Witchcraft (also called witchery or spellcraft) broadly means the practice of, and belief in, magical skills and abilities that are able to be exercised individually, by designated , or by persons with the necessary esoteric secret knowledge. Witchcraft is a complex concept that varies culturally and societally, therefore it is difficult to define with precision definition&ots=aw4oz13kOS&sig=2CWBjLB2TIsUt1aNz_nyUPxOf5E&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=witchcraft definition&f=false Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, Jeffrey Russell, p.4-10. and cross-cultural assumptions about the meaning or significance of the term should be applied with caution. Witchcraft often occupies a religious, divinatory, or medicinal role, and is often present within societies and groups whose cultural framework includes a magical world view. Although witchcraft can often share common ground with related concepts such as sorcery, the paranormal, magic, superstition, necromancy, possession, shamanism, healing, spiritualism, nature worship, and the occult, it is usually seen as distinct from these when examined by sociologists and anthropologists.
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),Pócs 1999, pp. 9–12. 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 ) 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.Adler, Margot (1979) Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today. Boston: Beacon Press. pp. 45–47, 84–5, 105.
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 HIV in Africa: Distinguishing disease from witchcraft and Ebola virus disease Ebola outbreak: 'Witchcraft' hampering treatment, says doctor, BBC News, 2 August 2014, citing a doctor from Medecins Sans Frontieres: "A widespread belief in witchcraft is hampering efforts to halt the Ebola virus from spreading" are two examples of often-lethal infectious disease 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.http://www.publichealthinafrica.org/index.php/jphia/article/view/jphia.2011.e10/html_19http://www.theghana-italynews.com/index.php/component/k2/item/955-ebola-human-rights-group-warns-disease-is-not-caused-by-witchcraft 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.
In anthropological terminology, a "witch" differs from a sorcerer in that they do not use physical tools or actions to curse; their maleficium is perceived as extending from some intangible inner quality, and the person may be unaware that they are a "witch", or may have been convinced of their own nature by the suggestion of others. ξ1 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. ξ2
Historians of European witchcraft have found the anthropological definition difficult to apply to European and British 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. ξ3 ; Ankarloo, Bengt and Henningsen, Gustav (1990) Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1, 14. 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.Pócs 1999 pp. 9–10. The first three categories were proposed by Richard Kieckhefer, the fourth added by Christina Larner.
There has also existed in popular belief the concept of and white witchcraft, which is strictly benevolent. Many neopagan witches strongly identify with this concept, and profess 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.
, lines 118–125, from the second manuscript in an appendix to De Auguriis, lesson XVII from Ælfric's "Lives of the Saints".
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,'In 1538 the Spanish Inquisition cautioned its members not to believe everything the Malleus said, even when it presented apparently firm evidence.', Jolly, Raudvere, & Peters(eds.), 'Witchcraft and magic in Europe: the Middle Ages', page 241 (2002) 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.
Some of the healers and diviners historically accused of witchcraft have considered themselves mediators between the mundane and spiritual worlds, roughly equivalent to shamans.As defined by Mircea Eliade in Shamanism, Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, Bollingen Series LXXVI, Pantheon Books, NY NY 1964, pp. 3–7. Such people described their contacts with fairies, spirits often involving out-of-body experiences and travelling through the realms of an "other-world".Ginzburg (1990) Part 2, Ch. 1. 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.
In Tanzania, about 500 older women are murdered each year following accusations against them of witchcraft. 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.Bussien, Nathaly et al. 2011. Breaking the spell: Responding to witchcraft accusations against children, in New Issues in refugee Research (197). Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCRCimpric, Aleksandra 2010. Children accused of witchcraft, An anthropological study of contemporary practices in Africa. Dakar, Senegal: UNICEF WCAROMolina, Javier Aguilar 2006. The Invention of Child Witches in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Social cleansing, religious commerce and the difficulties of being a parent in an urban culture. London: Save the ChildrenHuman Rights Watch 2006. Children in the DRC. Human Rights Watch report, 18 (2) Such incidents have also occurred in immigrant communities in the UK, including the much publicized case of the murder of Victoria Climbié.
