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  • Open Access
  • © 2017

Executing Magic in the Modern Era

Criminal Bodies and the Gallows in Popular Medicine

Palgrave Macmillan
  • Provides the first study of execution magic in the modern era

  • Demonstrates how beliefs and practices surrounding executions were shaped by changing attitudes towards capital punishment

  • Explores the connections between criminality, identity, morality, and magical value in society

  • Includes supplementary material: sn.pub/extras

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Softcover Book USD 31.00
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Hardcover Book USD 31.00
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Table of contents (5 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-vii
  2. Introduction

    • Owen Davies, Francesca Matteoni
    Pages 1-10Open Access
  3. Criminal Bodies

    • Owen Davies, Francesca Matteoni
    Pages 11-27Open Access
  4. The Corpse Gives Life

    • Owen Davies, Francesca Matteoni
    Pages 29-52Open Access
  5. The Places and Tools of Execution

    • Owen Davies, Francesca Matteoni
    Pages 53-79Open Access
  6. Lingering Influences

    • Owen Davies, Francesca Matteoni
    Pages 81-105Open Access
  7. Back Matter

    Pages 107-118

About this book

This book is open access under a CC BY 4.0 license



This book explores the magical and medical history of executions from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century by looking at the afterlife potency of criminal corpses, the healing activities of the executioner, and the magic of the gallows site. The use of corpses in medicine and magic has been recorded back into antiquity. The lacerated bodies of Roman gladiators were used as a source of curative blood, for instance. In early modern Europe, a great trade opened up in ancient Egyptian mummies and the fat of executed criminals, plundered as medicinal cure-alls. However, this is the first book to consider the demand for the blood of the executed, the desire for human fat, the resort to the hanged man’s hand, and the trade in hanging rope in the modern era. It ends by look at the spiritual afterlife of dead criminals.

Authors and Affiliations

  • University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, United Kingdom

    Owen Davies

  • Pistoia, Italy

    Francesca Matteoni

About the authors

Owen Davies is Professor at the University of Hertfordshire, UK. He has published widely on the history of witchcraft, magic, ghosts, and popular medicine.

Francesca Matteoni worked on 'Strand 4: The Dead Sustaining Life' of the Wellcome Trust funded project, 'Harnessing the Power of the Criminal Corpse'. She has also published in Italian and English on early-modern blood beliefs, familiars, and the use of criminal body parts.

Bibliographic Information

Buy it now

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 31.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book USD 31.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Other ways to access