Witchcraft of the Past What images does the word "witch" create in a person’s mind? Most people would tend to think of an old woman wearing a black, cone-shaped hat, with a large mole on her face, and perhaps flying on her broom. This is the stereotype of witches, and although some witches of the past may have fit into this category, one must remember witchcraft is a religion with a variety of followers. On the Covenant of the Goddess website, the basic philosophy of witchcraft is stated in one simple sentence: "Our religion is not a series of precepts or beliefs, rather we believe that we each have within ourselves the capacity to reach out and experience the mystery – that feeling of ineffable oneness with all Life." 1 This website is devoted to finding the origins of witchcraft, specifically faith and reason, and how it has affected society over the past 700 years.
Witchcraft is said to be the most widespread cultural phenomenon in existence today and throughout history. Even those who shun the ideas of witchcraft cannot discount the similarities in stories from all corners of the globe. Witchcraft and its ideas have spread across racial, religious, and language barriers from Asia to Africa to America. Primitive people from different areas in the world have shockingly similar accounts of witchcraft occurrences. In most cases the strange parallels cannot be explained and one is only left to assume that the tales hold some truth. Anthropologists say that many common elements about witchcraft are shared by different cultures in the world. Among these common elements are the physical characteristics and the activities of supposed witches. I will go on to highlight some of the witch characteristic parallels found in printed accounts from different parts of the world and their comparisons to some famous fairytales.
In early January of 1692, the nine-year-old Betty Parris and her cousin, Abigail Williams, began having nightmares, acting like animals, complaining of strange pricks in their skin, wailing like "a banshee from the afterlife,” and contorting into shapes that wasn’t natural to a human (Blumberg). It was said that supernatural forces were confiding in them, and everyone’s fear came alive when the girls mentioned witches. Tituba, an Indian slave, taught her Caribbean voodoo-inspired magic to local girls, putting the idea of witchcraft in their minds (Aronson, 1). She was never trusted among the town because she was a foreign slave. Basic common “voo-doo magic” used in modern-day shows were the “incapable witchcraft” of the 1600’s.
For my final project, I choose the non-ordinary topic of witchcraft. I was not and am not, interested in researching this to learn how to become a witch and to practice the craft. My intent in doing this project stemmed from the fact that I am a Christian. This class has showed me how to have a more open mind, and how gaining knowledge provides understanding. I wanted to see what is fact and what is false about the myths and stereotypes about witches and witchcraft. To fully explore this subject I have found information on the history of witchcraft and its evolution into the religion of Wicca that is practiced today. I have also looked into how the media today and in the past has presented witches and the type of propaganda that they use that further in the falsehoods that still are present about the craft. Another aspect of my project is two interviews that I conducted with people associated with witchcraft, Meghan Lewis and Carol Karlsen. Witchcraft the religion is quite old. Practices have said to be dated back to Neolithic "Stone Age" cave painting, but it is hard to be completely certain if the pictures have been interpreted properly. Witchcraft is known to have grown out of pre-Christian pagan beliefs. The beliefs have developed over the years, being taken from various sources. The idea of witchcraft took a major turn around the end of the mid-evil period. Around the 1500's the religion of witchcraft no longer become accepted. The Catholic Church in Europe began inquisitions and the persecutions of people they believed to be witches. Before this time the definition of a witch had a person such as a healer or sorcerer/sorceress. Often the people who were known as witches were "wise folk" or ...
The Modern Witch and the Use of Witchcraft "I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!" The Wicked Witch of the West... One of the most notorious and stereotypical witches in all literature. She had green skin, a big wart- covered nose, and a wide-brimmed black hat. She summoned a legion of monsters, stirred evil brews in her black cauldron, and generally made life difficult for the fun-loving citizens of Oz.
The witch hunts in early modern Europe were extensive and far reaching. Christina Larner, a sociology professor at the University of Glasgow and an influential witchcraft historian provides valuable insight into the witch trials in early modern Europe in her article 'Was Witch-Hunting Woman-Hunting?'. Larner writes that witchcraft was not sex-specific, although it was sex-related (Larner, 2002). It cannot be denied that gender plays a tremendous role in the witch hunts in early modern Europe, with females accounting for an estimated 80 percent of those accused (Larner, 2002). However, it would be negligent to pay no heed to the remaining 20 percent, representing alleged male witches (Larner, 2002). The legal definition of a witch in this time, encompassed both females and males (Levack, 1987). This essay will explore the various fundamental reasons for this gender discrepancy and highlight particular cases of witchcraft allegations against both women and men. These reasons arise from several fundamental pieces of literature that depict the stereotypical witch as female. These works are misogynistic and display women as morally inferior to men and highly vulnerable to temptations from demons (Levack, 1987). This idea is blatantly outlined in the text of the 'Malleus Maleficarum' written by James Sprenger and Henry Kramer in the late fifteenth century. This book is used as the basis for many of the witch trials in early modern Europe (Levack, 1987). The text describes women as sexually submissive creatures and while remarking that all witchcraft is derived from intense sexual lust, a women is thus a prime candidate for witchcraft (Sprenger & Kramer, 1487). In this time period, men are seen as powerful and in control and thus rarely...
Kocic, Ana. (2010). Salem Witchcraft Trails: The Perception of Women In History, Literature And Culture. Linguistics and Literature, Vol. 8 (Issue N1), 1-7. http://facta.junis.ni.ac.rs/lal/lal201001/lal201001-01.pdf
Were the Witch-Hunts in Pre-modern Europe Misogynistic? The “YES” article by, Anne Llewellyn Barstow, “On Studying Witchcraft as Woman’s History” and the “NO” article by, Robin Briggs, “Women as Victims? Witches, Judges and the Community,” will be compared, and summarized.