Tom Peete Cross - Witchcraft in North Carolina (4.8 MB)
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The study of popular delusions has far more than an antiquarian or academic interest. Its results constitute one of the most fascinating and instructive chapters in the story of human progress. Written history is not so much the record of battles, conquests, and legislative acts as of social and intellectual development, and no true chronicle of any people can be written until account is taken of its popular beliefs and superstitions, as well as of the more obvious forces that ordinarily engage the attention of the historian... More >>>
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The study of popular delusions has far more than an antiquarian or academic interest. Its results constitute one of the most fascinating and instructive chapters in the story of human progress. Written history is not so much the record of battles, conquests, and legislative acts as of social and intellectual development, and no true chronicle of any people can be written until account is taken of its popular beliefs and superstitions, as well as of the more obvious forces that ordinarily engage the attention of the historian. Witch stories are human documents and as such they must be reckoned with in any account of the mental temper of a people who believe in witches and whose actions are, even to a limited extent, ordered in accord with such belief.
With these facts in mind, the branch of the American Folk-Lore Society recently organized in North Carolina has undertaken the task of collecting and recording the popular tradition of that state. The following sketch, prepared at the request of the society, was designed originally to deal with only one of the many phases of folk superstition--Witchcraft but owing to the heterogeneous character of the collectanea submitted, it has in process of time become a sort of omnium-gatherum of North Carolina tradition regarding magic and supernaturalism. Its purpose is twofold: first, to enumerate such items of witch lore as have already been collected in North Carolina and to point out their traditional character second, by means of illustrations from the folk-lore of neighboring territory, to indicate what other articles of the diabolical creed future collectors may hope to discover.
Tom Peete Cross (December 8, 1879 - December 25, 1951) was an American Celticist and folklorist.
One major work of Cross' was A List of Books and Articles, Chiefly Bibliographical, Designed to Serve as an Introduction to the Bibliography and Methods of English Literary History, first published in 1919; it would go through numerous editions, renamed from the 7th onwards as the Bibliographical Guide to English Studies. Following his death it was expanded by Donald F. Bond as the Reference Guide to English Studies. He also published a number of journal articles and a monograph on the Arthurian legends.
Cross' final work, the Motif-Index of Early Irish Literature, whose compilation he had begun more than five decades earlier at the inspiration of Fred N. Robinson, was published post-humously as part of Indiana University Bloomington's Folklore Series in 1952. Stith Thompson, who visited him in late 1951, reported that he worked literally until the day he died reading the galley proofs in order to complete the corrections. Kenneth H. Jackson praised the Motif-Index as "enormously comprehensive and so extremely useful". However, William Sayers would half a century later criticise it as being limited by its "original conceptual categories, where such modern notions as ideology, gender, physical aberrance, the abject and the like are absent".
Cross did his undergraduate education at Hampden-Sydney College, receiving his B.A. in 1899. He went on to Harvard University to pursue an M.A. (1906) and Ph.D. (1909). After receiving his Ph.D., he spent a year studying in Dublin, Ireland, then returned to the United States in 1910 to take up a position as an instructor at Harvard. In 1911 he became the head of the English department at Sweet Briar College. Following that, he spent his next year at the University of North Carolina, and in 1913 became the chair of the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago. His alma mater Hampden-Sydney College awarded him an honorary doctorate of literature in 1927. He was also member of the Modern Language Association and the American Council of the Irish Texts Society. He retired in 1945.