Thursday, October 13, 2016

What I Know About Witches

A historical perspective on witchcraft and Neopaganism free PDF

Halloween/Samhain 2016 will soon be upon us as I write this. That means that we will be flooded with Internet content about witches, witchcraft, Neopaganism, and diabolism. I dusted off an article that I wrote years ago, updated and illustrated it and added it to my growing collection of FREE PDF booklets.

In this booklet, I draw from the work of leading scholars to debunk myths about witch history and explain why I think that modern witchcraft and Neopaganism are new forms of spiritual expression inspired by legends about antiquity.

In contrast to witch history presented by high-profile Wiccan and Neopagan writers of the 20th century, we now know that most of the people who were tortured and killed during the medieval witch-craze were Christian-folk who ran afoul of a disgruntled or paranoid husband or neighbor or whose reputation as a healer/curse-lifter cast suspicion on them.

And most people who actually did practice magic in medieval and Renaissance Europe also considered themselves to be Christians—not witches.

Practitioners were called “wise” or “cunning” folk, magos or magas, healers, fixers, unbewitchers, and  other names. They  engaged in healing through folk medicine. practiced divination, cast love and binding spells as well as treasure-finding/money spells, and they lifted curses and “unbewitched” clients, which involved identifying and neutralizing a witch. (That is, people who practiced folk magic were in the habit of ratting-out innocent people as well as other people who, like themselves, practiced folk magic.)

And how much was the Church really involved in the witch craze? You might be surprised . . . 

Witches generally were thought to be malignant creatures that caused disease and ruin. They were supernatural, bogeymen, but they could be real people as well. Calling or identifying someone as a witch was referred to as “scolding.” Scolding could lead to accusations and then legal action and violence against the accused.

Witch confessions were obtained through intense torture in which the accused were fed statements and repeatedly abused until they agreed to the accusation. For a taste of what an accused person could be expected to endure, play Professor Pavlac’s interactive narrative of witch persecution in early 17th century Germany at  

Despite the reasons that some modern-day witches and Neopagans give for why their kind have been persecuted and demonized throughout the Christian era . . 

There wasn't "their kind"; there were people, most of whom self-identified as Christians, who practiced folkways and didn't think twice about witch-scolding others.
  • People feared witches, which were bogeymen, and were suspicious of folks who professionally practiced magic not only in the Christian era but the pre-Christian era as well. Why? Because, as the Italian saying goes . .

 Qui scit sanare scit damnare

"He who knows how to heal knows how to curse."

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