Witchcraft or witchery is the practice of magical skills and abilities exercised by solitary practitioners and groups.
Witchcraft is a broad term that varies culturally and societally, and thus can be difficult to define with precision, and cross-cultural assumptions about the meaning or significance of the term should be applied with caution.
The concept of witchcraft and the belief in its existence have persisted throughout recorded history. They have been present or central at various times and in many diverse forms among cultures and religions worldwide, including both "primitive" and "highly advanced" cultures, and continue to have an important role in many cultures today.
Historically, the predominant concept of witchcraft in the Western world derives from Old Testament laws against witchcraft, and entered the mainstream when belief in witchcraft gained Church approval in the Early Modern Period. It posits a theosophical conflict between good and evil, where witchcraft was generally evil and often associated with the Devil and Devil worship. This culminated in deaths, torture and scapegoating (casting blame for human misfortune), and many years of large scale witch-trials and witch hunts, especially in Protestant Europe, before largely ceasing during the European Age of Enlightenment. Christian views in the modern day are diverse and cover the gamut of views from intense belief and opposition (especially from Christian fundamentalists) to non-belief, and in some churches even approval. From the mid-20th century, witchcraft – sometimes called contemporary witchcraft to clearly distinguish it from older beliefs – became the name of a branch of modern paganism. It is most notably practiced in the Wiccan and modern witchcraft traditions, and no longer practices in secrecy.
The Western mainstream Christian view is far from the only societal perspective about witchcraft. Many cultures worldwide continue to have widespread practices and cultural beliefs that are loosely translated into English as "witchcraft", although the English translation masks a very great diversity in their forms, magical beliefs, practices, and place in their societies. During the Age of Colonialism, many cultures across the globe were exposed to the modern Western world via colonialism, usually accompanied and often preceded by intensive Christian missionary activity (see "Christianization"). Beliefs related to witchcraft and magic in these cultures were at times influenced by the prevailing Western concepts. Witch hunts, scapegoating, and killing or shunning of suspected witches still occurs in the modern era, with killings both of victims for their supposedly magical body parts, and of suspected witchcraft practitioners.
Suspicion of modern medicine due to beliefs about illness being due to witchcraft also continues in many countries to this day, with tragic healthcare consequences. HIV/AIDS and Ebola virus disease are two examples of often-lethal infectious disease epidemics whose medical care and containment has been severely hampered by regional beliefs in witchcraft. Other severe medical conditions whose treatment is hampered in this way include tuberculosis, leprosy, epilepsy and the common severe bacterial Buruli ulcer. Public healthcare often requires considerable education work related to epidemology and modern health knowledge in many parts of the world where belief in witchcraft prevails, to encourage effective preventive health measures and treatments, to reduce victim blaming, shunning and stigmatization, and to prevent the killing of people and endangering of animal species for body parts believed to convey magical abilities.
The word witch is of uncertain origin. There are numerous etymologies that it could be derived from. One popular belief is that it is "related to the English words wit, wise, wisdom [Germanic root *weit-, *wait-, *wit-; Indo-European root *weid-, *woid-, *wid-]," so "craft of the wise." Another is from the Old English wiccecræft, a compound of "wicce" ("witch") and "cræft" ("craft").
In anthropological terminology, witches differ from sorcerers in that they don't use physical tools or actions to curse; their maleficium is perceived as extending from some intangible inner quality, and one may be unaware of being a witch, or may have been convinced of his/her nature by the suggestion of others. This definition was pioneered in a study of central African magical beliefs by E. E. Evans-Pritchard, who cautioned that it might not correspond with normal English usage.
Historians of European witchcraft have found the anthropological definition difficult to apply to European witchcraft, where witches could equally use (or be accused of using) physical techniques, as well as some who really had attempted to cause harm by thought alone. European witchcraft is seen by historians and anthropologists as an ideology for explaining misfortune; however, this ideology has manifested in diverse ways, as described below.
Historically the witchcraft label has been applied to practices people believe influence the mind, body, or property of others against their will—or practices that the person doing the labeling believes undermine social or religious order. Some modern commentators believe the malefic nature of witchcraft is a Christian projection. The concept of a magic-worker influencing another person's body or property against their will was clearly present in many cultures, as traditions in both folk magic and religious magic have the purpose of countering malicious magic or identifying malicious magic users. Many examples appear in early texts, such as those from ancient Egypt and Babylonia. Malicious magic users can become a credible cause for disease, sickness in animals, bad luck, sudden death, impotence and other such misfortunes. Witchcraft of a more benign and socially acceptable sort may then be employed to turn the malevolence aside, or identify the supposed evil-doer so that punishment may be carried out. The folk magic used to identify or protect against malicious magic users is often indistinguishable from that used by the witches themselves.
It is argued here that the medical arts played a significant and sometimes pivotal role in the witchcraft controversies of seventeenth-century New England. Not only were physicians and surgeons the principal professional arbiters for determining natural versus preternatural signs and symptoms of disease, they occupied key legislative, judicial, and ministerial roles relating to witchcraft proceedings. Forty six male physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries are named in court transcripts or other contemporary source materials relating to New England witchcraft. These practitioners served on coroners' inquests, performed autopsies, took testimony, issued writs, wrote letters, or committed people to prison, in addition to diagnosing and treating patients. Some practitioners are simply mentioned in passing.
There has also existed in popular belief the concept of white witches and white witchcraft, which is strictly benevolent. Many neopagan witches strongly identify with this concept, and profess ethical codes that prevent them from performing magic on a person without their request.
Where belief in malicious magic practices exists, such practitioners are typically forbidden by law as well as hated and feared by the general populace, while beneficial magic is tolerated or even accepted wholesale by the people – even if the orthodox establishment opposes it.
Probably the most widely known characteristic of a witch was the ability to cast a spell, "spell" being the word used to signify the means employed to carry out a magical action. A spell could consist of a set of words, a formula or verse, or a ritual action, or any combination of these. Spells traditionally were cast by many methods, such as by the inscription of runes or sigils on an object to give it magical powers; by the immolation or binding of a wax or clay image (poppet) of a person to affect him or her magically; by the recitation of incantations; by the performance of physical rituals; by the employment of magical herbs as amulets or potions; by gazing at mirrors, swords or other specula (scrying) for purposes of divination; and by many other means.
Strictly speaking, "necromancy" is the practice of conjuring the spirits of the dead for divination or prophecy – although the term has also been applied to raising the dead for other purposes. The biblical Witch of Endor performed it (1 Sam. 28), and it is among the witchcraft practices condemned by Ælfric of Eynsham: "Witches still go to cross-roads and to heathen burials with their delusive magic and call to the devil; and he comes to them in the likeness of the man that is buried there, as if he arise from death."
In Christianity and Islam, sorcery came to be associated with heresy and apostasy and to be viewed as evil. Among the Catholics, Protestants, and secular leadership of the European Late Medieval/Early Modern period, fears about witchcraft rose to fever pitch and sometimes led to large-scale witch-hunts. The key century was the fifteenth, which saw a dramatic rise in awareness and terror of witchcraft, culminating in the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum but prepared by such fanatical popular preachers as Bernardino of Siena. Throughout this time, it was increasingly believed that Christianity was engaged in an apocalyptic battle against the Devil and his secret army of witches, who had entered into a diabolical pact. In total, tens or hundreds of thousands of people were executed, and others were imprisoned, tortured, banished, and had lands and possessions confiscated. The majority of those accused were women, though in some regions the majority were men. In early modern Scots, the word Warlock came to be used as the male equivalent of witch (which can be male or female, but is used predominantly for females). From this use, the word passed into Romantic literature and ultimately 20th-century popular culture. Accusations of witchcraft were often combined with other charges of heresy against such groups as the Cathars and Waldensians.
The Malleus Maleficarum, (Latin for "Hammer of The Witches") was a witch-hunting manual written in 1486 by two German monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. It was used by both Catholics and Protestants for several hundred years, outlining how to identify a witch, what makes a woman more likely than a man to be a witch, how to put a witch on trial, and how to punish a witch. The book defines a witch as evil and typically female. The book became the handbook for secular courts throughout Renaissance Europe, but was not used by the Inquisition, which even cautioned against relying on the work, and was later officially condemned by the Catholic Church in 1490.
In the modern Western world, witchcraft accusations have often accompanied the satanic ritual abuse moral panic. Such accusations are a counterpart to blood libel of various kinds, which may be found throughout history across the globe.
Throughout the early modern period, the English term "witch" was not exclusively negative in meaning, and could also indicate cunning folk. As Alan McFarlane noted, "There were a number of interchangeable terms for these practitioners, 'white', 'good', or 'unbinding' witches, blessers, wizards, sorcerers, however 'cunning-man' and 'wise-man' were the most frequent." The contemporary Reginald Scot explained, "At this day it is indifferent to say in the English tongue, 'she is a witch' or 'she is a wise woman'". Folk magicians throughout Europe were often viewed ambivalently by communities, and were considered as capable of harming as of healing, which could lead to their being accused as "witches" in the negative sense. Many English "witches" convicted of consorting with demons seem to have been cunning folk whose fairy familiars had been demonised; many French devins-guerisseurs ("diviner-healers") were accused of witchcraft, and over one half the accused witches in Hungary seem to have been healers.
Some of the healers and diviners historically accused of witchcraft have considered themselves mediators between the mundane and spiritual worlds, roughly equivalent to shamans. Such people described their contacts with fairies, spirits often involving out-of-body experiences and travelling through the realms of an "other-world". Beliefs of this nature are implied in the folklore of much of Europe, and were explicitly described by accused witches in central and southern Europe. Repeated themes include participation in processions of the dead or large feasts, often presided over by a horned male deity or a female divinity who teaches magic and gives prophecies; and participation in battles against evil spirits, "vampires", or "witches" to win fertility and prosperity for the community.
She identifies three varieties of witch in popular belief:
"Neighbourhood witches" are the product of neighbourhood tensions, and are found only in self-sufficient serf village communities where the inhabitants largely rely on each other. Such accusations follow the breaking of some social norm, such as the failure to return a borrowed item, and any person part of the normal social exchange could potentially fall under suspicion. Claims of "sorcerer" witches and "supernatural" witches could arise out of social tensions, but not exclusively; the supernatural witch in particular often had nothing to do with communal conflict, but expressed tensions between the human and supernatural worlds; and in Eastern and Southeastern Europe such supernatural witches became an ideology explaining calamities that befell entire communities.
Belief in witchcraft continues to be present today in some societies and accusations of witchcraft are the trigger of serious forms of violence, including murder. Such incidents are common in places such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal and Tanzania. Accusations of witchcraft are sometimes linked to personal disputes, jealousy, and conflicts between neighbors or family over land or inheritance. Witchcraft-related violence is often discussed as a serious issue in the broader context of violence against women.
