, in various historical, anthropological
, religious and mythological
contexts, is the use of certain kinds of supernatural
powers. Witchcraft can refer to
the use of such powers in order to inflict harm or damage upon
members of a community or their property. Other uses of the term
distinguish between bad witchcraft and good witchcraft, the latter
involving the use of these powers to heal someone from bad
witchcraft. The concept of witchcraft is normally treated as a
cultural ideology, a means of explaining human misfortune by
blaming it either on a supernatural entity or a known person in the
community. A witch (from Old English wicce f. / wicca m.
) is a practitioner of
Belief in witchcraft, and by consequence witch-hunts
, is found in many cultures worldwide,
today mostly in Sub-Saharan
(e.g. in the witch smellers
culture), and historically
notably in Early Modern Europe
of the 14th to 18th century, where witchcraft came to be seen as a
vast diabolical conspiracy against Christianity, and accusations of
witchcraft led to large-scale witch-hunts
especially in Germanic Europe
The "witch-cult hypothesis
controversial theory that European
was a suppressed pagan religion, was popular in the
19th and early 20th centuries. Since the mid-20th century, Witchcraft
has become the
self-designation of a branch of neopaganism
, especially in the Wicca
tradition following Gerald Gardner
, who claimed a religious
tradition of Witchcraft
with pre-Christian roots.
interpretations were pioneered in E. E. Evans-Pritchard
's 1937 study of
'witchcraft' among the Azande
. By such
interpretations, witchcraft accusations are seen as a means of
explaining human misfortune and regulating community conflicts,
whereby calamities are blamed on someone within the community
believed capable of causing harm by supernatural powers. This model
identifies a web of functional relationships between
. Those individuals who
consciously and verifiably performed some physical 'bewitching' act
(positive or negative) are normally termed 'sorcerers' rather than
'witches'; for the remainder of cases, the question of whether the
accused person performed such an act or had any awareness of being
a 'witch' is generally treated as irrelevant.
Historians of European witchcraft have found the anthropological
definition difficult to apply to European and British witchcraft,
which does not match African models. The presence or absence of
magical techniques seems to have been of little concern to those
participating in witch trials, and some of the accused really had
attempted to cause harm by mere ill-wishing.
As in anthropology, witchcraft is seen by historians as an ideology
for explaining misfortune, however this ideology manifested in
diverse ways. There were a few varieties of witch in popular
belief, and a few types of people accused of witchcraft for
different reasons. Richard Kieckhefer places the accused into three
categories: Those caught in the act of positive or negative
sorcery; well-meaning sorcerers or healers who lost their clients'
or the authorities' trust; and those who did nothing more than gain
the enmity of their neighbours. To these Christina Larner adds a
fourth category: those reputed to be witches and surrounded with an
aura of witch-beliefs.Éva Pócs
turn identifies three varieties of witch in popular belief:
- The "neighbourhood witch" or "social witch": a witch who curses
a neighbour following some conflict.
- The "magical" or "sorcerer" witch: either a professional
healer, sorcerer, seer or midwife, or a person who has through
magic increased her fortune to the perceived detriment of a
neighbouring household; due to neighbourly or community rivalries
and the ambiguity between positive and negative magic, such
individuals can become labelled as witches.
- The "supernatural" or "night" witch: portrayed in court
narratives as a demon appearing in visions and dreams.
"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
Under the monotheistic
religions of the
sorcery came to be associated with heresy
. Among the Catholics
leadership of the European
period, fears regarding witchcraft rose to fever pitch, and
sometimes led to large-scale witch-hunts
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. Accusations of witchcraft were
frequently combined with other charges of heresy against such
groups as the Cathars
, a famous witch-hunting manual used by both
Catholics and Protestants, outlines how to identify a witch, what
makes a woman more likely to be a witch, how to put a witch to
trial and how to punish a witch. The book defines a witch as evil
and typically female.
