The history and definition of witchcraft

Visit Website Did you know? In an effort to explain by scientific means the strange afflictions suffered by those "bewitched" Salem residents ina study published in Science magazine in cited the fungus ergot found in rye, wheat and other cerealswhich toxicologists say can cause symptoms such as delusions, vomiting and muscle spasms. In January9-year-old Elizabeth Betty Parris and year-old Abigail Williams the daughter and niece of Samuel Parris, minister of Salem Village began having fits, including violent contortions and uncontrollable outbursts of screaming.

The history and definition of witchcraft

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Banisteriopsis… Meanings The modern English word witchcraft has three principal connotations: The difficulty is even greater with the relevant words in African, Asian, and other languages.

The problem of defining witchcraft is made more difficult because the concepts underlying these words also change according to time and place, sometimes radically. Moreover, different cultures do not share a coherent pattern of witchcraft beliefs, which often blend other concepts such as magic, sorcery, religionfolkloretheology, technology, and diabolism.

The terms West and Western in this article refer to European societies themselves and to post-Columbian societies influenced by European concepts.

One thing is certain: False ideas about witchcraft and the witch hunts persist today. Witches were not a persecuted minority, because witches did not exist: The witch hunts did not prosecute, let alone execute, millions; they were not a conspiracy by males, priests, judges, doctors, or inquisitors against members of an old religion or any other real group.

In many ways, like their counterparts worldwide, early Western sorcerers and witches worked secretly for private ends, as contrasted with the public practice of religion.

Witches or sorcerers were usually feared as well as respected, and they used a variety of means to attempt to achieve their goals, including incantations formulas or chants invoking evil spiritsdivination and oracles to predict the futureamulets and charms to ward off hostile spirits and harmful eventspotions or salves, and dolls or other figures to represent their enemies.

Witches sought to gain or preserve health, to acquire or retain property, to protect against natural disasters or evil spirits, to help friends, and to seek revenge.

Sometimes this magic was believed to work through simple causation as a form of technology.


Often the magic was instead an effort to construct symbolic reality. Sorcery was sometimes believed to rely on the power of gods or other spirits, leading to the belief that witches used demons in their work.

Jeffrey Burton Russell Witchcraft in Africa and the world The same dichotomy between sorcery and witchcraft exists sometimes more ambiguously in the beliefs of many peoples throughout the world. Again, witches are typically seen as particularly active after dusk, when law-abiding mortals are asleep.

According to traditional Navajo belief, when a witch travels at night, he wears the skin of a dead animal in order to effect a transformation into that animal. In some African cultures witches are believed to assemble in cannibal covensoften at graveyards or around a fire, to feast on the blood that they, like vampires, extract from their victims.

Like those in Western society suspected of child abuse and SatanismAfrican witches in the popular imagination are believed to practice incest and other perversions. It can be activated merely by wishing someone ill and is thus a kind of unspoken, or implicitcurse.

At the same time, the Zande believe that evil deeds can be wrought even more effectively by the manipulation of spells and potions and the use of powerful magic. It is thus easy for those accused of witchcraft, but who are not conscious of wishing anyone ill, to assume that they unknowingly did what is attributed to them.

This, along with the effects of suggestion and torturein a world where people take the reality of witchcraft for granted, goes far to explain the striking confessions of guilt that are so widely reported in Africa and elsewhere and that are otherwise hard to comprehend.

It is worth noting, however, that if witches believe they are unconscious agents, this is generally not the view of those who feel victimized by them. Whatever the basis of their power and the means by which it is exercised, witches and sorcerers are regularly credited with causing all manner of disease and disaster.

Sickness, and even death, as well as a host of lesser misfortunes, are routinely laid at their door. In many parts of Africa and Asiaepidemics and natural disasters have been interpreted as acts of witchcraft.‘These serials help perpetuate superstitions and blind beliefs in witchcraft and sorcery, in magic and animism.’ ‘On this part of the Yorkshire coast in among the amusement arcades and the history, there's still talk of witchcraft and magic.’.

The history and definition of witchcraft

The History and Definition of Witchcraft In England and New England in the 17th century, it was believed that an evil witch made a pact with the devil that involved the exchange of her soul for powers with which she could torture other mortals, which brings about the beginning of witchcraft.

The idea of witchcraft is ubiquitous throughout human history and culture. Explore the meaning, history, and significance of witchcraft, and test your understanding of witchcraft and magic across.

The famous Salem witchcraft trials began as the girls began to name more and more community members.

The history and definition of witchcraft

Evidence admitted in such trials was of five types. First, the accused might be asked to pass a test, like reciting the Lord's Prayer.

History “The earliest records of the concept and practice of witchcraft can be traced to the early days of humankind when witchcraft was seen as magical a phenomenon that was invoked for magical rites which ensured good luck, protection against diseases, and other reasons.” ("Witchcraft").

Witchcraft was the infliction of harm or pain with diabolic help. Witchcraft was usually blamed on women, but some men were also accused. Puritans defined witchcraft as entering into a compact with the devil in exchange for certain powers to do evil.

Witchcraft History