In Tanzania, about 500 older women are murdered each year following accusations against them of witchcraft or of being a witch. Apart from extrajudicial violence, there is also state-sanctioned violence in some jurisdictions. For instance, in Saudi Arabia practicing witchcraft and sorcery is a crime punishable by death and the country has executed people for this crime in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
Children in some regions of the world, such as parts of Africa, are also vulnerable to violence related to witchcraft accusations. Such incidents have also occurred in immigrant communities in the UK, including the much publicized case of the murder of Victoria Climbié.
Modern practices identified by their practitioners as "witchcraft" have grown dramatically since the early 20th century. Generally portrayed as revivals of pre-Christian European ritual and spirituality, they are understood to involve varying degrees of magic, shamanism, folk medicine, spiritual healing, calling on elementals and spirits, veneration of ancient deities and archetypes, and attunement with the forces of nature.
The first Neopagan groups to publicly appear, during the 1950s and 60s, were Gerald Gardner's Bricket Wood coven and Roy Bowers' Clan of Tubal Cain. They operated as initiatory secret societies. Other individual practitioners and writers such as Paul Huson also claimed inheritance to surviving traditions of witchcraft.
During the 20th century, interest in witchcraft in English-speaking and European countries began to increase, inspired particularly by Margaret Murray's theory of a pan-European witch-cult originally published in 1921, since discredited by further careful historical research. Interest was intensified, however, by Gerald Gardner's claim in 1954 in Witchcraft Today that a form of witchcraft still existed in England. The truth of Gardner's claim is now disputed too, with different historians offering evidence for or against the religion's existence prior to Gardner.
The Wicca that Gardner initially taught was a witchcraft religion having a lot in common with Margaret Murray's hypothetically posited cult of the 1920s. Indeed, Murray wrote an introduction to Gardner's Witchcraft Today, in effect putting her stamp of approval on it. Wicca is now practised as a religion of an initiatory secret society nature with positive ethical principles, organised into autonomous covens and led by a High Priesthood. There is also a large "Eclectic Wiccan" movement of individuals and groups who share key Wiccan beliefs but have no initiatory connection or affiliation with traditional Wicca. Wiccan writings and ritual show borrowings from a number of sources including 19th and 20th-century ceremonial magic, the medieval grimoire known as the Key of Solomon, Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis and pre-Christian religions. Both men and women are equally termed "witches." They practice a form of duotheistic universalism.
Since Gardner's death in 1964, the Wicca that he claimed he was initiated into has attracted many initiates, becoming the largest of the various witchcraft traditions in the Western world, and has influenced other Neopagan and occult movements.
Wiccan literature has been described as aiding the empowerment of young women through its lively portrayal of female protagonists. Part of the recent growth in Neo-Pagan religions has been attributed to the strong media presence of fictional works such as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter series with their depictions of witchcraft. Widespread accessibility to related material through internet media such as chat rooms and forums is also thought to be driving this development. Wiccan beliefs are currently often found to be compatible with liberal ideals such as the Green movement, and particularly with feminism by providing young women with means for empowerment and for control of their own lives. This is the case particularly in North America due to the strong presence of feminist ideals. The 2002 study Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco suggests that Wiccan religion represents the second wave of feminism that has also been redefined as a religious movement.
Stregheria is an Italian witchcraft religion popularised in the 1980s by Raven Grimassi, who claims that it evolved within the ancient Etruscan religion of Italian peasants who worked under the Catholic upper classes.
Modern Stregheria closely resembles Charles Leland's controversial late-19th-century account of a surviving Italian religion of witchcraft, worshipping the Goddess Diana, her brother Dianus/Lucifer, and their daughter Aradia. Leland's witches do not see Lucifer as the evil Satan that Christians see, but a benevolent god of the Sun and Moon).
The ritual format of contemporary Stregheria is roughly similar to that of other Neopagan witchcraft religions such as Wicca. The pentagram is the most common symbol of religious identity. Most followers celebrate a series of eight festivals equivalent to the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, though others follow the ancient Roman festivals. An emphasis is placed on ancestor worship.
Traditional witchcraft is a term used to refer to a variety of contemporary forms of witchcraft. Pagan studies scholar Ethan Doyle White described it as "a broad movement of aligned magico-religious groups who reject any relation to Gardnerianism and the wider Wiccan movement, claiming older, more "traditional" roots. Although typically united by a shared aesthetic rooted in European folklore, the Traditional Craft contains within its ranks a rich and varied array of occult groups, from those who follow a contemporary Pagan path that is suspiciously similar to Wicca to those who adhere to Luciferianism". According to British Traditional Witch Michael Howard, the term refers to "any non-Gardnerian, non-Alexandrian, non-Wiccan or pre-modern form of the Craft, especially if it has been inspired by historical forms of witchcraft and folk magic". Another definition was offered by Daniel A. Schulke, the current Magister of the Cultus Sabbati, when he proclaimed that traditional witchcraft "refers to a coterie of initiatory lineages of ritual magic, spellcraft and devotional mysticism". Some forms of traditional witchcraft are the Feri Tradition, Cochrane's Craft and the Sabbatic craft.
Satanism is a broad term referring to diverse beliefs that share a symbolic association with, or admiration for, Satan, who is seen as a liberating figure. While it is heir to the same historical period and pre-Enlightenment beliefs that gave rise to modern witchcraft, it is generally seen as completely separate from modern witchcraft and Wicca, and has little or no connection to them.
Modern witchcraft considers Satanism to be the "dark side of Christianity" rather than a branch of Wicca: – the character of Satan referenced in Satanism exists only in the theology of the three Abrahamic religions, and Satanism arose as, and occupies the role of, a rebellious counterpart to Christianity, in which all is permitted and the self is central. (Christianity can be characterized as having the diametrically opposite views to these.) Such beliefs become more visibly expressed in Europe after the Enlightenment, when works such as Milton's Paradise Lost were described anew by romantics who suggested that they presented the biblical Satan as an allegory representing crisis of faith, individualism, free will, wisdom and enlightenment; a few works from that time also begin to directly present Satan in a less negative light, such as Letters from the Earth. The two major trends are theistic Satanism and atheistic Satanism; the former venerates Satan as a supernatural patriarchal deity, while the latter views Satan as merely a symbolic embodiment of certain human traits.
Organized groups began to emerge in the mid 20th century, including the Ophite Cultus Satanas (1948) and The Church of Satan (1966). After seeing Margaret Murray's book The God of the Witches the leader of Ophite Cultus Satanas, Herbert Arthur Sloane, said he realized that the horned god was Satan (Sathanas). Sloane also corresponded with his contemporary Gerald Gardner, founder of the Wicca religion, and implied that his views of Satan and the horned god were not necessarily in conflict with Gardner's approach. However, he did believe that, while "gnosis" referred to knowledge, and "Wicca" referred to wisdom, modern witches had fallen away from the true knowledge, and instead had begun worshipping a fertility god, a reflection of the creator god. He wrote that "the largest existing body of witches who are true Satanists would be the Yezedees". Sloane highly recommended the book The Gnostic Religion, and sections of it were sometimes read at ceremonies. It was estimated that there were up to 100,000 Satanists worldwide by 2006, twice the number estimated in 1990. Satanistic beliefs have been largely permitted as a valid expression of religious belief in the West. For example, they were allowed in the British Royal Navy in 2004, and an appeal was considered in 2005 for religious status as a right of prisoners by the Supreme Court of the United States. Contemporary Satanism is mainly an American phenomenon, although it began to reach Eastern Europe in the 1990s around the time of the fall of the Soviet Union.
Luciferianism, on the other hand, is a belief system and does not revere the devil figure or most characteristics typically affixed to Satan. Rather, Lucifer in this context is seen as one of many morning stars, a symbol of enlightenment, independence and human progression. Madeline Montalban was an English witch who adhered to a specific form of Luciferianism which revolved around the veneration of Lucifer, or Lumiel, whom she considered to be a benevolent angelic being who had aided humanity's development. Within her Order, she emphasised that her followers discover their own personal relationship with the angelic beings, including Lumiel. Although initially seeming favourable to Gerald Gardner, by the mid-1960s she had become hostile towards him and his Gardnerian tradition, considering him to be "a 'dirty old man' and sexual pervert." She also expressed hostility to another prominent Pagan Witch of the period, Charles Cardell, although in the 1960s became friends with the two Witches at the forefront of the Alexandrian Wiccan tradition, Alex Sanders and his wife, Maxine Sanders, who adopted some of her Luciferian angelic practices. In contemporary times luciferian witches exist within traditional witchcraft.
The belief in sorcery and its practice seem to have been widespread in the Ancient Near East and Nile Valley. It played a conspicuous role in the cultures of ancient Egypt and in Babylonia. The latter tradition included an Akkadian anti-witchcraft ritual, the Maqlû. A section from the Code of Hammurabi (about 2000 B.C.) prescribes:
If a man has put a spell upon another man and it is not justified, he upon whom the spell is laid shall go to the holy river; into the holy river shall he plunge. If the holy river overcome him and he is drowned, the man who put the spell upon him shall take possession of his house. If the holy river declares him innocent and he remains unharmed the man who laid the spell shall be put to death. He that plunged into the river shall take possession of the house of him who laid the spell upon him.
According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:
In the Holy Scripture references to sorcery are frequent, and the strong condemnations of such practices found there do not seem to be based so much upon the supposition of fraud as upon the abomination of the magic in itself.
The King James Version uses the words "witch", "witchcraft", and "witchcrafts" to translate the Masoretic כָּשַׁף kāsháf (Hebrew pronunciation: [kɔˈʃaf]) and קֶסֶם (qésem); these same English terms are used to translate φαρμακεία pharmakeia in the Greek New Testament. Verses such as Deuteronomy 18:11–12 and Exodus 22:18 ("Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live") thus provided scriptural justification for Christian witch hunters in the early modern period (see Christian views on magic).
The precise meaning of the Hebrew כָּשַׁף, usually translated as "witch" or "sorceress", is uncertain. In the Septuagint, it was translated as pharmakeía or pharmakous. In the 16th century, Reginald Scot, a prominent critic of the witch trials, translated כָּשַׁף, φαρμακεία, and the Vulgate's Latin equivalent veneficos as all meaning "poisoner", and on this basis, claimed that "witch" was an incorrect translation and poisoners were intended. His theory still holds some currency, but is not widely accepted, and in Daniel 2:2 כָּשַׁף is listed alongside other magic practitioners who could interpret dreams: magicians, astrologers, and Chaldeans. Suggested derivations of כָּשַׁף include "mutterer" (from a single root) or herb user (as a compound word formed from the roots kash, meaning "herb", and hapaleh, meaning "using"). The Greek φαρμακεία literally means "herbalist" or one who uses or administers drugs, but it was used virtually synonymously with mageia and goeteia as a term for a sorcerer.
