Witchcraft, the practice of magic with the use of spells, herbs, and satanic work, was fairly prominent in Elizabethan England. The Elizabethan Era reign lasted from 1558 to 1603, and was during Queen Elizabeth's reign. Witches and witchcraft were usually the target of blame during this time, because they were the outcasts. Witches, the Chelmsford Witch trials, and many superstitions are all based off of witchcraft.
The use of black magic and the appealing of spirits are what witches are known for. Witches would be brought to court if someone accused them and if they couldn’t recite the 10 commandments or 7 sacraments etc. they would be killed. Witch hunts in Salem, Massachusetts last for a year (1692-1693) and in Papua New Guinea they still continue to hunt witches (2013). The “witch-hunts” being done in both Salem and Papua New Guinea are taking place out of ignorance and fear because they are accusing people of events that occur naturally, out of revenge, and the fear of the witches “powers” being used on them, the people.
The concept of witchcraft and the belief in its existence has existed since the dawn of human history. It has been present or central at various times, and in many diverse forms, among cultures and religions worldwide, including both "primitive" and "highly advanced" cultures, and continues to have an important role in many cultures today.
Witchcraft in the 1400s going on to the 1700s gained massive popularity due to several factors. Some of these factors included hallucinogens contained in the “oyl” women used to anoint themselves, manipulating the hysteria and using it as a form of social control to make people conform to the norms of the society and lastly, using it to explain misfortunes that afflicted the people of the community and the neighboring ones.
From my understanding witchcraft is what is basically used to explain situations that human kind believe is unexplainable in terms of science or nature; or simplified reasons of human understanding of the world around us. These understandings of which most are found in rural or secluded areas, and in places where wealth is distributed unequally. I also gather from the readings of; Evan Pritchard, that witchcraft explains functionalism in primitive though lines and in contrast to Fraser McNeil and Daniel Jordan Smith’s readings witchcraft in another context explains structuralism.
Witchcraft exists. Whether we choose to believe or not, its existence in worldwide cultures is undeniable. Its form takes many shapes that can be determined by the religion, economics, politics, and folk beliefs in each individual culture where it may take place. Its importance in our own, American, history should not go understated: Witches were a major dilemma for people who lived in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, and as a result women (and men) were hanged due to undeniable belief in the power of Witchcraft. Today, belief in magic and witches has diminished with the increasingly secular nature of our culture, but we must accept there was a time when witches “existed”. While American culture has drifted away from ideas such as witchcraft, others have certainly not, with the primary example being Africa. Witchcraft in African culture accounts for many of the issues found within many of the continents communities. Correcting these issues, at least for a time, usually results in a community being “fixed” (examples are made in Adam Ashford’s account of witchery, Madumo, a Man Bewitched and the anthropological accounts being used for this essay). What is fascinating; however, are the parallels that can be made between witchcraft in different cultures. In a previous essay I touched on this topic by incorporating my definition of witchcraft as “a cultural means of being able to create particular moral boundaries by means of ‘magic’ thinking” (Brian Riddle, 2015). In this essay, I
The elite perspective is the perspective of those in power. It may be the perspective of the monarchy but it may also be administrative/judicial or that of the church. Popular conceptions are those held by the common people. These two perspectives were not very distinctive because the elite and common people did not live completely separate lives from one another there was some mixing of culture, and thus there were many similarities in the conceptions held. The main differences between the popular and elite beliefs were regarding the type of accusation of witchcraft: the common people tended to make accusations of maleficium whereas the elites made accusations based on diabolism.
It is also theorized by many historians, that the witches were first to be called out by the Doctors in the region, as the use of their healing remedies, were considered competition, and what better way to eliminate the competition, than to exploit the religious fanatics that want to trial anyone accused?