In the modern Western world, witchcraft accusations have often
accompanied the satanic ritual
abuse moral panic
. Such accusations
are a counterpart to blood libel
various kinds, which may be found throughout history across the
In England, the term 'witch' was not used exclusively to describe
malevolent magicians, but could also indicate cunning folk
. "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 Scott
this day it is indifferent to say in the English tongue, ‘she is a
witch’ or ‘she is a wise woman’”. While cunning-folk could command
a lot of respect, public perceptions of them were often ambivalent
and a little fearful, for many were deemed just as capable of
harming as of healing. Throughout Europe many such healers and wise
men and women were convicted of witchcraft (Éva Pócs' 'sorcerer
witches'): many English 'witches' convicted of consorting with
demons seem to have been cunning folk whose fairy familiars
demonised; many French devins-guerisseurs
were accused of
witchcraft; and over 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 or the dead, 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
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.
Practices to which the witchcraft label has historically been
applied are those which influence another person's mind, body, or
property against his or her will, or which are believed, by the
person doing the labelling, to undermine the social or religious
order. Some modern commentators consider the malefic nature of
witchcraft to be a Christian projection. The concept of a
magic-worker influencing another person's body or property against
his or her will was clearly present in many cultures, as there are
traditions in both folk magic and religious magic that have the
purpose of countering malicious magic or identifying malicious
magic users. Many examples can be found in ancient texts,
such as those from Egypt and Babylonia, where malicious magic is believed to
have the power to influence the mind, body or possessions,
malicious magic users can become a credible cause for disease,
sickness in animals, bad luck, sudden death, impotence and other
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.
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
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 objects to it.
Probably the most obvious characteristic of a witch was the ability
to cast a spell
, a "spell" being the word used
to signify the means employed to accomplish 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. The most important part
of a spell is of course the energy the practitioner puts into
it – this being done in a variety of ways by many different
people. Spells traditionally were cast by many methods, such as by
the inscription of runes
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
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
Conjuring the dead
Strictly speaking, "necromancy
" is the
practice of conjuring the spirits of the dead for divination
although the term has also been applied to raising the dead for
other purposes. The Biblical Witch of
is supposed to have performed it (1 Sam. 28), and it is
among the witchcraft practices condemned by Ælfric of Eynsham
In Early Modern European tradition, witches have stereotypically,
though not exclusively, been women. European pagan belief in
witchcraft was associated with the goddess Diana
and dismissed as "diabolical fantasies" by
medieval Christian authors.
The familiar witch of folklore
is a combination of
numerous influences. The characterization of the witch as an evil
magic user developed over time.
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
, commonly involves a diabolical pact
or at least an appeal to the
intervention of the spirits of evil. The witches or wizards engaged
to such practices were alleged to reject Jesus
and the sacraments
; observe "the witches' sabbath
infernal rites which often parodied the Mass
other sacraments of the Church); pay Divine honour to the Prince of Darkness
; and, in return, receive from
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.
The Church and European society were not always so zealous in
hunting witches or blaming them for bad occurrences. Saint Boniface
declared in the 8th century
that belief in the existence of witches was un-Christian. The
decreed that the
burning of supposed witches was a pagan custom that would be
punished by the death penalty
820 the Bishop of Lyon
repudiated the belief that witches could make bad weather, fly in
the night, and change their shape. This denial was accepted into
until it was reversed in later
centuries as the witch-hunt
In 1307 the trial of the
shows close parallels to accusations of
sorcery and may have been the beginning of the great European
witch-hunt. 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
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
, also known as a cunning
, white witch
, or wiseman
. 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
Such "cunning-folk" did not refer to themselves as witches and
objected to the accusation that they were such. Records from the
, however, make it appear
that it was, quite often, not entirely clear to the populace
whether a given practitioner of magic was a witch or one of the
cunning-folk. In addition, it appears that much of the populace was
willing to approach either of these groups for healing magic and
divination. When a person was known to be a witch, the populace
would still seek to employ their healing skills; however, as was
not the case with cunning-folk, members of the general population
would also hire witches to curse their enemies. The important
distinction is that there are records of the populace reporting
alleged witches to the authorities as such, whereas cunning-folk
were not so incriminated; they were more commonly prosecuted for
accusing the innocent or defrauding people of money.