The Bible provides some evidence that these commandments against sorcery were enforced under the Hebrew kings:
And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?
Note that the Hebrew word אֹב ob, translated as familiar spirit in the above quotation, has a different meaning than the usual English sense of the phrase; namely, it refers to a spirit that the woman is familiar with, rather than to a spirit that physically manifests itself in the shape of an animal.
The New Testament condemns the practice as an abomination, just as the Old Testament had (Galatians 5:20, compared with Revelation 21:8; 22:15; and Acts 8:9; 13:6). The word in most New Testament translations is "sorcerer"/"sorcery" rather than "witch"/"witchcraft".
Jewish law views the practice of witchcraft as being laden with idolatry and/or necromancy; both being serious theological and practical offenses in Judaism. Although Maimonides vigorously denied the efficacy of all methods of witchcraft, and claimed that the Biblical prohibitions regarding it were precisely to wean the Israelites from practices related to idolatry. It is acknowledged that while magic exists, it is forbidden to practice it on the basis that it usually involves the worship of other gods. Rabbis of the Talmud also condemned magic when it produced something other than illusion, giving the example of two men who use magic to pick cucumbers (Sanhedrin 67a). The one who creates the illusion of picking cucumbers should not be condemned, only the one who actually picks the cucumbers through magic.
However, some of the rabbis practiced "magic" themselves or taught the subject. For instance, Rabbah created a person and sent him to Rav Zeira, and Hanina and Hoshaiah studied every Friday together and created a small calf to eat on Shabbat (Sanhedrin 67b). In these cases, the "magic" was seen more as divine miracles (i.e., coming from God rather than "unclean" forces) than as witchcraft.
Divination, and magic in Islam, encompass a wide range of practices, including black magic, warding off the evil eye, the production of amulets and other magical equipment, evocation, casting lots, and astrology. Muslims do commonly believe in magic (sihr) and explicitly forbid its practice. Sihr translates from Arabic as black magic. The best known reference to magic in Islam is surah al-Falaq of the Qur'an, which is known as a prayer to God to ward off black magic:
Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn From the mischief of created things; From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads; From the mischief of those who practise secret arts; And from the mischief of the envious one as he practises envy. (Qur'an 113:1–5)
And they follow that which the devils falsely related against the kingdom of Solomon. Solomon disbelieved not; but the devils disbelieved, teaching mankind sorcery and that which was revealed to the two angels in Babel, Harut and Marut ... And surely they do know that he who trafficketh therein will have no (happy) portion in the Hereafter; and surely evil is the price for which they sell their souls, if they but knew. (Qur'an 2:102)
Islam distinguishes between God-given gifts or good magic and black magic. Good supernatural powers are therefore a special gift from God, whereas black magic is achieved through help of jinn and demons. In the Qurʾānic narrative, the Prophet Sulayman had the power to speak with animals and command jinn, and he thanks God for this نعمة (i.e. gift, privilege, favour, bounty), which is only given to him with God's permission.[Quran 27:19] The Prophet Muhammad was accused of being a magician by his opponents.[Quran 10:2]
It is a common belief that jinn can possess a human, thus requiring exorcism (ruqya) derived from the Prophet's sunnah to cast off the jinn or devils from the body of the possessed. The practice of seeking help from the jinn is prohibited and can lead to possession. The ruqya contains verses of the Qur'an as well as prayers specifically targeted against demons. The knowledge of which verses of the Qur'an to use in what way is what is considered "magic knowledge."
A hadith recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:76:479 states: "Seventy thousand people of my followers will enter Paradise without accounts, and they are those who do not practice Ar-Ruqya and do not see an evil omen in things, and put their trust in their Lord." Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, a scholar, commented on this hadith, stating: That is because these people will enter Paradise without being called to account because of the perfection of their Tawheed, therefore he described them as people who did not ask others to perform ruqyah for them. Hence he said "and they put their trust in their Lord." Because of their complete trust in their Lord, their contentment with Him, their faith in Him, their being pleased with Him and their seeking their needs from Him, they do not ask people for anything, be it ruqyah or anything else, and they are not influenced by omens and superstitions that could prevent them from doing what they want to do, because superstition detracts from and weakens Tawheed".
Ibn al-Nadim holds, exorcists gain their power by their obedience to God, while sorcerers please the demons by acts of disobedience and sacrifices and they in return do him a favor. Being pious and strictly following the teachings of the Qur'an can increase the probability to perform magic or miracles, that is distinguished from witchcraft, the latter practised in aid with demons.
In Southern African traditions, there are three classifications of somebody who uses magic. The tagati is usually improperly translated into English as "witch", and is a spiteful person who operates in secret to harm others. The sangoma is a diviner, somewhere on a par with a fortune teller, and is employed in detecting illness, predicting a person's future (or advising them on which path to take), or identifying the guilty party in a crime. She also practices some degree of medicine. The inyanga is often translated as "witch doctor" (though many Southern Africans resent this implication, as it perpetuates the mistaken belief that a "witch doctor" is in some sense a practitioner of malicious magic). The inyanga's job is to heal illness and injury and provide customers with magical items for everyday use. Of these three categories the tagati is almost exclusively female, the sangoma is usually female, and the inyanga is almost exclusively male.
Much of what witchcraft represents in Africa has been susceptible to misunderstandings and confusion, thanks in no small part to a tendency among western scholars since the time of the now largely discredited Margaret Murray to approach the subject through a comparative lens vis-a-vis European witchcraft. Okeja argues that witchcraft in Africa today plays a very different social role than in Europe of the past—or present—and should be understood through an African rather than post-colonial Western lens.
Complimentary remarks about witchcraft by a native Congolese initiate: "From witchcraft ... may be developed the remedy (kimbuki) that will do most to raise up our country." "Witchcraft ... deserves respect ... it can embellish or redeem (ketula evo vuukisa)." "The ancestors were equipped with the protective witchcraft of the clan (kindoki kiandundila kanda). ... They could also gather the power of animals into their hands ... whenever they needed. ... If we could make use of these kinds of witchcraft, our country would rapidly progress in knowledge of every kind." "You witches (zindoki) too, bring your science into the light to be written down so that ... the benefits in it ... endow our race."
In eastern Cameroon, the term used for witchcraft among the Maka is djambe and refers to a force inside a person; its powers may make the proprietor more vulnerable. It encompasses the occult, the transformative, killing and healing.
In some Central African areas, malicious magic users are believed by locals to be the source of terminal illness such as AIDS and cancer. In such cases, various methods are used to rid the person from the bewitching spirit, occasionally physical and psychological abuse. Children may be accused of being witches, for example a young niece may be blamed for the illness of a relative. Most of these cases of abuse go unreported since the members of the society that witness such abuse are too afraid of being accused of being accomplices. It is also believed that witchcraft can be transmitted to children by feeding. Parents discourage their children from interacting with people believed to be witches.
As of 2006, between 25,000 and 50,000 children in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, had been accused of witchcraft and thrown out of their homes. These children have been subjected to often-violent abuse during exorcisms, sometimes supervised by self-styled religious pastors. Other pastors and Christian activists strongly oppose such accusations and try to rescue children from their unscrupulous colleagues. The usual term for these children is enfants sorciers (child witches) or enfants dits sorciers (children accused of witchcraft). In 2002, USAID funded the production of two short films on the subject, made in Kinshasa by journalists Angela Nicoara and Mike Ormsby.
In April 2008, in Kinshasa, the police arrested 14 suspected victims (of penis snatching) and sorcerers accused of using black magic or witchcraft to steal (make disappear) or shrink men's penises to extort cash for cure, amid a wave of panic.
According to one study, the belief in magical warfare technologies (such as "bulletproofing") in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo serves a group-level function, as it increases group efficiency in warfare, even if it is suboptimal at the individual level. The authors of the study argue that this is one reason why the belief in witchcraft persists.
In Ghana, women are often accused of witchcraft and attacked by neighbours. Because of this, there exist six witch camps in the country where women suspected of being witches can flee for safety. The witch camps, which exist solely in Ghana, are thought to house a total of around 1000 women. Some of the camps are thought to have been set up over 100 years ago. The Ghanaian government has announced that it intends to close the camps.
Arrests were made in an effort to avoid bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12 alleged penis snatchers were beaten to death by mobs. While it is easy for modern people to dismiss such reports, Uchenna Okeja argues that a belief system in which such magical practices are deemed possible offer many benefits to Africans who hold them. For example, the belief that a sorcerer has "stolen" a man's penis functions as an anxiety-reduction mechanism for men suffering from impotence while simultaneously providing an explanation that is consistent with African cultural beliefs rather than appealing to Western scientific notions that are tainted by the history of colonialism (at least for many Africans).
In Malawi it is also common practice to accuse children of witchcraft and many children have been abandoned, abused and even killed as a result. As in other African countries both African traditional healers and their Christian counterparts are trying to make a living out of exorcising children and are actively involved in pointing out children as witches. Various secular and Christian organizations are combining their efforts to address this problem.
According to William Kamkwamba, witches and wizards are afraid of money, which they consider a rival evil. Any contact with cash will snap their spell and leave the wizard naked and confused. So placing cash, such as kwacha around a room or bed mat will protect the resident from their malevolent spells.
In Nigeria, several Pentecostal pastors have mixed their evangelical brand of Christianity with African beliefs in witchcraft to benefit from the lucrative witch finding and exorcism business—which in the past was the exclusive domain of the so-called witch doctor or traditional healers. These pastors have been involved in the torturing and even killing of children accused of witchcraft. Over the past decade, around 15,000 children have been accused, and around 1,000 murdered. Churches are very numerous in Nigeria, and competition for congregations is hard. Some pastors attempt to establish a reputation for spiritual power by "detecting" child witches, usually following a death or loss of a job within a family, or an accusation of financial fraud against the pastor. In the course of "exorcisms", accused children may be starved, beaten, mutilated, set on fire, forced to consume acid or cement, or buried alive. While some church leaders and Christian activists have spoken out strongly against these abuses, many Nigerian churches are involved in the abuse, although church administrations deny knowledge of it.
Among the Mende (of Sierra Leone), trial and conviction for witchcraft has a beneficial effect for those convicted. "The witchfinder had warned the whole village to ensure the relative prosperity of the accused and sentenced ... old people. ... Six months later all of the people ... accused, were secure, well-fed and arguably happier than at any [previous] time; they had hardly to beckon and people would come with food or whatever was needful. ... Instead of such old and widowed people being left helpless or (as in Western society) institutionalized in old people's homes, these were reintegrated into society and left secure in their old age ... Old people are 'suitable' candidates for this kind of accusation in the sense that they are isolated and vulnerable, and they are 'suitable' candidates for 'social security' for precisely the same reasons." In Kuranko language, the term for witchcraft is suwa'ye referring to "extraordinary powers".
