A devil by any other name. . . is a god. And Wood has a great deal of sympathy, not to say affection for him. In the good old pagan clays he was a respected member of society -- a merry, ribald fellow, fond of drink and dance and rolling in the hay with country maidens. Pan, Dionysius, Merlin -- magicians and bon vivants all. The common folk -- shrewder by far than the clergy -- kept him alive in la vecchia religione, the ancient wisdom which came down from neolithic times and stubbornly survived the incursions of Christianity. Wood has very little good to say about Christianity: ""one of the greatest cultural disasters that has ever befallen us,"" an intolerant and persecuting religion torturing and burning all who opposed its tyrannical precepts. A good part of Wood's infectious book, in fact, is given over to the iniquities of the bishops and priests -- who often practiced sorcery themselves and unwittingly incorporated many pagan beliefs and practices. The rest is a highly partisan rehabilitation of Satan -- he was no monster until the churchmen got hold of him and decreed him a political enemy. There's more than a grain of truth in Wood's notion that in the popular mind the devil is still subliminally associated with heresy, freedom and sensual joy; the Church notwithstanding we need his primitive, nonrational powers. A lopsided defense -- rather than a complete history -- with a certain charm.