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 HusonHuson, Paul Mastering Witchcraft: a Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks, and Covens, New York: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1970. also claimed inheritance to surviving traditions of witchcraft.Clifton, Chas S., Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America, Lanham, MD: Altamira, 2006, ISBN 0-7591-0202-3.
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.Murray, Margaret A., The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, Oxford University Press, 1921. 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 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.Hutton, R., The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, Oxford University Press, pp. 205–252, 1999.Kelly, A.A., Crafting the Art of Magic, Book I: a History of Modern Witchcraft, 1939–1964, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 1991.Valiente, D., The Rebirth of Witchcraft, London: Robert Hale, pp. 35–62, 1989. 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.
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.
Most practitioners worship three main deities; the Star Goddess, and two divine twins, one of whom is the blue God. They believe that there are three parts to the human soul, a belief taken from the Hawaiian religion of Huna as described by Max Freedom Long.
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.)http://www.holysmoke.org/wicca/satvnp.htm 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) ξ7 and The Church of Satan (1966). 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, Royal Navy to allow devil worship CNNCarter, Helen. The devil and the deep blue sea: Navy gives blessing to sailor Satanist. The Guardian Navy approves first ever Satanist BBC News 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, ξ8 although it began to reach Eastern Europe in the 1990s around the time of the fall of the Soviet Union. ξ8
The precise meaning of the Hebrew kashaph, usually translated as "witch" or "sorceress", is uncertain. In the Septuagint, it was translated as pharmakeia or pharmakous. In the 16th century, Reginald Scot, a prominent critic of the witch-trials, translated kashaph, pharmakeia, and their Latin Vulgate equivalent veneficos as all meaning "poisoner", and on this basis, claimed that "witch" was an incorrect translation and poisoners were intended.Scot, Reginald (c. 1580) The Discoverie of Witchcraft Booke VI Ch. 1. His theory still holds some currency, but is not widely accepted, and in kashaph is listed alongside other magic practitioners who could interpret dreams: magicians, astrologers, and Chaldeans. Suggested derivations of Kashaph 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 pharmakeia 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. ξ9
The Bible provides some evidence that these commandments against sorcery were enforced under the Hebrew kings:
Note that the Hebrew word 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.
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. (Quran 113:1–5)
Also according to the Quran:
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. (al-Qur'an 2:102)
However, whereas performing miracles in Islamic thought and belief is reserved for only Messengers and Prophets, supernatural acts are also believed to be performed by Awliyaa – the spiritually accomplished. Disbelief in the miracles of the Prophets is considered an act of disbelief; belief in the miracles of any given pious individual is not. Neither are regarded as magic, but as signs of Allah at the hands of those close to Him that occur by His will and His alone.
Some Muslim practitioners believe that they may seek the help of the Jinn (singular—jinni) in magic. It is a common belief that jinn can possess a human, thus requiring Exorcism. Still, the practice of seeking help to the Jinn is prohibited and regarded the same as seeking help to a devil.
The belief in jinn is part of the Muslim faith. Imam Muslim narrated the Prophet said: "Allah created the angels from light, created the jinn from the pure flame of fire, and Adam from that which was described to you (i.e., the clay.)". Also in the Quran, chapter of Jinn:
To cast off the jinn from the body of the possessed, the "ruqya," which is from the Prophet's sunnah is used. 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."
Students of the history of religion have linked several magical practises in Islam with pre-Islamic Turkish and East African customs. Most notable of these customs is the Zar Ceremony.Geister, Magier und Muslime. Dämonenwelt und Geisteraustreibung im Islam. Kornelius Hentschel, Diederichs 1997, Germany.Magic and Divination in Early Islam (The Formation of the Classical Islamic World) by Emilie Savage-Smith (Ed.), Ashgate Publishing 2004.
In Southern African traditions, there are three classifications of somebody who uses magic. The thakathi 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 thakatha 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. ξ10 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.
In some 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.