In Tanzania in 2008, President Kikwete publicly condemned witchdoctors for killing albinos for their body parts, which are thought to bring good luck. 25 albinos have been murdered since March 2007. In Tanzania, albinos are often murdered for their body parts on the advice of witch doctors in order to produce powerful amulets that are believed to protect against witchcraft and make the owner prosper in life.
Brua is an Afro-Caribbean religion and healing tradition that originates in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, in the Dutch Caribbean. A healer in this culture is called a kurioso or kuradó, a man or woman who performs trabou chikí (little works) and trabou grandi (large treatments) to promote or restore health, bring fortune or misfortune, deal with unrequited love, and more serious concerns, in which sorcery is involved. Sorcery usually involves reference to the almasola or homber chiki, a devil-like entity. Transcultural Psychiatry published a paper called "Traditional healing practices originating in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao: A review of the literature on psychiatry and Brua" by Jan Dirk Blom, Igmar T. Poulina, Trevor L. van Gellecum and Hans W. Hoek of the Parnassia Psychiatric Institute.
In 1645, Springfield, Massachusetts, experienced America's first accusations of witchcraft when husband and wife Hugh and Mary Parsons accused each other of witchcraft. At America's first witch trial, Hugh was found innocent, while Mary was acquitted of witchcraft but sentenced to be hanged for the death of her child. She died in prison. From 1645–1663, about eighty people throughout England's Massachusetts Bay Colony were accused of practicing witchcraft. Thirteen women and two men were executed in a witch-hunt that lasted throughout New England from 1645–1663.
The Salem witch trials followed in 1692–93. These witch trials were the most famous in British North America and took place in the coastal settlements near Salem, Massachusetts. Prior to the witch trials, nearly 300 men and women had been suspected of partaking in witchcraft, and 19 of these people were hanged, and one was “pressed to death”. The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before local magistrates followed by county court trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in Essex, Suffolk and Middlesex Counties of colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693. Over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, with even more accused who were not formally pursued by the authorities. The two courts convicted 29 people of the capital felony of witchcraft. Nineteen of the accused, 14 women and 5 men, were hanged. One man who refused to enter a plea was crushed to death under heavy stones in an attempt to force him to do so. At least five more of the accused died in prison.
Despite being generally known as the "Salem" witch trials, the preliminary hearings in 1692 were conducted in a variety of towns across the province: Salem Village (now Danvers), Salem Town, Ipswich, and Andover. The best known trials were conducted by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692 in Salem Town. All 26 who went to trial before this court were convicted. The four sessions of the Superior Court of Judicature in 1693, held in Salem Town, but also in Ipswich, Boston, and Charlestown, produced only 3 convictions in the 31 witchcraft trials it conducted. Likewise, alleged witchcraft was not isolated to New England. In 1706 Grace Sherwood the "Witch of Pungo" was imprisoned for the crime in Princess Anne County, Virginia.
In Maryland, there is a legend of Moll Dyer, who escaped a fire set by fellow colonists only to die of exposure in December 1697. The historical record of Dyer is scant as all official records were burned in a courthouse fire, though the county courthouse has on display the rock where her frozen body was found. A letter from a colonist of the period describes her in most unfavourable terms. A local road is named after Dyer, where her homestead was said to have been. Many local families have their own version of the Moll Dyer affair, and her name is spoken with care in the rural southern counties.
Accusations of witchcraft and wizardry led to the prosecution of a man in Tennessee as recently as 1833. The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692–93.
In Diné culture, witches are seen as the polar opposite of ceremonial people. While spiritual leaders perform "sings" for healing, protection and other beneficial purposes, all practices referred to as "witchcraft" are intended to hurt and curse. Witches are associated with harm to the community and transgression of societal standards, especially those relating to family and the dead.
The yee naaldlooshii is the type of witch known in English as a "skin-walker". They are believed to take the forms of animals in order to travel in secret and do harm to the innocent. In the Navajo language, yee naaldlooshii translates to "with it, he goes on all fours". While perhaps the most common variety seen in horror fiction by non-Navajo people, the yee naaldlooshii is one of several varieties of Navajo witch, specifically a type of ’ánti’įhnii.
Corpse powder or corpse poison (Navajo: áńt’į́, literally "witchery" or "harming") is a substance made from powdered corpses. The powder is used by witches to curse their victims. The effect of the áńt’į́ is a curse and disease, usually indicated by an immediate action to administration of the poison, like fainting, swelling of the tongue, or lockjaw. Sometimes, however, the victims simply wastes away, as from a normal disease.
Traditional Navajos usually hesitate to discuss things like witches and witchcraft with non-Navajos.
Witchcraft was also an important part of the social and cultural history of late-Colonial Mexico, during the Mexican Inquisition. Spanish Inquisitors viewed witchcraft as a problem that could be cured simply through confession. Yet, as anthropologist Ruth Behar writes, witchcraft, not only in Mexico but in Latin America in general, was a "conjecture of sexuality, witchcraft, and religion, in which Spanish, indigenous, and African cultures converged." Furthermore, witchcraft in Mexico generally required an interethnic and interclass network of witches. Yet, according to anthropology professor Laura Lewis, witchcraft in colonial Mexico ultimately represented an "affirmation of hegemony" for women, Indians, and especially Indian women over their white male counterparts as a result of the casta system.
In modern history, notoriety has been awarded to a place called Catemaco, in the state of Veracruz, which has a history of witchcraft, and where the practice of witchcraft by contemporary brujos and brujas thrives. In Mexico City, people who practice brujería, Santería, voodoo, ocultism and magic may find items, herbs and supplies at the mercado de Sonora.
The presence of the witch is a constant in the ethnographic history of colonial Brazil, especially during the several denunciations and confessions given to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of Bahia (1591–1593), Pernambuco and Paraíba (1593–1595).
Brazil has been presented as a major site of witchcraft both during colonization and in the modern world. During colonization, Brazil was seen as the “Land of the Devil,” due to its “immaturity.” Any place that had not yet received the word of God was seen to be populated by demons, and it was the goal of the Portuguese to save the souls of the indigenous people from these demons. This desire largely influenced the Portuguese Inquisition, which targeted sorcerers and sorceresses in Brazil up until 1821. Witchcraft presented itself in many different ways within Brazil, from calundu drums and ceremonies to bolsas de mandinga and cartas de tocar.
Calundu ceremony was a very important part of African religion within the Portuguese colonies. The ceremonies themselves were said to have a part in healing people, attributed both to the music of the calundu drums and the herbs that were utilized. The drums were played during these rituals, and the participants danced, drank chicken’s blood, and applied skin paint. Sometimes, physical representations of Saint Anthony, a symbol of healing in Christianity, were utilized, as well as figures known as nkisi. They were often a last resort for those seeking to be healed, which included some white people who would later attempt to cover up any association with the ceremony. Labeled witchcraft by the Portuguese Inquisition, punishments for calundieros (the leaders of ceremonies and the players of the drums) were extremely harsh. Aside from possible fines, they also faced torture and banishment. The practice was driven far underground by these punishments, eventually resulting in the complete elimination of calundu from the historical record. It lives on in other drum based rituals found throughout Brazil, but the label of witchcraft place upon the calundu spelled its end.
While also targeting the practices of the African people within Brazil as a whole, the Inquisition also targeted specific individuals. One such individual was Maria Barbosa, an accused sorceress who lived in Bahia for many years and was largely accused by people from this area. She was a parda, being of both black and white heritage, who practiced sorcery wherever she went. Even during her banishment to Angola, she was labeled a sorceress and publicly flogged. By 1610 she was in Bahia, and witnesses explained to Bishop Dom Constantino Barradas that she did not attend mass, worked on Sundays and saints’ days, and that she was a prostitute. Sorcery and prostitutions were closely linked at this time, and by accusing her of essentially running a brothel, she was ultimately labeled a sorceress by default. By 1611, she was in jail, winning over other prisoners by performing spells. Aside from her being an accused sorceress and prostitute, she was also labeled a procuress for taking in young girls and leading them astray. These three labels thrust upon her resulted in her banishment from Bahia.
Manuel João was another accused and prosecuted under the Portuguese Inquisition. In 1668, at the age of 17, João was arrested on suspicion of having made a pact with a demon. Upon his arrest, he was found to have a bolsa de mandinga around his neck which contained a paper with prayers on it, drawings, and a bone among other things. Bolsas de mandinga were commonly used to indicate one was a witch or had some connection to demons.
Belief in the supernatural is strong in all parts of India, and lynchings for witchcraft are reported in the press from time to time. Around 750 people were killed as witches in Assam and West Bengal between 2003 and 2008. Officials in the state of Chhattisgarh reported in 2008 that at least 100 women are maltreated annually as suspected witches. A local activist stated that only a fraction of cases of abuse are reported. In Indian mythology, a common perception of a witch is a being with her feet pointed backwards.
Apart from other types of Violence against women in Nepal, the malpractice of abusing women in the name of witchcraft is also really prominent. According to the statistics in 2013, there was a total of 69 reported cases of abuse to women due to accusation of performing witchcraft. The perpetrators of this malpractice are usually neighbors, so-called witch doctors and family members. The main causes of these malpractices are lack of education, lack of awareness and superstition. According to the statistics by INSEC, the age group of women who fall victims to the witchcraft violence in Nepal is 20–40.
The fox witch is, by far, the most commonly seen witch figure in Japan. Differing regional beliefs set those who use foxes into two separate types: the kitsune-mochi, and the tsukimono-suji. The first of these, the kitsune-mochi, is a solitary figure who gains his fox familiar by bribing it with its favourite foods. The kitsune-mochi then strikes up a deal with the fox, typically promising food and daily care in return for the fox's magical services. The fox of Japanese folklore is a powerful trickster in and of itself, imbued with powers of shape changing, possession, and illusion. These creatures can be either nefarious; disguising themselves as women in order to trap men, or they can be benign forces as in the story of "The Grateful foxes". However, once a fox enters the employ of a human it almost exclusively becomes a force of evil to be feared. A fox under the employ of a human can provide many services. The fox can turn invisible and find secrets its master desires. It can apply its many powers of illusion to trick and deceive its master's enemies. The most feared power of the kitsune-mochi is the ability to command his fox to possess other humans. This process of possession is called Kitsunetsuki.