The long-term result of this amalgamation of distinct types of
magic-worker into one is the considerable present-day confusion as
to what witches actually did, whether they harmed or healed, what
role (if any) they had in the community, whether they can be
identified with the "witches" of other cultures and even whether
they existed as anything other than a projection. Present-day
beliefs about the witches of history attribute to them elements of
the folklore witch, the charmer
, the cunning
man or wise woman, the diviner and the astrologer
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.
word for witch is
ведьма (ved'ma, literally "the one who knows", from Old Slavic вѣдъ
famous witchcraft incident In the British North America were the witch
trials that took place in Salem, Massachusetts. 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 twenty-nine
people of the capital felony of witchcraft. Nineteen of the
accused, fourteen women and five 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 twenty-six 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 three convictions in the thirty-one
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,
Chile there is a tradition of the Kalku in the Mapuche
mythology; and Witches of
Chiloé in the folklore and Chilote
Ancient Near East
The belief in sorcery and its practice seem to have been widespread
in the past. Both in ancient Egypt and in
Babylonia it played a conspicuous part, as
existing records plainly show.
It will be sufficient to
quote a short section from the Code of
(about 2000 B.C.). It is there prescribed,
According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: The King James Bible
words "witch", "witchcraft", and "witchcrafts", wherever the
, from which it is
translated, has כשף (kashaph
) and קסם
), and the Septuagint
); similarly in the New Testament
it uses 'witch', 'witchcraft',
and 'witchcrafts' to translate the φαρμακεια (pharmakeia
of the underlying Greek
Traditional translations of verses such as Deuteronomy
18:11–12 and Exodus
22:18 therefore produce "Thou shalt
not suffer a witch to live" which was seen as providing scriptural
justification for Christian witch hunt
the early Modern Age
(see Christian views on
more literally means either
(from a single root) or herb user
compound word formed from the roots kash
, and hapaleh
, meaning using
of the Septuagint means
. As such a closer translation would be potion
malevolent intent), or more generally one who uses magic to harm others
rather than a very general term like witch
The Bible provides some evidence that these commandments were
enforced under the Hebrew kings:
The Hebrew verb Hichrit
(הכרית) translated in the King James
, can also be translated as excommunicate
, or as kill
. Note that the Hebrew word
, 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
which physically manifests itself in the shape of an
- See also: Christian views on
The New Testament
practice as an abomination, just as the Old Testament had (Galatians
5:20, compared with
21:8; 22:15; and
8:9; 13:6), though the
overall topic of Biblical
law in Christianity
is still disputed. The word in most New
Testament translations is "sorcerer"/"sorcery" rather than
law views the practice of witchcraft
as being laden with idolatry
; both being serious
theological and practical offenses in Judaism. According to
, 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. For instance, Rabbah
created a person and sent him to Rabbi Zera, and Rabbi Hanina and
Rabbi Oshaia studied every Sabbath evening together and created a
small calf to eat (Sanhedrin 65b). In these cases, the "magic" was
seen more as divine miracles (i.e., coming from God
rather than pagan gods) than as witchcraft.
Judaism does make it clear that Jews shall not try to learn about
the ways of witches (Devarim 18: 9–10) and that witches are to be
put to death. (Shemot 22:17)
Divination and Magic in
encompass a wide range of practices, including black magic
, warding off the evil eye
, the production of amulets
and other magical equipment, conjuring
. Muslims do commonly believe in
magic (Sihr) and explicitly forbid its practice. Sihr translates
from Arabic as sorcery or black magic. The best known reference to
magic in Islam is the Surah Al-Falaq
(meaning dawn or daybreak), which is known
as a prayer to Allah
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
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
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
(singular—jinni) in magic. It is a
common belief that jinn can possess a human, thus requiring
. 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
The ruqya contains verses of the Qur'an
well as prayers which are specifically targeted against demons. The
knowledge of which verses of the Qur'an
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
Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali, a citizen of
Arabia, was condemned to death for practicing
the supernatural is strong in certain parts of India, and
lynchings for witchcraft are reported in
the press from time to time. It is estimated that 750 people have been
killed in witch-hunts in the states of Assam and West Bengal since 2003. More than 100 women are tortured,
paraded naked, or harassed in the state of Chhattisgarh annually, officials said.
