Superstition and Religion


Works conveying and debating the nature of superstition and various superstitious beliefs, from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.

Position of the Planets

Magic and astrology

Books and pamphlets on various aspects of magic and astrology from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.

Lilly Prophesies


Various prophetic writings and works on prophecy, a key theme in early modern religion and witchcraft beliefs.

Witchcraft in Wales

Information about witchcraft beliefs in Wales, including various ‘superstitions’, beliefs in ghosts, fairies, the devil, visions, dreams, and apparitions can be found in a variety of sources from the 16th to the early 20th century.