By far, the most commonly reported cases of fox witchcraft in modern Japan are enacted by tsukimono-suji families, or "hereditary witches". The Tsukimono-suji is traditionally a family who is reported to have foxes under their employ. These foxes serve the family and are passed down through the generations, typically through the female line. Tsukimono-suji foxes are able to supply much in the way of the same mystical aid that the foxes under the employ of a kitsune-mochi can provide its more solitary master with. In addition to these powers, if the foxes are kept happy and well taken care of, they bring great fortune and prosperity to the Tsukimono-suji house. However, the aid in which these foxes give is often overshadowed by the social and mystical implications of being a member of such a family. In many villages, the status of local families as tsukimono-suji is often common, everyday knowledge. Such families are respected and feared, but are also openly shunned. Due to its hereditary nature, the status of being Tsukimono-suji is considered contagious. Because of this, it is often impossible for members of such a family to sell land or other properties, due to fear that the possession of such items will cause foxes to inundate one's own home. In addition to this, because the foxes are believed to be passed down through the female line, it is often nearly impossible for women of such families to find a husband whose family will agree to have him married to a tsukimono-suji family. In such a union the woman's status as a Tsukimono-suji would transfer to any man who married her.
Witchcraft in the Philippines is often classified as malevolent, with practitioners of black magic called Mangkukulam in Tagalog and Mambabarang in Cebuano; there are also practitioners of benevolent, white magic, in addition to some who practise both. Mambabarang in particular are noted for their ability to command insects and other invertebrates to accomplish a task, such as delivering a curse to a target.
Magic and witchcraft in the Philippines varies considerably across the different ethnic groups, and is commonly a modern manifestation of pre-Colonial spirituality interwoven with Catholic religious elements such as the invocation of saints and the use of pseudo-Latin prayers (oración) in spells, and anting-anting (amulets).
Practitioners of traditional herbal-based medicine and divination called albularyo are not considered witches. They are perceived to be either quack doctors or a quasi-magical option when western medicine fails to identify or cure an ailment that is thus suspected to be of supernatural, often malevolent, origin. Feng shui, an influence of Filipino Chinese culture, is also not classified as witchcraft as it is considered a separate realm of belief altogether.
Saudi Arabia continues to use the death penalty for sorcery and witchcraft. In 2006 Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali was condemned to death for practicing witchcraft. There is no legal definition of sorcery in Saudi, but in 2007 an Egyptian pharmacist working there was accused, convicted, and executed. Saudi authorities also pronounced the death penalty on a Lebanese television presenter, Ali Hussain Sibat, while he was performing the hajj (Islamic pilgrimage) in the country.
In 2009, the Saudi authorities set up the Anti-Witchcraft Unit of their Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice police. In April 2009, a Saudi woman Amina Bint Abdulhalim Nassar was arrested and later sentenced to death for practicing witchcraft and sorcery. In December 2011, she was beheaded. A Saudi man has been beheaded on charges of sorcery and witchcraft in June 2012. A beheading for sorcery occurred in 2014.
In June 2015, Yahoo reported: "The Islamic State group has beheaded two women in Syria on accusations of "sorcery," the first such executions of female civilians in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday." ISIS decapitated a man in Iraq over sorcery.
An expedition sent to what is now the Xinjiang region of western China by the PBS documentary series Nova found a fully clothed female Tocharian mummy wearing a black conical hat of the type now associated with witches in Europe in the storage area of a small local museum, indicative of an Indo-European priestess.
Witchcraft in Europe between 500–1750 was believed to be a combination of sorcery and heresy. While sorcery attempts to produce negative supernatural effects through formulas and rituals, heresy is the Christian contribution to witchcraft in which an individual makes a pact with the Devil. In addition, heresy denies witches the recognition of important Christian values such as baptism, salvation, Christ and sacraments. The beginning of the witch accusations in Europe took place in the 14th and 15th centuries; however as the social disruptions of the 16th century took place, witchcraft trials intensified.
In Early Modern European tradition, witches were stereotypically, though not exclusively, women. European pagan belief in witchcraft was associated with the goddess Diana and dismissed as "diabolical fantasies" by medieval Christian authors. Witch-hunts first appeared in large numbers in southern France and Switzerland during the 14th and 15th centuries. The peak years of witch-hunts in southwest Germany were from 1561 to 1670.
It was commonly believed that individuals with power and prestige were involved in acts of witchcraft and even cannibalism. Because Europe had a lot of power over individuals living in West Africa, Europeans in positions of power were often accused of taking part in these practices. Though it is not likely that these individuals were actually involved in these practices, they were most likely associated due to Europe's involvement in things like the slave trade, which negatively affected the lives of many individuals in the Atlantic World throughout the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries.
Early converts to Christianity looked to Christian clergy to work magic more effectively than the old methods under Roman paganism, and Christianity provided a methodology involving saints and relics, similar to the gods and amulets of the Pagan world. As Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe, its concern with magic lessened.
The Protestant Christian explanation for witchcraft, such as those typified in the confessions of the Pendle witches, commonly involves a diabolical pact or at least an appeal to the intervention of the spirits of evil. The witches or wizards engaged in such practices were alleged to reject Jesus and the sacraments; observe "the witches' sabbath" (performing infernal rites that often parodied the Mass or other sacraments of the Church); pay Divine honour to the Prince of Darkness; and, in return, receive from him preternatural powers. It was a folkloric belief that a Devil's Mark, like the brand on cattle, was placed upon a witch's skin by the devil to signify that this pact had been made. Witches were most often characterized as women. Witches disrupted the societal institutions, and more specifically, marriage. It was believed that a witch often joined a pact with the devil to gain powers to deal with infertility, immense fear for her children's well-being, or revenge against a lover. They were also depicted as lustful and perverted, and it was thought that they copulated with the devil at the Sabbath.
The Church and European society were not always so zealous in hunting witches or blaming them for misfortunes. Saint Boniface declared in the 8th century that belief in the existence of witches was un-Christian. The emperor Charlemagne decreed that the burning of supposed witches was a pagan custom that would be punished by the death penalty. In 820 the Bishop of Lyon and others repudiated the belief that witches could make bad weather, fly in the night, and change their shape. This denial was accepted into Canon law . Other rulers such as King Coloman of Hungary declared that witch-hunts should cease because witches (more specifically, strigas) do not exist.
The Church did not invent the idea of witchcraft as a potentially harmful force whose practitioners should be put to death. This idea is commonplace in pre-Christian religions. According to the scholar Max Dashu, the concept of medieval witchcraft contained many of its elements even before the emergence of Christianity. These can be found in Bacchanalias, especially in the time when they were led by priestess Paculla Annia (188BC–186BC).
Powers typically attributed to European witches include turning food poisonous or inedible, flying on broomsticks or pitchforks, casting spells, cursing people, making livestock ill and crops fail, and creating fear and local chaos.
However, even at a later date, not all witches were assumed to be harmful practicers of the craft. In England, the provision of this curative magic was the job of a witch doctor, also known as a cunning man, white witch, or wise man. The term "witch doctor" was in use in England before it came to be associated with Africa. Toad doctors were also credited with the ability to undo evil witchcraft. (Other folk magicians had their own purviews. Girdle-measurers specialised in diagnosing ailments caused by fairies, while magical cures for more mundane ailments, such as burns or toothache, could be had from charmers.)
In the north of England, the superstition lingers to an almost inconceivable extent. Lancashire abounds with witch-doctors, a set of quacks, who pretend to cure diseases inflicted by the devil ... The witch-doctor alluded to is better known by the name of the cunning man, and has a large practice in the counties of Lincoln and Nottingham.
Historians Keith Thomas and his student Alan Macfarlane study witchcraft by combining historical research with concepts drawn from anthropology. They argued that English witchcraft, like African witchcraft, was endemic rather than epidemic. Older women were the favorite targets because they were marginal, dependent members of the community and therefore more likely to arouse feelings of both hostility and guilt, and less likely to have defenders of importance inside the community. Witchcraft accusations were the village's reaction to the breakdown of its internal community, coupled with the emergence of a newer set of values that was generating psychic stress.
In Wales, fear of witchcraft mounted around the year 1500. There was a growing alarm of women's magic as a weapon aimed against the state and church. The Church made greater efforts to enforce the canon law of marriage, especially in Wales where tradition allowed a wider range of sexual partnerships. There was a political dimension as well, as accusations of witchcraft were levied against the enemies of Henry VII, who was exerting more and more control over Wales.
The records of the Courts of Great Sessions for Wales, 1536–1736 show that Welsh custom was more important than English law. Custom provided a framework of responding to witches and witchcraft in such a way that interpersonal and communal harmony was maintained, Showing to regard to the importance of honour, social place and cultural status. Even when found guilty, execution did not occur.
Becoming king in 1603, James I Brought to England and Scotland continental explanations of witchcraft. His goal was to divert suspicion away from male homosociality among the elite, and focus fear on female communities and large gatherings of women. He thought they threatened his political power so he laid the foundation for witchcraft and occultism policies, especially in Scotland. The point was that a widespread belief in the conspiracy of witches and a witches' Sabbath with the devil deprived women of political influence. Occult power was supposedly a womanly trait because women were weaker and more susceptible to the devil.
In the United Kingdom children believed to be witches or seen as possessed by evil spirits can be subject to severe beatings, traumatic exorcism, and/or other abuse. There have even been child murders associated with witchcraft beliefs. The problem is particularly serious among immigrant or former immigrant communities of African origin but other communities, such as those of Asian origin are also involved. Step children and children seen as different for a wide range of reasons are particularly at risk of witchcraft accusations. Children may be beaten or have chilli rubbed into their eyes during exorcisms. This type of abuse is frequently hidden and can include torture. A 2006 recommendation to record abuse cases linked to witchcraft centrally has not yet been implemented. Lack of awareness among social workers, teachers and other professionals dealing with at risk children hinders efforts to combat the problem.
The Metropolitan Police said there had been 60 crimes linked to faith in London so far [in 2015]. It saw reports double from 23 in 2013 to 46 in 2014. Half of UK police forces do not record such cases and many local authorities are also unable to provide figures. The NSPCC said authorities "need to ensure they are able to spot the signs of this particular brand of abuse". London is unique in having a police team, Project Violet, dedicated to this type of abuse. Its figures relate to crime reports where officers have flagged a case as involving abuse linked to faith or belief. Many of the cases involve children. (...) An NSPCC spokesman said: "While the number of child abuse cases involving witchcraft is relatively small, they often include horrifying levels of cruelty. "The authorities which deal with these dreadful crimes need to ensure they are able to spot the signs of this particular brand of abuse and take action to protect children before a tragedy occurs."
There is a 'money making scam' involved. Pastors accuse a child of being a witch and later the family pays for exorcism. If a child at school says that his/her pastor called the child a witch that should become a child safeguarding issue.
As in most European countries, women in Italy were more likely suspected of witchcraft than men. Women were considered dangerous due to their supposed sexual instability, such as when being aroused, and also due to the powers of their menstrual blood.