Witch craft has been studied for hundreds of years and authors are still finding more and more information In Carlo Ginzburg’s work, The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century, he attempts to locate the origin of the of the benandanti and how they came to be tried in a similar fashion to witches in Friuli, Italy. The benandanti were a group that claimed that their spirits went to fight witches during certain times of the year. Ginzburg goes into great detail on the many trials associated with the benandanti during this time. In Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum’s work, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft, the two authors give an in-depth look into the witch trials that plagued
On the other hand, the healing powers that sorcerers possess are respected in other communities. Witch doctors, although not real witches, are trusted to concoct remedies to protect others against witchcraft. Furthermore, Shamans are believed to be endowed with the power to both cure and kill. The Shaman has the ability to go into a trance to interact with the spirit world on behalf of the community. Although there are varying opinions on the practicing of witchcraft, it still continues today whether it is accepted or not.
As accounted by many, “Traditional healers often act, in part, as an intermediary between the visible and invisible worlds; between the living and the dead or ancestors, sometimes to determine which spirits are at work and how to bring the sick person back into harmony with their ancestors” (Abdullahi ¶ 3). This provides the emotional and spiritual depth of traditional medical practitioners, as they truly make an effort to connect patients to their community even if they are severely ill (Abdullahi ¶ 3). Finally, the Igbo tribe held many secret societies, including instruction in medicine, that held both secular and religious functions and allowed inducted community members to learn about its origins (“Cults and Rituals” 284). This further establishes their connection of religion to medicine, as secret societies may teach medicine to members in a religious setting. Therefore, when Igbo medical practitioners practiced medicine before colonization, they incorporated many aspects of their religion, including, but not limited to, sorcery and divination, as they have for many years.
The Enlightenment and the emerging of modern rationalism have paved the way to a worldview where the suspicion of witchcraft is not needed to explain the mysterious phenomena of this world. This is not the case in Africa. The belief in the existence of witches, evil persons who are able to harm others by using mystical powers, is part of the common cultural knowledge. Samuel Waje Kunhiyop states, “Almost all African societies believe in witchcraft in one form or another. Belief in witchcraft is the traditional way of explaining the ultimate cause of evil, misfortune or death.” The African worldview is holistic. In this perception, things do not just happen. What happens, either good or bad, is traced back to human action,
Throughout No Witchcraft for Sale, Doris Lessing develops a theme surrounding the topics of family, trust, and religion. Lessing does this by developing a cast of characters including Teddy, the Farquars, and Gideon. She mentions how the Farquars and their servant Gideon had grown close to each other after the birth of the Farquars’ son Teddy. She also explains how the Farquars were a deeply religious family and that Gideon was a mission boy himself. However, when a scientist arrives from the city to explore the native knowledge of medicine, Gideon’s trust and relationship with the Farquars is tried. Although Gideon is not a direct relative of the Farquars, the theme of this story is a trial of family and family’s strength to overcome.
“Have you ever wondered if Magic or witches and wizards really exist in this modern world? Well yes, they do exist, and they are quite active in the modern world. There are more than 10 million witches in the United States, with new practitioners on the rise daily.”(Caine) Being a witch is much different than what you may have seen in the movies. There is real magic to the craft, but witches or wizards don 't walk around turning people into to frogs with a flick of their magic wands. They don 't disappear into thin air, nor do they fly around through the night on broomsticks. They also don 't live in a big castle or mansion. They walk around as normal people and you wouldn 't be able to tell them apart for anyone else. The art of real witchcraft is one of the oldest practices in the world. “The oldest instruments of the real craft that have been discovered date back to 40,000 years ago, while the practice of real witchcraft dates back to paleolithic times. It is very much a way of life, as you may have heard from the modern followers of Wicca. During the middle ages, and in the event known as The Inquisition, the practice of witchcraft became outlawed throughout most of the Christianized world, an offense punishable by death.”(Caine) A witchcraft frenzy broke out in the early colonial history of America in Salem, Massachusetts. Insane torture tactics were put in by the church to draw out confessions. This period of time is often cited as the start of "the burning times."