A social activist
in the region said the reported cases were only the tip of the
In Japanese folklore the witch can commonly be separated into two
categories: those who employ snakes as familiars, and those who
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
. The first of these, the
, is a solitary figure who gains his fox
familiar by bribing it with its favourite foods. The
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 him with many services. The fox can turn
invisible and be set out to find any secrets its master desires and
it still retains its many powers of illusion which its master will
often put to use in order to trick and deceive his enemies. The
most feared power the kitsuni-mochi
possess 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 Employment in modern
Japan are enacted bytsukimono-suji
"hereditary witches". The Tsukimono-suji
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
are able to supply much in the way of the same mystical aide that
the foxes under the employ of a kitsune-mochi
its more solitary master with. In addition to these powers, if the
foxes are kept happy and well taken care of, they will bring great
fortune and prosperity to the Tsukimono-suji
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
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
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 ones 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
family. In such a union the woman's status
as a Tsukimono-suji
would transfer to any man who married
newspaper informed that more than 50 people were killed in two
Highlands provinces of Papua New
Guinea in 2008 for allegedly practicing
Africans have a wide range of views of traditional religions.
African Christians typically accept Christian dogma as do their
counterparts in Latin America
Asia. The term witch doctor
attributed to Zulu inyanga
been misconstrued to mean "a healer who uses witchcraft" rather
than its original meaning of "one who diagnoses and cures maladies
caused by witches". Combining Roman Catholic beliefs and practices
and traditional West African
beliefs and practices, particularly West African Vodun
, are several syncretic
religions in the Americas
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
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
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
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
exclusively female, the sangoma
is usually female, and the
is almost exclusively male.
In some Central African
malicious magic users are believed by locals to be the source of
such as AIDS
. In such cases,
various methods are used to rid the person from the bewitching
spirit, occasionally Physical abuse
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.
2006, between 25,000 and 50,000 children in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the
Congo, had been accused of witchcraft and thrown out of
On April, 2008, Kinshasa, the police arrested
14 suspected victims (of penis
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. 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. It was reported on May 21, 2008 that in
Kenya a mob had burnt to death at least 11 people accused
for their body parts which are
thought to bring good luck. 25 albinos have been murdered since
March 2007. In the Meatu district of Tanzania, half of all murders
are “witch-killings”. In the Nigerian states of Akwa Ibom and Cross
River about 15,000 children branded as witches and most of them
end up abandoned and abused on the streets. In Gambia, about 1,000
people accused of being witches were locked in detention centers in
March 2009 and forced to drink a dangerous hallucinogenic potion,
human rights organization Amnesty International said.
Complementary remarks about witchcraft by a native Congolese
initiate : "From witchcraft ... may be developed the remedy
) 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
). ... 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
bring your science into the light to be written down so that ...
the benefits in it ... endow our race."
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."
Christian pastors in Nigeria have been involved in the torturing
and killing of children accused of witchcraft. Over the past
decade, over 1000 children have been murdered with some being set
on fire. Church pastors, in an effort to distinguish from the
competition, establish their credentials by accusing children of
witchcraft. When repeatedly asked to comment about the matter, the
Church has refused to comment.
Modern practices identified by their practitioners as "witchcraft"
have arisen in the twentieth century which may be broadly subsumed
under the heading of Neopaganism
However, as forms of Neopaganism can be quite different and have
very different origins, these representations can vary considerably
despite the shared name.
Contemporary witchcraft often involves the use of divination,
, and working with the
forces such as spirits and the forces of nature. The practice of
natural medicine, folk medicine
spiritual healing is also common, as are alternative medical and
healing practices.Some schools of
modern witchcraft, such as traditional forms of Wicca, are
secretive and operate as initiatory
. There have been a
number of pagan practitioners such as Paul
claiming inheritance to non-Gardnerian traditions as
More recently a movement to recreate pre-Christian traditions has
taken shape in polytheistic
, including such practices as Divination
forms of Shamanism
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
nature with positive ethical principles, organised into
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
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.