, 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. Thousands of child 'witches' turned on to the streets to starve. These children have been subjected to often-violent abuse during , sometimes supervised by self-styled religious pastors. Other pastors and Christian activist strongly oppose such accusations and try to rescue children from their unscrupulous colleagues.Kolwezi: Accused of witchcraft by parents and churches, children in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being rescued by Christian activists. In Christianity Today, (September 2009): http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/september/27.62.html. 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 Ghana, women are often accused of witchcraft and attacked by neighbours. Because of this, there exist six 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 and educate the population regarding the fact that witches do not exist.
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. Penis theft panic hits city.., Reuters. 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. 7 killed in Ghana over 'penis-snatching' episodes, CNN, January 18, 1997. 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). ξ10
It was reported on May 21, 2008 that in Kenya, a mob had burnt to death at least 11 people accused of witchcraft. Mob burns to death 11 Kenyan "witches". In Tanzania in 2008, President Kikwete publicly condemned for killing albinos for their body parts, which are thought to bring good luck. 25 albinos have been murdered since March 2007. Living in fear: Tanzania's albinos, BBC News. 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.Wicasta 2011. Albino Child ‘Kidnapped By Witch Doctors For Tribal Sacrifice (23 September): http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/blogs/?p=348 Every year, hundreds of people in the Central African Republic are convicted of witchcraft." The dangers of witchcraft". Reuters. February 4, 2010.
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."Janzen & MacGaffey 1974, p. 54b (13.9.12). "Witchcraft ... deserves respect ... it can embellish or redeem ( ketula evo vuukisa)."Janzen & MacGaffey 1974, p. 54b (13.9.14). "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."Janzen & MacGaffey 1974, pp. 54b-55a (13.9.16). "You witches ( zindoki) too, bring your science into the light to be written down so that ... the benefits in it ... endow our race."Janzen & MacGaffey 1974, p. 55b (13.10.8).
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."Gittins 1987, p. 199.
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.Stepping Stones Nigeria 2007. Supporting Victims of Witchcraft Abuse and Street Children in Nigeria: http://www.humantrafficking.org/publications/593. 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.Houreld, Katharine (2009) Church burns 'witchcraft' children. Associated Press.
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.Byrne, Carrie 2011. Hunting the vulnerable: Witchcraft and the law in Malawi; Consultancy Africa Intelligence (16 June): Various secular and Christian organizations are combining their efforts to address this problem.Van der Meer, Erwin 2011. The Problem of Witchcraft in Malawi, Evangelical Missions Quarterly (47:1, January): 78–85.
Also in Malawi, 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.Kamkwamba, William. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Harper Collins. 2009. Page 14.
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 (mostly women) had been suspected of partaking in witchcraft and over 30 of these people were hanged. ξ11 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, Ipswich, Andover, as well as Salem Town, Massachusetts. 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.
Accusations of witchcraft and wizardry led to the prosecution of a man in Tennessee as recently as 1833.Poulson's American Daily Advertiser, Volume LX, August 10, 1834, Number 17,057 (From the Nashville (Tenn.) Herald, of 22d July) (transcribed at http://www.topix.com/forum/city/jamestown-tn/TPAPB6U4LVF0JDQC8/p2History of Fentress County, Tennessee, Albert R. Hogue, compiled by the Fentress County Historical Society, p.67 (http://books.google.com/books?id=b1wvAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA67; transcribed at http://boards.ancestry.com/localities.northam.usa.states.tennessee.counties.fentress/260.258/mb.ashx)Touring the East Tennessee Backroads By Carolyn Sakowski, p.212
Author C. J. Stevens wrote The Supernatural Side of Maine, a 2002 book about witches and people from Maine who faced the supernatural.
Witchcraft was also an important part of the social and cultural history of late-Colonial Mexico. 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."Behar, Ruth. Sex and Sin, Witchcraft and the Devil in Late-Colonial Mexico. American Ethnologist, 14:1 (February 1987), p. 34. Furthermore, witchcraft in Mexico generally required an interethnic and interclass network of witches.Lavrin, Asunción. Sexuality & Marriage in Colonial Latin America. Reprint ed. Lincoln, NB.:University of Nebraska Press, 1992, p. 192. 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.Lewis, Laura A. Hall of mirrors: power, witchcraft, and caste in colonial Mexico. Durham, N.C.:Duke University Press, 2003, p. 13.
