The Problem of Witchcraft

Witchcraft, Relativism and the Problem of the Criterion
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Some traditional healers contribute directly to the deterioration of their patients or merely endeavour to extort money from them as may be the case with some practitioners of modern medicine. In the government of Equatorial Guinea accused the ambassador of the USA of using witchcraft because of an election-day visit to British war graves. In South Africa in , it was reported that large sums of money had been offered to black nannies looking after white children to hand them over to witchdoctors to be used in the production of a potion to end the civil war amongst the blacks in Natal.

In in Nigeria it was reported that male genitalia were being spirited away by witchcraft and were being sold, notably to politicians as a way of enhancing their powers. The phenomenon was reportedly taken sufficiently seriously to prevent people from shaking hands physical contact being one of the means through which the disappearance was effected. In industrialized societies there are still scattered claims. In the s cases of black magic were reported in England; a village milkmaid in the former Soviet Union was accused of witchcraft; and beliefs and practices among peasants in Lower Saxony gave rise to a government investigation. In the s, two alleged practitioners of witchcraft were lynched in Queretar, Mexico; in Guatemala, the wife of a political rival of the anticommunist colonel Carlos Castillo Armas was accused of practising witchcraft against the colonel.

Witchcult religion survives in France and Italy with witches Sabbaths; and in the USA, where California and New York covens celebrate the rites of bell, book and candle. A considerable number of modern books advocating witchcraft have recently appeared in America and western Europe.

Witches stand in a long tradition as adherents of an ancient religion counter to those artificially created, which springs from an inherent human capability, active in witches, to relate to, understand and use nature and natural forces, although these are unperceived by those who cannot exercise their latent powers in this way. Some parts of Europe suffered many intense hunts, such as provinces in France and Germany; others experienced several moderate persecutions, such as England or Hungary; others held comparatively few trials, such as Spain or the Dutch Netherlands.

None of the hunts were constant over the years to , but came in concentrated periods, especially intense between and Historians are still trying to explain the reasons for this great variety in witch hunting.

The bigger question is why the authorities would consider the witches a danger as opposed to traditional scapegoats like Jews, heretics, homosexuals, foreigners, or even sorcerers? Specific hunts were often rooted in specific local circumstances. Still, historians have tried to come up with general explanations for the complex phenomenon of witch hunts.

One should be wary of any author who suggests one cause for all the Witch Hunts. I discern ten general trends that some historians have tried to argue as causes for the hunts. See Witch Origin Theories. FACT: While millions of people might have been affected, the best estimates of recent historians range from 50, to , dead. Modern figures concerning the number of executed witches are based on a much closer examination of the surviving historical records, combined with reasonable guesswork and statistical analysis for those areas and periods lacking clear sources.

The hunts were anything but constant, systematic or frequent. That some villages were wiped out by witch hunters is also an exaggeration. There is little evidence for such devastation. One extreme example is reported from , where only two women were left in one village in the Trier diocese after a hunt Wolfang Behringer, ed.

Hexen und Hexenprozesse in Deutschland , 4th ed. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, , , But that left the men. In any case, such thoroughness and ferocity were extremely rare. Further, any particular area had hunts irregularly, and many regions had no hunts at all. Even the much lower figure of under 50, dead would have meant over a hundred thousand put on trial.

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Then, considering all the personnel involved in the justice system as court officials and witnesses, friends and family members, and those who even felt the "fear" caused by the hunts, millions of peoples lives changed, usually for the worse, because of the witch hunts. People condemned during the Witch Hunts were burned at the stake. FACT: While indeed governments did burn many witches at the stake, most were executed by other means. Admittedly, burning was important in many of these cases also, since to further protect against any malevolence from the dead witch, authorities often burned the remains afterward.

Other popular forms of execution for witches included beheading, drowning, and breaking on the wheel. Witches were rarely buried alive, boiled alive, impaled, sawed in two, flayed, drawn and quartered, or disemboweled, as other contemporary criminals were.

Witchcraft belief is a curse on Africa

Other punishments inflicted on convicted witches included mutilating cutting off of a hand or ear for example , branding, whipping, dunking, locking in the the stocks, jailing, fining, banishing, or selling into slavery. A notoriously common myth is that the alleged witches at Salem in colonial Massachusetts were burned.

All of the convicted during the Salem Witch Hunt in died by hanging. Others died by natural causes before conviction or execution, and Giles Corey was pressed to death. In fact, no witches were executed by burning in the English colonies of North America.

Original Articles

English law did not permit it. FACT: While some people have claimed to be able to work witchcraft, there is no scientific, empirical, reasonable proof that any actual witches existed or that the magic they claimed to perform actually did what it was supposed to do. Before authorities were unconcerned about witches. Between and authorities saw demonically empowered witches as a real danger, and condemned witches for many crimes against the community.

After witches were again no longer a concern.

HIST - Lecture 14 - Witchcraft and Magic | Open Yale Courses

Most of the crimes of witches sprung from the imaginations of the hunters, the ravings of the insane, and the agonies of the tortured. Even those who confessed to witchcraft crimes could not prove a cause and effect relationship between their witchcraft and actual events. I admittedly and openly draw my writing from a world-view that accepts the reality of scientific evidence and the validity of the historical method.

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TUDES ET ESSAIS LUCY MAIR London School of Economies Witchcraft as Problem the Study of Religion Witchcraft is popularly thought of as subject for. Few historical enterprises have been as intensively historiographical and reflexive in character as the study of witchcraft in early modern.

Some people from deconstructionists to fundamentalists might argue about such a perspective, denying the efficacy of an empirical and rational perception of the universe. Likewise, some people today claim to be witches or believers in various metaphysical systems like Wicca, Neo-paganism or Satanism. Now, I myself am a strong supporter of religious freedom and religious toleration. And all religions, including Christianity, have elements of the nonsensical, absurd and improbable.

Thus, I consider that any people who like to think that they are themselves witches or that witchcraft can affect the physical world, are free to do so.

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All such supernatural stuff, from alien visits to earth to the Devil possessing young girls, is insufficiently supported by sound facts, both historically and today. While I enjoy reading and watching science fiction and fantasy stories, I know when it is make-believe.

While I draw inspiration from the Bible and the saints, I know that it relies on faith believing what cannot be proven. If anyone wishes to argue for the objective reality of spiritual matters, please do not write to me. Instead, have any metaphysical claims tested by the James Randi Educational Foundation , and earn a million dollars.

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As Carl Sagan has said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In modern usage, the term "Witch Hunt" can be applied to any organized persecution of a group of people. Authorities carried out many hunts in Europe between and , but historians recognize now that there never were any witches with real powers that could have endangered society.

One unique thing about the European Witch Hunts between and was the belief that the Devil, or Satan, was organizing people as a destructive force for society. Beliefs about life and death, good luck and misfortune, prosperity and poverty--changes that normally occur as societies undergo periods of profound transformation--are often prompted top down by colonial hegemony, or nudged by missionary proselytizing. Beliefs may evolve as a result of better education and health practices, or simply as an adjunct to the inevitable influence of globalization in communication and commerce.

In developing nations, a palpable tension develops if the "dominant group In Africa, this tension seems nowhere more evident than in the context of traditional beliefs about witchcraft and the laws that seek to curtail witchcraft practices and accusations. As discussed in this article, a significant portion of Africans believe in the efficacy of witchcraft to produce harm and fear being targeted by its practitioners.

At the same time, various witchcraft suppression laws, many dating from the colonial era, make it illegal to engage in practices customarily associated with witchcraft. There have been long-standing objections by witchdoctors--i.