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.
Leland's account depicts the followers of Italian witchcraft as
worshipping the Goddess Diana
along with her brother Dianus
, and their (alleged) daughter Aradia
(a claim which makes little sense, as Diana is
said to be perpetually virginal). Leland's witches do not see
Lucifer as the evil Satan
of Christian myth,
but a benevolent god of the Sun and Moon.
The ritual format of contemporary Stregheria is roughly similar to
that of other Neo-Pagan
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
, though others follow the ancient Roman festivals. An
emphasis is placed on ancestor
The Feri Tradition is a modern witchcraft practice founded by
and his wife
Cora. It is an ecstatic tradition with strong emphasis is placed on
sensual experience and awareness, including sexual mysticism, which
is not limited to heterosexual expression.
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.
- Pócs 1999, pp. 9–12.
- " Witchcraft". Encyclopædia Britannica.
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.
- Pócs (1999) p. 9.
- ; Ankarloo, Bengt and Henningsen, Gustav (1990) Early
Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries. Oxford:
Oxford University Press. pp. 1, 14.
- Pócs 1999 pp. 9–10.
- Pócs 1999 pp. 10–11.
- Pócs 1999 pp. 11–12.
- Barstow, Anne Llewellyn (1994) Witchcraze: A New History of
the European Witch Hunts San Francisco:Pandora. p. 23.
- For a book-length treatment, see Lara Apps and Andrew Gow,
Male Witches in Early Modern Europe, Manchester University Press
(2003), ISBN 0719057094. Conversely, for repeated use of the term
"warlock" to refer to a male witch see Chambers, Robert,
Domestic Annals of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1861; and
Sinclair, George, Satan's Invisible World Discovered,
- Macfarlane 1970 p. 130; also Appendix 2.
- Scot 1989 V. ix.
- Wilby, Emma (2005) Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits.
- Emma Wilby 2005 p. 123; See also Alan Macfarlane 1970 p. 127
who notes how 'white witches' could later be accused as 'black
- Monter () Witchcraft in France and Switzerland. Ch. 7:
"White versus Black Witchcraft".
- Pócs 1999, p. 12.
- As defined by Mircea Eliade in Shamanism, Archaic
Techniques of Ecstasy, Bollingen Series LXXVI, Pantheon Books,
NY NY 1964, pp. 3–7.
- Ginzburg (1990) Part 2, Ch. 1.
- Oxford English Dictionary, the Compact Edition, Oxford
University Press, p. 2955, 1971.
- Spirited Script
- for instance, see Luck, Georg, Arcana Mundi: Magic and the
Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds; a Collection of Ancient
Texts, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1985, 2006;
also Kittredge, G. L., Witchcraft in Old and New England,
New York: Russell & Russell, 1929, 1957, 1958; and Davies,
Owen, Witchcraft, Magic and Culture, 1736–1951, Manchester
University Press, 1999.
- , lines 118–125, from the second manuscript in an appendix to
De Auguriis, lesson XVII from Ælfric's "Lives of the
Levack (The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe)
multiplied the number of known European witch trials by the average
rate of conviction and execution, to arrive at a figure of around
60,000 deaths. Anne Lewellyn Barstow
(Witchcraze) adjusted Levack's estimate to account for
lost records, estimating 100,000 deaths. Ronald Hutton
(Triumph of the Moon) argues that Levack's estimate had
already been adjusted for these, and revises the figure to
- Based on Ronald Hutton's essay Counting the Witch
- 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
- Regino of Prüm (906), see Ginzburg
(1990) part 2, ch. 1 (89ff.)
- Maxwell-Stuart, P. G. (2000) "The Emergence of the Christian
Witch" in History Today, Nov, 2000.
- Drymon, M.M. Disguised as the Devil: How Lyme Disease Created
Witches and Changed History, 2008.
- Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed. "Knights Templar".
- See also Ryan, W.F. The Bathhouse at Midnight: An
Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia,
University Press, 1999.