In the 16th century, Italy had a high portion of witchcraft trials involving love magic. The country had a large number of unmarried people due to men marrying later in their lives during this time. This left many women on a desperate quest for marriage leaving them vulnerable to the accusation of witchcraft whether they took part in it or not. Trial records from the Inquisition and secular courts discovered a link between prostitutes and supernatural practices. Professional prostitutes were considered experts in love and therefore knew how to make love potions and cast love related spells. Up until 1630, the majority of women accused of witchcraft were prostitutes. A courtesan was questioned about her use of magic due to her relationship with men of power in Italy and her wealth. The majority of women accused were also considered "outsiders" because they were poor, had different religious practices, spoke a different language, or simply from a different city/town/region. Cassandra from Ferrara, Italy, was still considered a foreigner because not native to Rome where she was residing. She was also not seen as a model citizen because her husband was in Venice.
From the 16th-18th centuries, the Catholic Church enforced moral discipline throughout Italy. With the help of local tribunals, such as in Venice, the two institutions investigated a woman's religious behaviors when she was accused of witchcraft.
Franciscan friars from New Spain introduced Diabolism, belief in the devil, to the indigenous people after their arrival in 1524. Bartolomé de las Casas believed that human sacrifice was not diabolic, in fact far off from it, and was a natural result of religious expression. Mexican Indians gladly took in the belief of Diabolism and still managed to keep their belief in creator-destroyer deities.
In pre-Christian times, witchcraft was a common practice in the Cook Islands. The native name for a sorcerer was tangata purepure (a man who prays). The prayers offered by the ta'unga (priests) to the gods worshiped on national or tribal marae (temples) were termed karakia; those on minor occasions to the lesser gods were named pure. All these prayers were metrical, and were handed down from generation to generation with the utmost care. There were prayers for every such phase in life; for success in battle; for a change in wind (to overwhelm an adversary at sea, or that an intended voyage be propitious); that his crops may grow; to curse a thief; or wish ill-luck and death to his foes. Few men of middle age were without a number of these prayers or charms. The succession of a sorcerer was from father to son, or from uncle to nephew. So too of sorceresses: it would be from mother to daughter, or from aunt to niece. Sorcerers and sorceresses were often slain by relatives of their supposed victims.
A singular enchantment was employed to kill off a husband of a pretty woman desired by someone else. The expanded flower of a Gardenia was stuck upright—a very difficult performance—in a cup (i.e., half a large coconut shell) of water. A prayer was then offered for the husbands speedy death, the sorcerer earnestly watching the flower. Should it fall the incantation was successful. But if the flower still remained upright, he will live. The sorcerer would in that case try his skill another day, with perhaps better success.
According to Beatrice Grimshaw, a journalist who visited the Cook Islands in 1907, the uncrowned Queen Makea was believed to have possessed the mystic power called mana, giving the possessor the power to slay at will. It also included other gifts, such as second sight to a certain extent, the power to bring good or evil luck, and the ability already mentioned to deal death at will.
A local newspaper informed that more than 50 people were killed in two Highlands provinces of Papua New Guinea in 2008 for allegedly practicing witchcraft. An estimated 50–150 alleged witches are killed each year in Papua New Guinea.
Among the Russian words for witch, ведьма (ved'ma) literally means "one who knows", from Old Slavic вѣдъ "to know"). Another frequent term is колдунья (koldun'ya), sorcerer being колдун (koldun).
Pagan practices formed a part of Russian and Eastern Slavic culture; the Russian people were deeply superstitious. The witchcraft practiced consisted mostly of earth magic and herbology; it was not so significant which herbs were used in practices, but how these herbs were gathered. Ritual centered on harvest of the crops and the location of the sun was very important. One source, pagan author Judika Illes, tells that herbs picked on Midsummer's Eve were believed to be most powerful, especially if gathered on Bald Mountain near Kiev during the witches' annual revels celebration. Botanicals should be gathered, "During the seventeenth minute of the fourteenth hour, under a dark moon, in the thirteenth field, wearing a red dress, pick the twelfth flower on the right."
Spells also served for midwifery, shape-shifting, keeping lovers faithful, and bridal customs. Spells dealing with midwifery and childbirth focused on the spiritual wellbeing of the baby. Shape-shifting spells involved invocation of the wolf as a spirit animal. To keep men faithful, lovers would cut a ribbon the length of his erect penis and soak it in his seminal emissions after sex while he was sleeping, then tie seven knots in it; keeping this talisman of knot magic ensured loyalty. Part of an ancient pagan marriage tradition involved the bride taking a ritual bath at a bathhouse before the ceremony. Her sweat would be wiped from her body using raw fish, and the fish would be cooked and fed to the groom.
Demonism, or black magic, was not prevalent. Persecution for witchcraft, mostly involved the practice of simple earth magic, founded on herbology, by solitary practitioners with a Christian influence. In one case investigators found a locked box containing something bundled in a kerchief and three paper packets, wrapped and tied, containing crushed grasses. Most rituals of witchcraft were very simple—one spell of divination consists of sitting alone outside meditating, asking the earth to show one's fate.
While these customs were unique to Russian culture, they were not exclusive to this region. Russian pagan practices were often akin to paganism in other parts of the world. The Chinese concept of chi, a form of energy that often manipulated in witchcraft, is known as bioplasma in Russian practices. The western concept of an "evil eye" or a "hex" was translated to Russia as a "spoiler". A spoiler was rooted in envy, jealousy and malice. Spoilers could be made by gathering bone from a cemetery, a knot of the target's hair, burned wooden splinters and several herb Paris berries (which are very poisonous). Placing these items in sachet in the victim's pillow completes a spoiler. The Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and the ancient Egyptians recognized the evil eye from as early as 3,000 BCE; in Russian practices it is seen as a sixteenth-century concept.
The dominant societal concern those practicing witchcraft was not whether paganism was effective, but whether it could cause harm. Peasants in Russian and Ukrainian societies often shunned witchcraft, unless they needed help against supernatural forces. Impotence, stomach pains, barrenness, hernias, abscesses, epileptic seizures, and convulsions were all attributed to evil (or witchcraft). This is reflected in linguistics; there are numerous words for a variety of practitioners of paganism-based healers. Russian peasants referred to a witch as a chernoknizhnik (a person who plied his trade with the aid of a black book), sheptun/sheptun'ia (a "whisperer" male or female), lekar/lekarka or znakhar/znakharka (a male or female healer), or zagovornik (an incanter).
Ironically enough, there was universal reliance on folk healers – but clients often turned them in if something went wrong. According to Russian historian Valerie A. Kivelson, witchcraft accusations were normally thrown at lower-class peasants, townspeople and Cossacks. People turned to witchcraft as a means to support themselves. The ratio of male to female accusations was 75% to 25%. Males were targeted more, because witchcraft was associated with societal deviation. Because single people with no settled home could not be taxed, males typically had more power than women in their dissent.
The history of Witchcraft had evolved around society. More of a psychological concept to the creation and usage of Witchcraft can create the assumption as to why women are more likely to follow the practices behind Witchcraft. Identifying with the soul of an individual's self is often deemed as "feminine" in society. There is analyzed social and economic evidence to associate between witchcraft and women.
Witchcraft trials occurred frequently in seventeenth-century Russia, although the "great witch-hunt" is believed to be a predominantly Western European phenomenon. However, as the witchcraft-trial craze swept across Catholic and Protestant countries during this time, Orthodox Christian Europe indeed partook in this so-called "witch hysteria." This involved the persecution of both males and females who were believed to be practicing paganism, herbology, the black art, or a form of sorcery within and/or outside their community. Very early on witchcraft legally fell under the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical body, the church, in Kievan Rus' and Muscovite Russia. Sources of ecclesiastical witchcraft jurisdiction date back as early as the second half of the eleventh century, one being Vladimir the Great's first edition of his State Statute or Ustav, another being multiple references in the Primary Chronicle beginning in 1024.
The sentence for an individual found guilty of witchcraft or sorcery during this time, and in previous centuries, typically included either burning at the stake or being tested with the "ordeal of cold water" or judicium aquae frigidae. The cold-water test was primarily a Western European phenomenon, but was used as a method of truth in Russia prior to, and post, seventeenth-century witchcraft trials in Muscovy. Accused persons who submerged were considered innocent, and ecclesiastical authorities would proclaim them "brought back," but those who floated were considered guilty of practicing witchcraft, and burned at the stake or executed in an unholy fashion. The thirteenth-century bishop of Vladimir, Serapion Vladimirskii, preached sermons throughout the Muscovite countryside, and in one particular sermon revealed that burning was the usual punishment for witchcraft, but more often the cold water test was used as a precursor to execution.
Although these two methods of torture were used in the west and the east, Russia implemented a system of fines payable for the crime of witchcraft during the seventeenth century. Thus, even though torture methods in Muscovy were on a similar level of harshness as Western European methods used, a more civil method was present. In the introduction of a collection of trial records pieced together by Russian scholar Nikolai Novombergsk, he argues that Muscovite authorities used the same degree of cruelty and harshness as Western European Catholic and Protestant countries in persecuting witches. By the mid-sixteenth century the manifestations of paganism, including witchcraft, and the black arts—astrology, fortune telling, and divination—became a serious concern to the Muscovite church and state.
Tsar Ivan IV (reigned 1547–1584) took this matter to the ecclesiastical court and was immediately advised that individuals practicing these forms of witchcraft should be excommunicated and given the death penalty. Ivan IV, as a true believer in witchcraft, was deeply convinced that sorcery accounted for the death of his wife, Anastasiia in 1560, which completely devastated and depressed him, leaving him heartbroken. Stemming from this belief, Ivan IV became majorly concerned with the threat of witchcraft harming his family, and feared he was in danger. So, during the Oprichnina (1565–1572), Ivan IV succeeded in accusing and charging a good number of boyars with witchcraft whom he did not wish to remain as nobles. Rulers after Ivan IV, specifically during the Time of Troubles (1598–1613), increased the fear of witchcraft among themselves and entire royal families, which then led to further preoccupation with the fear of prominent Muscovite witchcraft circles.
After the Time of Troubles, seventeenth-century Muscovite rulers held frequent investigations of witchcraft within their households, laying the ground, along with previous tsarist reforms, for widespread witchcraft trials throughout the Muscovite state. Between 1622 and 1700 ninety-one people were brought to trial in Muscovite courts for witchcraft. Although Russia did partake in the witch craze that swept across Western Europe, the Muscovite state did not persecute nearly as many people for witchcraft, let alone execute a number of individuals anywhere close to the number executed in the west during the witch hysteria.
Witches have a long history of being depicted in art, although most of their earliest artistic depictions seem to originate in Early Modern Europe, particularly the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Many scholars attribute their manifestation in art as inspired by texts such as Canon Episcopi, a demonology-centered work of literature, and Malleus Maleficarum, a "witch-craze" manual published in 1487, by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger.
