Brief Introduction to Witchcraft: A Historical and Anthropological Aspect

Europeans and AmericansThe belief in witchcraft is often seen as unique to the witch-hunts of the Inquisition and the Reformation. Before the Inquisition, witchcraft was enshrined in church theology, and the clergy assigned the administration of evil to Satan and the witches. Since Satan imagined himself to be spiritual, he could only acquire physical presence by entering people’s bodies through possession. During the period of the Inquisition, ecclesiastical and lay courts tried thousands of suspects accused of witchcraft, heresy, and devil worship. In 1487 the book Malleus Mal-efectrum (“The Hammer of the Witches”) was published, which was used throughout Europe as a manual on the discovery, trial, torture and execution of witches. The Reformation was in part a reaction against the Inquisition. Nevertheless, Protestants did not stop the persecutions of witches. In fact, Calvin’s hometown of Geneva became a witch-hunting center. The clergy blamed Satan and his witches for spreading epidemics of disease and plague. These beliefs also prevailed among New England Calvinists. Here, the last major witch hunt took place in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, when twenty accused witches were publicly executed. These events are widely commemorated as a symbol of prejudice and bigotry that is contrary to American democratic ideals. In his 1953 play, The Crucible, Arthur Miller uses Salem’s witch executions as a parable about McCarthyism. it became a witch-hunting center. The clergy blamed Satan and his witches for spreading epidemics of disease and plague. These beliefs also prevailed among New England Calvinists. Here, the last major witch hunt took place in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, when twenty accused witches were publicly executed. These events are widely commemorated as a symbol of prejudice and bigotry that is contrary to American democratic ideals. In his 1953 play, The Crucible, Arthur Miller uses Salem’s witch executions as a parable about McCarthyism. it became a witch-hunting center. The clergy blamed Satan and his witches for spreading epidemics of disease and plague. These beliefs also prevailed among New England Calvinists. Here, the last major witch hunt took place in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, when twenty accused witches were publicly executed. These events are widely commemorated as a symbol of prejudice and bigotry that is contrary to American democratic ideals. In his 1953 play, The Crucible, Arthur Miller uses Salem’s witch executions as a parable about McCarthyism. The last major witch hunt took place in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, when twenty accused witches were publicly executed. These events are widely commemorated as a symbol of prejudice and bigotry that is contrary to American democratic ideals. In his 1953 play, The Crucible, Arthur Miller uses Salem’s witch executions as a parable about McCarthyism. The last major witch hunt took place in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, when twenty accused witches were publicly executed. These events are widely commemorated as a symbol of prejudice and bigotry that is contrary to American democratic ideals. In his 1953 play, The Crucible, Arthur Miller uses Salem’s witch executions as a parable about McCarthyism.

In reality , witchcraft beliefs are much more widely distributed in time and place. They are found throughout history, on practically every continent – in Africa, Asia, North America, South America and the Pacific – and continue to appear in contemporary times.

Witchcraft in classical theory

Due to its wide spread, witchcraft has become a staple in anthropological research. In his classic study of the Azande of colonial Sudan, Evans-Pritchard (1937) distinguished between “witchcraft” and “sorcery” for his technique. He defined the former as the innate and inherited ability to cause misfortune or death. For witchcraft Azande involved unconscious psychic powers, emanating from a black swelling, located near the liver. Rather, Azande referred to witchcraft as performing rituals, casting spells, and manipulating organic substances such as herbs, with the conscious intention of causing harm. Unlike the case of witchcraft, people can learn to practice witchcraft.

Although this distinction is widespread in East Africa and in many Melanesian societies, it is not made in most other parts of Africa or in the world. Therefore, many contemporary anthropologists use the terms “witchcraft” and “witchcraft” more broadly to denote both types of people and modes of action. (Maintains the word “witchcraft” only when used in the original texts.)

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