Monday, October 25, 2010


Witches always make the news in October, and 2010 is no exception. Recent market research indicates that pointy hats and brooms remain a top pick for Halloween costumes, for adults, kids and even pets. Witches have also infiltrated the mid-year elections, with Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell’s campaign commercial, designed to ensure nervous voters that her past admission of “dabbling in witchcraft” had been overhyped by the media. (See an alternate take on the campaign spot from Saturday Night Live.)

But witches (and/or suspected witches) have long been accustomed to notoriety. Researching witchcraft and the law is an intimidating prospect, with historical accounts of witch-hunting and witchcraft trials spanning several centuries in a number of different countries. But if you’re inspired to try some Halloween-themed research this month, check out these tricks.

Materials on witchcraft may be found in several locations at the Duke University Libraries. For example, a subject search in the Duke Libraries Catalog for "Trials (Witchcraft)" will return results from the Goodson Law Library as well as the Divinity School Library and Perkins/Bostock Library (but you can request delivery of titles from other libraries by clicking the delivery truck icon next to the title).

You can also limit your catalog search results to just those owned by the Goodson Law Library (as we’ve done with this sample Subject search for "Witchcraft"), but keep in mind that you may limit your results too severely. For example, Malleus Maleficarum (aka “The Hammer of Witches”), the notorious 15th-century guide to witches and witch hunting, is available in translation through the Perkins library and the Divinity School library, but not at Goodson Law.

To locate articles on the topic, you may also want to expand beyond law reviews and legal journals to the various History databases available from the Duke University Libraries – you can access Duke history databases through the subject list.

Got a question about researching witch trials, the history of witchcraft, or just using the Duke Libraries Catalog? Be sure to Ask a Librarian – we’ll even be around on Halloween.