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 Holy Office of Bahia (1591–1593), Pernambuco and Paraiba (1593–1595). João Ribeiro Júnior, O Que é Magia, p.48-49, Ed. Abril Cultural.
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".Blacker, Carmen Catalpa Bow p. 56. 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.
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 malevolent, supernatural origin (often the work of black magic). Feng shui, an influence from Filipino Chinese culture, is also not classified as witchcraft, and it is seen as a separate realm of belief altogether.
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." Saudi man executed for 'witchcraft and sorcery'", BBC News, June 19, 2012 A beheading for sorcery occurred in 2014.
Based on [[Ronald Hutton]]'s essay ''Counting the Witch Hunt''.]] In Early Modern European tradition, witches were stereotypically, though not exclusively, women.Gibbons, Jenny (1998) "Recent Developments in the Study of the Great European Witch Hunt" in The Pomegranate #5, Lammas 1998.Drury, Nevill (1992) Dictionary of Mysticism and the Esoteric Traditions Revised Edition. Bridport, Dorset: Prism Press. "Witch". European pagan belief in witchcraft was associated with the goddess Diana and dismissed as "diabolical fantasies" by medieval Christian authors.Regino of Prüm (906), see Ginzburg (1990) part 2, ch. 1 (89ff.) 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.H.C. Erik Midelfort, Witch Hunting in Southwestern Germany 1562–1684, 1972,71
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.Maxwell-Stuart, P. G. (2000) "The Emergence of the Christian Witch" in History Today, Nov, 2000.
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 ; 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.Drymon, M.M. Disguised as the Devil: How Lyme Disease Created Witches and Changed History, 2008. 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 until it was reversed in later centuries as the witch-hunt gained force. 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 , especially in the time when they were led by priestess Paculla Annia (188BC–186BC).
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 charmer.)
Such "cunning-folk" did not refer to themselves as witches and objected to the accusation that they were such.
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.
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. Judika Illes, The Element Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells: The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts (Element: London, 2004), page 623. 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.Judika Illes, The Element Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells: The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts (Element: London, 2004), page 797. 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.Judika Illes, The Element Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells: The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts (Element: London, 2004), page 705.
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.Valerie A. Kivelson, "Male Witches and Gendered Categories in Seventh-Century Russia," in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 45. No. 3 (July, 2003), Cambridge University Press, url: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3879463, page 610. Most rituals of witchcraft were very simple—one spell of divination consists of sitting alone outside meditating, asking the earth to show your fate. Judika Illes, The Element Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells: The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts (Element: London, 2004), page 313.
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.Janet and Stewart Farrar, A Witches Bible: The Complete Witches' Handbook (Washington, Phoenix Publishing, Inc.) 1984. Page 316. The western concept of an "evil eye" or a "hex" was translated to Russia as a "spoiler".Judika Illes, The Element Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells: The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts (Element: London, 2004), page 586. 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.Raymond Buckland, The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-Paganism (Detroit: Visible Ink) 2002. Page 160.
While altars to deities are usually constructed to invoke or evoke the subject, altars to Baba Yaga are only for contemplation. Legend does not recommend contacting Baba Yaga because she is unforgiving and does not have time to waste. An altar to Baba would consist of birch wood and leaves, animal imagery, mortar, pestle, broom, and food and drink. Because Baba Yaga is always hungry, food and drink are especially recommended. Her favorites are Russian coulibiac, samovar with blocks of fine Russian tea, and water pipes.Judika Illes, The Element Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells: The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts (Element: London, 2004) page 260.
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.Valerie A. Kivelson, "Male Witches and Gendered Categories in Seventh-Century Russia," in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 45. No. 3 (July, 2003), Cambridge University Press, url: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3879463, page 617.
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.Zguta, 1189. 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 drowned 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. Zguta, 1187. 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.Zguta, 1191.
Tsar Ivan (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.Zguta, 1193. 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 Oprechnina (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.Zguta, 1193-94.
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.Zguta, 1195. Between 1622 and 1700 ninety-one people were brought to trial in Muscovite courts for witchcraft.Zguta, 1196. 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.