Canon Episcopi, a ninth-century text that explored the subject of demonology, initially introduced concepts that would continuously be associated with witches, such as their ability to fly or their believed fornication and sexual relations with the devil. The text refers to two women, Diana the Huntress and Herodias, who both express the duality of female sorcerers. Diana was described as having a heavenly body and as the "protectress of childbirth and fertility" while Herodias symbolized "unbridled sensuality". They thus represent the mental powers and cunning sexuality that witches used as weapons to trick men into performing sinful acts which would result in their eternal punishment. These characteristics were distinguished as Medusa-like or Lamia-like traits when seen in any artwork (Medusa's mental trickery was associated with Diana the Huntress's psychic powers and Lamia was a rumored female figure in the Medieval ages sometimes used in place of Herodias).
One of the first individuals to regularly depict witches after the witch-craze of the medieval period was Albrecht Dürer, a German Renaissance artist. His famous 1497 engraving The Four Witches, portrays four physically attractive and seductive nude witches. Their supernatural identities are emphasized by the skulls and bones lying at their feet as well as the devil discreetly peering at them from their left. The women's sensuous presentation speaks to the overtly sexual nature they were attached to in early modern Europe. Moreover, this attractiveness was perceived as a danger to ordinary men who they could seduce and tempt into their sinful world. Some scholars interpret this piece as utilizing the logic of the Canon Episcopi, in which women used their mental powers and bodily seduction to enslave and lead men onto a path of eternal damnation, differing from the unattractive depiction of witches that would follow in later Renaissance years.
Dürer also employed other ideas from the Middle Ages that were commonly associated with witches. Specifically, his art often referred to former 12th- to 13th-century Medieval iconography addressing the nature of female sorcerers. In the Medieval period, there was a widespread fear of witches, accordingly producing an association of dark, intimidating characteristics with witches, such as cannibalism (witches described as "[sucking] the blood of newborn infants") or described as having the ability to fly, usually on the back of black goats. As the Renaissance period began, these concepts of witchcraft were suppressed, leading to a drastic change in the sorceress' appearances, from sexually explicit beings to the 'ordinary' typical housewives of this time period. This depiction, known as the 'Waldensian' witch became a cultural phenomenon of early Renaissance art. The term originates from the 12th-century monk Peter Waldo, who established his own religious sect which explicitly opposed the luxury and commodity-influenced lifestyle of the Christian church clergy, and whose sect was excommunicated before being persecuted as "practitioners of witchcraft and magic".
Subsequent artwork exhibiting witches tended to consistently rely on cultural stereotypes about these women. These stereotypes were usually rooted in early Renaissance religious discourse, specifically the Christian belief that an "earthly alliance" had taken place between Satan's female minions who "conspired to destroy Christendom".
Another significant artist whose art consistently depicted witches was Dürer's apprentice, Hans Baldung Grien, a 15th-century German artist. His chiaroscuro woodcut, Witches, created in 1510, visually encompassed all the characteristics that were regularly assigned to witches during the Renaissance. Social beliefs labeled witches as supernatural beings capable of doing great harm, possessing the ability to fly, and as cannibalistic. The urn in Witches seems to contain pieces of the human body, which the witches are seen consuming as a source of energy. Meanwhile, their nudity while feasting is recognized as an allusion to their sexual appetite, and some scholars read the witch riding on the back of a goat-demon as representative of their "flight-inducing [powers]". This connection between women's sexual nature and sins was thematic in the pieces of many Renaissance artists, especially Christian artists, due to cultural beliefs which characterized women as overtly sexual beings who were less capable (in comparison to men) of resisting sinful temptation.
Abigail Williams (July 12, 1680 – c. October 1697) was one of the initial accusers in the Salem witch trials, which led to the arrest and imprisonment of more than 150 innocent people suspected of witchcraft.Abigail Williams and her cousin Betty Parris were the first two accusers in the Salem Witch trials of 1692 and 1693. Tituba, a slave at the time, was one of the first to be accused of witchcraft. Williams was twelve years old at the time, and she was living with her uncle, local minister Rev. Samuel Parris, in Salem after Native Americans killed her parents during a raid. Her parents' names were Joseph and Abigail Rogers. Abigail Rogers later became Abigail Parris Williams. According to eyewitness Rev. Deodat Lawson, she and Betty began to have fits in which they ran around rooms flailing their arms, ducking under chairs, and trying to climb up the chimney. It is claimed that her body contorted into apparently impossible positions.This alarmed many of the villagers of Salem. Samuel Parris decided to call in a doctor to determine whether or not these afflictions were medical. Dr. William Griggs had difficulty understanding the actions of the two young girls. He believed that it was not a medical issue and suggested that it must be witchcraft. Tituba was then asked to bake a witch cake—rye mixed with the afflicted girls' urine—and feed the mixture to a dog. The theory was that the dog would exhibit similar symptoms if Abigail and Betty were bewitched, and it would prove that witchcraft was indeed being practiced.Further accusations were soon made because of Abigail and Betty's claims to be possessed, resulting in 20 deaths. Three women were arrested for suspicion of witchcraft on February 29, 1692: Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba herself. They were all found guilty, but the only one to confess was Tituba. Sarah Good was hanged and Sarah Osborne died in prison. Tituba was released from jail a year later, when Rev. Samuel Parris paid her fees for release. Abigail and Betty's accusations rapidly spread throughout Salem and nearby villages (especially Andover), leading to the imprisonment of many people and the deaths of 19 during 1692–93. After 1692 Abigail Williams disappears from written records, making it impossible for historians to know about her life after the trials. Some say she ran off after the trials, becoming a prostitute, but there is no way to truly know.In 1976, Linnda R. Caporael put forward the hypothesis that these strange symptoms may have been caused by ergotism, the ingestion of fungus-infected rye. This explanation has not been widely accepted.Black magic
Black magic has traditionally referred to the use of supernatural powers or magic for evil and selfish purposes. With respect to the left-hand path and right-hand path dichotomy, black magic is the malicious, left-hand counterpart of the benevolent white magic. In modern times, some find that the definition of "black magic" has been convoluted by people who define magic or ritualistic practices that they disapprove of as "black magic".Coven
A coven usually refers to a group or gathering of witches. The word "coven" (from Anglo-Norman covent, cuvent, from Old French covent, from Latin conventum = convention) remained largely unused in English until 1921 when Margaret Murray promoted the idea, that all witches across Europe met in groups of thirteen which they called "covens".Daemonologie
Daemonologie—in full Daemonologie, In Forme of a Dialogue, Divided into three Books: By the High and Mighty Prince, James &c.—was written and published in 1597 by King James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England) as a philosophical dissertation on contemporary necromancy and the historical relationships between the various methods of divination used from ancient black magic. This included a study on demonology and the methods demons used to bother troubled men. It also touches on topics such as werewolves and vampires. It was a political yet theological statement to educate a misinformed populace on the history, practices and implications of sorcery and the reasons for persecuting a person in a Christian society accused of being a witch under the rule of canonical law. This book is believed to be one of the main sources used by William Shakespeare in the production of Macbeth. Shakespeare attributed many quotes and rituals found within the book directly to the Weird Sisters, yet also attributed the Scottish themes and settings referenced from the trials in which King James was involved.Dianic Wicca
Dianic Wicca, also known as Dianic Witchcraft, is a neopagan religion of female-centered goddess ritual and tradition. While some adherents identify as Wiccan, it differs from most traditions of Wicca in that only goddesses are honored (whereas most Wiccan traditions honor both female and male deities).While there is more than one tradition that calls itself Dianic, the best known is the female-only variety, founded by Zsuzsanna Budapest in the United States in the 1970s. It is notable for its worship of a single Goddess and focus on egalitarian, matriarchal feminism. It is named after the Roman goddess Diana, but Dianics worship goddesses from many cultures, seeing them as "aspects" of a monotheistic goddess. Dianic Wicca is an eclectic combination of elements from British Traditional Wicca, Italian folk-magic as recorded by Charles Leland in Aradia, feminist values, folk magic and healing practices from a variety of different cultures.European witchcraft
Belief in and practice of witchcraft in Europe can be traced to classical antiquity and has continuous history during the Middle Ages, culminating in the Early Modern witch hunts and giving rise to the fairy tale and popular culture "witch" stock character of modern times, as well as to the concept of the "modern witch" in Wicca and related movements of contemporary witchcraft.
The topic is a complex amalgamation of the practices of folk healers, folk magic, ancient belief in sorcery in pagan Europe, Christian views on heresy, medieval and early modern practice of ceremonial magic and simple fiction in folklore and literature.Familiar spirit
In European folklore and folk-belief of the Medieval and Early Modern periods, familiar spirits (sometimes referred to simply as "familiars" or "animal guides") were believed to be supernatural entities that would assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic. According to the records of the time, they would appear in numerous guises, often as an animal, but also at times as a human or humanoid figure, and were described as "clearly defined, three-dimensional… forms, vivid with colour and animated with movement and sound" by those alleging to have come into contact with them, unlike later descriptions of ghosts with their "smoky, undefined form[s]".When they served witches, they were often thought to be malevolent, while when working for cunning folk they were often thought of as benevolent (although there was some ambiguity in both cases). The former were often categorised as demons, while the latter were more commonly thought of and described as fairies. The main purpose of familiars is to serve the witch or young witch, providing protection for them as they come into their new powers.Since the 20th century a number of magical practitioners, including adherents of the Neopagan religion of Wicca, have begun to use the concept of familiars, due to their association with older forms of magic. These contemporary practitioners utilize pets, wildlife or believe that invisible spirit versions of familiars act as magical aids.Hogwarts
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, commonly shortened to Hogwarts (), is a fictional British school of magic for students aged eleven to eighteen, and is the primary setting for the first six books in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.Rowling has suggested that she may have inadvertently taken the name from the hogwort plant (Croton capitatus), which she had seen at Kew Gardens some time before writing the series, although the names "The Hogwarts" and "Hoggwart" appear in the 1954 Nigel Molesworth book How to Be Topp by Geoffrey Willans.Hogwarts school was voted as the 36th best Scottish educational establishment in a 2008 online ranking, outranking Edinburgh's Loretto School. According to a director of the Independent Schools Network Rankings, it was added to the schools listing "for fun" and was then voted on.Malleus Maleficarum
The Malleus Maleficarum, usually translated as the Hammer of Witches, is the best known and the most thorough treatise on witchcraft. It was written by the discredited Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer (under his Latinized name Henricus Institoris) and first published in the German city of Speyer in 1487. It endorses extermination of witches and for this purpose develops a detailed legal and theological theory. It was a bestseller, second only to the Bible in terms of sales for almost 200 years. It has been described as the compendium of literature in demonology of the fifteenth century. The top theologians of the Inquisition at the Faculty of Cologne condemned the book as recommending unethical and illegal procedures, as well as being inconsistent with Catholic doctrines of demonology.The Malleus elevates sorcery to the criminal status of heresy and prescribes inquisitorial practices for secular courts in order to extirpate witches. The recommended procedures include torture to effectively obtain confessions and the death penalty as the only sure remedy against the evils of witchcraft. At that time, it was typical to burn heretics alive at the stake and the Malleus encouraged the same treatment of witches. The book had a strong influence on culture for several centuries.Jacob Sprenger's name was added as an author beginning in 1519, 33 years after the book's first publication and 24 years after Sprenger's death; but the veracity of this late addition has been questioned by many historians for various reasons.Kramer wrote the Malleus following his expulsion from Innsbruck by the local bishop, due to charges of illegal behavior against Kramer himself, and because of Kramer's obsession with the sexual habits of one of the accused, Helena Scheuberin, which led the other tribunal members to suspend the trial.It was later used by royal courts during the Renaissance, and contributed to the increasingly brutal prosecution of witchcraft during the 16th and 17th centuries.Salem witch trials
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. More than 200 people were accused, 19 of whom were found guilty and executed by hanging (14 women and 5 men). One other man, Giles Corey, was crushed to death for refusing to plead, and at least five people died in jail. It was the deadliest witch hunt in the history of the United States.
