“An excellent contribution to scholarship, charting new directions for research on folk religions in New England. Augé presents vital insights into the interplay of gender roles, motivations for manipulating spiritual forces, and material expressions of magical conduct.”—Christopher C. Fennell, author of Crossroads and Cosmologies: Diasporas and Ethnogenesis in the New World
“In its application of historical and archaeological approaches, this book provides a real step forward for the study of the material remains of post-medieval magic in North America and Europe.”—Owen Davies, author of A Supernatural War: Magic, Divination, and Faith during the First World War
In The Archaeology of Magic: Gender and Domestic Protection in Seventeenth-Century New England, C. Riley Augé explores how early American colonists used magic to protect themselves from harm in their unfamiliar and challenging new world. Analyzing evidence from the different domestic spheres of women and men within Puritan society, Augé provides a trailblazing archaeological study of magical practice and its relationship to gender in the Anglo-American culture of colonial New England.
Investigating homestead sites dating from 1620 to 1725 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine, Augé explains how to recognize objects and architectural details that colonists intended as defenses and boundaries against evil supernatural forces. She supports this archaeological work by examining references to magic in letters, diaries, sermons, medical texts, and documentation of court proceedings including the Salem witch trials. She also draws on folklore from the era to reveal that colonists simultaneously practiced magic and maintained their Puritan convictions.
Augé exposes the fears and anxieties that motivated individuals to try to manipulate the supernatural realm, and she identifies gendered patterns in the ways they employed magic. She argues that it is essential for archaeologists to incorporate historical records and oral traditions in order to accurately interpret the worldviews and material culture of people who lived in the past.
C. Riley Augé is curator of the University of Montana Anthropological Collection Facility.