A Razor for a Goat

(Scan by Rev Byrd | Cited Edition)

Subtitle: Problems in the History of Witchcraft and Diabolism

Author: Elliot Rose

Edition Cited in The Compleat Witch

Publisher: University of Toronto Press
City: Toronto, Canada
Year: 1962

Pages: 257
Binding: Hardback
Size: 6.25″ x 9.25″

Dust Jacket Flap Copy

(from the 1962 University of Toronto Press edition)

A Razor For A Goat
A Discussion Of Certain Problems In The History Of Witchcraft And Diabolism
This book is concerned with one aspect of the history of witchcraft – the idea that witchcraft is a religion rather than a trade, whether this religion is a form of pagan survival or a depraved Christian (or anti-Christian) heresy.  This idea was widespread in the days when society was most afraid of witchcraft and was a prominent feature in witch-hunting propaganda.  Similar theories are current today, and they have been more widely accepted as products of scholarly research than they deserve.  Competent historians may deride books which perpetuate these theories, but they still receive respect from highly educated people in other fields.  A Razor For A Goat began with the wish to do something to right the record.
The author has made some suggestions about the reality behind popular beliefs about witchcraft societies and Sabbats.  He has surveyed witch-scares, fairy folklore, “ritual” deaths, the Canon Episcopi, goliards – all part of the evidence for witchcraft.  To the goat, symbolic of the Devil worshipped by witches, he has applied Occam’s razor – the economy of hypotheses.
This unusual book will interest those who have already made some study of the subject but will also intrigue the educated non-specialist, including scholars other than historians. Closely reasoned, it is also written with a rare wit, which makes it difficult to put down.
Elliot Rose was born and educated in England.  He was a scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read history.  For the past six years he has been a lecturer in the Department of History in the University of Toronto.  He is co-author of The Modern Era.


Back Cover Copy

(from the 2003 University of Toronto Press edition)


“This model historical monograph is an analysis of witchcraft in the western European culture complex from the ninth to the eighteenth centuries . . . Mr. Rose carefully examines all the pertinent documents and ends up shattering most of the positions held by the various schools of witchcraft theory . . . His ‘no nonsense’ approach coupled with the background knowledge he possesses enables him to get at the core of a problem without sacrificing sound historical data. His sketchings of either broad or specific historical events are marvels of historical writings . . . The reader will be grateful that the author’s sense of humor never leaves him; this definitely spices the taste of an already well wrought historical piece.”

Leonard Dosh, Catholic Historical Review

“With an amazing knowledge of his subject (and also of related matters, e.g. mythology and Jungian psychology) the author here discusses witchcraft and diabolism in a way that arouses admiration for his exact and critical aptitude. The central theme is the historical origins (and, as a sidetrack, the psychological functions) of some forms of witchcraft. The question whether these should be regarded as survivals of the ancient pagan cults, or whether they should be supposed to be linked to Christendom as heresy, is given extensive treatment.”

International Review of Social History

“An excellent survey treatment of the history of witchcraft and the literature about it.”

Arthur Freeman, Western Folklore

Table of Contents
(from the 2003 University of Toronto Press edition)

1. Which Witch Is Which?
2. Light from the Obscure Men
3. Dianus versus Diabolus
4. 1066 and All That
5. Divinity That Doth Hedge
6. A Hunt for a Huntress
7. What Song the Syrens Sang
8. The Gargoyles of Notre Dame
9. The Powers of Darkness
10. A Tell-tale in Their Company

A. The Blokula Scare
B. The Waldensians and Albigensians
C. A Short Glossary of Words Sometimes Treated as Technical Terms of Sorcery



Online Resources
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(arranged by year)

(Scan by Rev Byrd | Cited Edition)
Title: (if different)
Subtitle: (if different)
Year: 1962
Publisher: University of Toronto Press; Toronto
Pages: 257
Binding: Hardback
Size: 6.25″ x 9.25″
Cover Price: $4.95

(Internet Sources)
Title: (if different)
Subtitle: (if different)
Year: 1962 – 2003 (?)
Publisher: University of Toronto Press; Toronto
Cover Price: 



Additional Photos/Images


Misc. Quotes
“Accusations of practicing a secret degraded religion seem to go together with accusations of excessive and malignant power […] Such charges are easily made when a scapegoat is needed; and a scapegoat may serve two purposes.  He may satisfy an inarticulate desire for vengeance against Fate or the Government, with luck diverting vengeance from where it properly belongs; or he may be made to carry away absolutely fabricated guilt in order to get him out of the way.”


Due to the obscurity of some titles, the contents of The Compleat Witch Illustrated Bibliography Project may contain information that is inaccurate or incomplete. We encourage readers to submit corrections and pertinent addenda like images, quotes, or other information, either as a Comment on the appropriate post or via The Compleat Witch Illustrated Bibliography Facebook page.