Twelve other women had previously been executed in Massachusetts and Connecticut during the 17th century. Despite being generally known as the Salem witch trials, the preliminary hearings in 1692 were conducted in several towns: Salem Village (now Danvers), Salem Town, Ipswich, and Andover. The most infamous trials were conducted by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692 in Salem Town.
The episode is one of Colonial America's most notorious cases of mass hysteria. It has been used in political rhetoric and popular literature as a vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusations, and lapses in due process. It was not unique, but a Colonial American example of the much broader phenomenon of witch trials in the early modern period, which took place also in Europe. Many historians consider the lasting effects of the trials to have been highly influential in subsequent United States history. According to historian George Lincoln Burr, "the Salem witchcraft was the rock on which the theocracy shattered."At the 300th anniversary events in 1992 to commemorate the victims of the trials, a park was dedicated in Salem and a memorial in Danvers. In November 2001, an act passed by the Massachusetts legislature exonerated five people, while another one, passed in 1957, had previously exonerated six other victims. As of 2004, there was still talk about exonerating all the victims, though some think that happened in the 19th century as the Massachusetts colonial legislature was asked to reverse the attainders of "George Burroughs and others". In January 2016, the University of Virginia announced its Gallows Hill Project team had determined the execution site in Salem, where the 19 "witches" had been hanged. The city owns the site and is planning to establish a memorial to the victims.Shamanism
Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with what they believe to be a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.A shaman ( SHAH-men, or ) is someone who is regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing. The word "shaman" probably originates from the Tungusic Evenki language of North Asia. According to ethnolinguist Juha Janhunen, "the word is attested in all of the Tungusic idioms" such as Negidal, Lamut, Udehe/Orochi, Nanai, Ilcha, Orok, Manchu and Ulcha, and "nothing seems to contradict the assumption that the meaning 'shaman' also derives from Proto-Tungusic" and may have roots that extend back in time at least two millennia. The term was introduced to the west after Russian forces conquered the shamanistic Khanate of Kazan in 1552.
The term "shamanism" was first applied by Western anthropologists as outside observers of the ancient religion of the Turks and Mongols, as well as those of the neighbouring Tungusic- and Samoyedic-speaking peoples. Upon observing more religious traditions across the world, some Western anthropologists began to also use the term in a very broad sense. The term was used to describe unrelated magico-religious practices found within the ethnic religions of other parts of Asia, Africa, Australasia and even completely unrelated parts of the Americas, as they believed these practices to be similar to one another.Mircea Eliade writes, "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = 'technique of religious ecstasy'." Shamanism encompasses the premise that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments/illness by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans may visit other worlds/dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. The shaman operates primarily within the spiritual world, which in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance results in the elimination of the ailment.Beliefs and practices that have been categorized this way as "shamanic" have attracted the interest of scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, including anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, religious studies scholars, philosophers and psychologists. Hundreds of books and academic papers on the subject have been produced, with a peer-reviewed academic journal being devoted to the study of shamanism. In the 20th century, many Westerners involved in the counter-cultural movement have created modern magico-religious practices influenced by their ideas of indigenous religions from across the world, creating what has been termed neoshamanism or the neoshamanic movement. It has affected the development of many neopagan practices, as well as faced a backlash and accusations of cultural appropriation, exploitation and misrepresentation when outside observers have tried to represent cultures to which they do not belong.Stregheria
Stregheria (Italian pronunciation: [streɡeˈriːa]) is a form of Witchcraft with Southern European roots but also includes Italian American witchcraft. Stregheria is sometimes referred to as La Vecchia Religione ("the Old Religion"). The word stregheria is an archaic Italian word for "witchcraft", the most used and modern Italian word being stregoneria. "Stregoneria Italiana" is a form of stregoneria that is Catholic-rooted folk magic having little if any relationship to authentic forms of Italian Witchcraft.
Author Raven Grimassi has written on the topic. Grimassi taught what he called the Aridian tradition from 1980.
He mixed elements of Gardnerian Wicca with ideas inspired by Charles G. Leland's Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches (1899). The name "Aradia" is due to Leland, who claimed that Erodiade (the Italian name of Herodias) was the object of a "witch-cult" in medieval Tuscany. Since 1998, Grimassi has been advocating what he calls the Arician tradition, described as an "initiate level" variant of the religion, involving an initiation ceremony.Stregheria has both similarities and differences with Wicca, and in some ways resembles reconstructionist Neopaganism focussed on a specific nation or culture (in this case the folk religion of ancient and medieval Italy).
Stregheria honors a pantheon centered on a Moon Goddess and a Horned God regarded as central, paralleling Wiccan views of divinity.The Crucible
The Crucible is a 1953 play by American playwright Arthur Miller. It is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692/93. Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the United States government persecuted people accused of being communists. Miller himself was questioned by the House of Representatives' Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended.The play was first performed at the Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway on January 22, 1953, starring E. G. Marshall, Beatrice Straight and Madeleine Sherwood. Miller felt that this production was too stylized and cold and the reviews for it were largely hostile (although The New York Times noted "a powerful play [in a] driving performance"). Nonetheless, the production won the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play. A year later a new production succeeded and the play became a classic. It is regarded as a central work in the canon of American drama.The Discoverie of Witchcraft
The Discoverie of Witchcraft is a partially sceptical book published by the English gentleman Reginald Scot in 1584, intended as an exposé of early Modern witchcraft. It contains a small section intended to show how the public was fooled by charlatans, which is considered the first published material on illusionary or stage magic.
Scot believed that the prosecution of those accused of witchcraft was irrational and un-Christian, and he held the Roman Church responsible. Popular belief held that all obtainable copies were burned on the accession of James I in 1603.Wicca
Wicca (English: ), also termed Pagan Witchcraft, is a contemporary Pagan new religious movement. It was developed in England during the first half of the 20th century and was introduced to the public in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, a retired British civil servant. Wicca draws upon a diverse set of ancient pagan and 20th-century hermetic motifs for its theological structure and ritual practices.
Wicca has no central authority figure. Its traditional core beliefs, principles and practices were originally outlined in the 1940s and 1950s by Gardner and Doreen Valiente, both in published books as well as in secret written and oral teachings passed along to their initiates. There are many variations on the core structure, and the religion grows and evolves over time. It is divided into a number of diverse lineages, sects and denominations, referred to as traditions, each with its own organisational structure and level of centralisation. Due to its decentralized nature, there is some disagreement over what actually constitutes Wicca. Some traditions, collectively referred to as British Traditional Wicca, strictly follow the initiatory lineage of Gardner and consider the term Wicca to apply only to similar traditions, but not to newer, eclectic traditions.
Wicca is typically duotheistic, worshipping a Goddess and a God. These are traditionally viewed as the Moon Goddess and the Horned God, respectively. These deities may be regarded in a henotheistic way, as having many different divine aspects which can in turn be identified with many diverse pagan deities from different historical pantheons. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as the "Great Goddess" and the "Great Horned God", with the adjective "great" connoting a deity that contains many other deities within their own nature. These two deities are sometimes viewed as facets of a greater pantheistic divinity, which is regarded as an impersonal force or process rather than a personal deity. While duotheism or bitheism is traditional in Wicca, broader Wiccan beliefs range from polytheism to pantheism or monism, even to Goddess monotheism.
Wiccan celebrations encompass both the cycles of the Moon, known as Esbats and commonly associated with the Goddess (female deity), and the cycles of the Sun, seasonally based festivals known as Sabbats and commonly associated with the Horned God (male deity). An unattributed statement known as the Wiccan Rede is a popular expression of Wiccan morality, although it is not universally accepted by Wiccans. Wicca often involves the ritual practice of magic, though it is not always necessary.Witch-hunt
A witch-hunt or witch purge is a search for people labelled "witches" or evidence of witchcraft, often involving moral panic or mass hysteria. The classical period of witch-hunts in Early Modern Europe and Colonial North America took place in the Early Modern period or about 1450 to 1750, spanning the upheavals of the Reformation and the Thirty Years' War, resulting in an estimated 35,000 to 100,000 executions. The last executions of people convicted as witches in Europe took place in the 18th century. In other regions, like Africa and Asia, contemporary witch-hunts have been reported from Sub-Saharan Africa and Papua New Guinea and official legislation against witchcraft is still found in Saudi Arabia and Cameroon today.
In current language, "witch-hunt" metaphorically means an investigation usually conducted with much publicity, supposedly to uncover subversive activity, disloyalty and so on, but really to weaken political opposition.Witch trials in the early modern period
Witch-phobia and prosecutions for the crime of witchcraft reached a highpoint from 1580 to 1630 during the Counter-Reformation and the European wars of religion, when an estimated 50,000 persons were burned at the stake, of which roughly 80% were women, and most often over the age of 40.Witches' Sabbath
The Witches' Sabbath is a term applied to a gathering of those considered to practice witchcraft and other rites.Witching hour (supernatural)
In folklore, the witching hour or devil's hour is a time of night associated with supernatural events. Creatures such as witches, demons and ghosts are thought to appear and to be at their most powerful. Black magic is thought to be most effective at this time. In the Western Christian tradition, the hour between 3 and 4 a.m. was considered a period of peak supernatural activity, due to the absence of prayers in the canonical hours during this period. Women caught outside without sufficient reason during this time were sometimes executed on suspicion of witchcraft. The phrase "witching hour" was first recorded in 1835.Psychological literature suggests that apparitional experiences and sensed presences are most common between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m., corresponding with a 3 a.m. peak in the amount of melatonin in the body.More recently, the hours between midnight and 2 a.m. have been considered the witching hour.The term may be used colloquially to refer to any period of bad luck, or in which something bad is seen as having a greater likelihood of occurring.
Witchcraft and magic
|Folklore and mythology|
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|Myth and ritual|
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