- ; ; ; ; ;
- 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
- BBC News, "Pleas for condemned Saudi 'witch'", 14 February 2008
- Witchcraft is given a spell in India's schools to
remove curse of deadly superstition. The Times. November 24,
- Fifty 'Witches' Beaten By Mob. Sky News.
December 22, 2008
- Indian villagers 'killed witch'. BBC News.
March 27, 2008
- Blacker, Carmen. The Catalpa Bow : A Study of Shamanistic
Practices in Japan. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 1999. 51–59.
- Blacker, Carmen Catalpa Bow p. 56.
- Woman suspected of witchcraft burned alive
CNN.com. January 8, 2009.
- Is witchcraft alive in Africa?, BBC News.
- Thousands of child 'witches' turned on to the
streets to starve.
- Penis theft panic hits city.., Reuters.
- 7 killed in Ghana over 'penis-snatching'
episodes, CNN, January 18, 1997.
- Mob burns to death 11 Kenyan "witches".
- Living in fear: Tanzania's albinos, BBC News.
- CNN: Abuse of child 'witches' on rise, aid group
- Janzen & MacGaffey 1974, p. 54b (13.9.12).
- Janzen & MacGaffey 1974, p. 54b (13.9.14).
- Janzen & MacGaffey 1974, pp. 54b-55a (13.9.16).
- Janzen & MacGaffey 1974, p. 55b (13.10.8).
- Gittins 1987, p. 199.
- Church burns 'witchcraft' children
- Churches involved in torture, murder of thousands
of African children denounced as witches
- Church Burns 'witchcraft' children
- Church Burns 'witchcraft' children
- Churches involved in torture, murder of thousands
of African children denounced as witches
- Huson, Paul
Mastering Witchcraft: a Practical Guide
for Witches, Warlocks, and Covens, New York: G.P. Putnams
- Clifton, Chas S., Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca
and Paganism in America, Lanham, MD: Altamira, 2006, ISBN
- Rose, Elliot, A Razor for a Goat, University of Toronto Press,
1962. Hutton, Ronald, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient
British Isles, Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell
Publishers, 1993. Hutton, Ronald, The Triumph of the Moon:
A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, Oxford
University Press, 1999.
- Kelly, Aidan, Crafting the Art of Magic, Llewellyn
- Hutton, Ronald, Triumph of the Moon, Oxford University
- Murray, Margaret A., The Witch-Cult in Western Europe,
Oxford University Press, 1921.
- Hutton, R.,The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern
Pagan Witchcraft, Oxford University Press, pp. 205–252,
- Kelly, A.A., Crafting the Art of Magic, Book I: a History
of Modern Witchcraft, 1939–1964, Minnesota: Llewellyn
- Valiente, D., The Rebirth of Witchcraft, London:
Robert Hale, pp. 35–62, 1989.
- University of Kansas Publications in Antropology, No. 5 =
John M Janzen and Wyatt MacGaffey: An Anthology of Kongo
Religion: Primary Texts from Lower Zaïre. Lawrence, 1974.
- Studia Instituti Anthropos, Vol. 41 = Anthony J.
Gittins: Mende Religion. Steyler Verlag, Nettetal, 1987.
- Lizanne Henderson,
‘Witch-Hunting and Witch Belief in the Gàidhealtachd’’, Witchcraft
and Belief in Early Modern Scotland Eds. Julian Goodare, Lauren
Martin and Joyce Miller. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007
- Lindquest, Galina. Conjuring Hope: Healing and Magic in
Contemporary Russia. Vol. 1. New York: Berghahn Books, 2006.
- Pentikainen, Juha. "Marnina Takalo as an Individual." C.
Jstor. 26 February 2007.
- Pentikainen, Juha. "The Supernatural Experience." F. Jstor. 26
- Moore, Henrietta L. and Todd Sanders 2001. Magical
Interpretations, Material Realities: Modernity, Witchcraft and the
Occult in Postcolonial Africa. London: Routledge.
- Worobec, Caroline. "Witchcraft Beliefs and Practices in
Prerevolutionary Russia and Ukrainian Villages." Jstor. 27 February
- Ginzburg, Carlo (1990)
Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath.