Witchcraft is the practice of and/or use of supernatural and magical powers. Though witchcraft was looked at to be the magic of evil, it has revolutionised, particularly in the 20th century, into religions such as Wicca, Stregheria and Feri Tradition. Witchcraft has, while being mainly featured in European and African countries, also been seen in Native American mythology.
Wicca has often been mistaken as another form of Witchcraft. This is untrue, as Wicca is a sub-branch of Witchcraft, and is often associated with Neopaganism – in other words, Wicca is a Religion. Though Witchcraft can be looked at as a practice and even a Religion, Wicca is better suited for this title.
The History of Witchcraft
There is no set date for when Witchcraft was created. It is believed Witchcraft was created by society for fearing the unknown – part of the "witch doctor" term comes from this spectrum – and for explaining misfortune. Éva Pócs explained the three different types of witches in pop culture from Richard Kieckhefer's categories: the social witch, who cast a spell after a fight with a fellow neighbour; the sorcerer, a healer, sorcerer or seer, who is often attributed to being good or evil, depending on the positive or negative energy surrounding them; and, finally, the supernatural witch, who is seen in visions or dreams.
Witchcraft was at a later point associated with hersy and apostasy, mainly from Catholicism, Christianity and Islam, and would often lead to witch-hunt's, executions and torture.
White witch is referred to as a "good" witch, and was often mistaken for witches, when it fact white witches were usually seers, healers and practitioners of folk magic.
Practices, Rituals and Powers
Practices of witches are often associated with the change of one's mind, body and their will. It is believed that if a malicious witch does malicious things, such as having powers over someone's mind, body and will, that disease, illness and harm will befallen the malicious witch. White witches, however, strongly object to doing this, stating they are only allowed to have these powers if the person allows them to.
Spell casting is particularly popular in most magic and Witchcraft, and is often featured in media pertaining to Witchcraft. Spells can contain a set of words – such as a poem, rhyme or formula – action or potion, or any number of these. Spells have many traditions that range from: incantations; performance of rituals; magical herbs, amulets or potions; scrying for divination reasons and several other means.
Necromancy – the process of conjuring the dead – is also heavily implied throughout Witchcraft. Though it is meant for divination and prophecy purposes – mainly involving bringing the spirit, rather than the body, back to life – it has been known to be used in other ways. It is one of the Witchcraft practices to have been banned, as it was supposedly performed by The Witch of Endor, a woman who conjured the prophet Samuel.
Witchcraft in Many Regions
Witchcraft has no set date for when it first occured, and appears in many regions throughout the world. Below is some highlighted regions that Witchcraft has been featured in.
In Europe, Witchcraft gained a variety of its attributes often associated with Witchcraft, but the hunts and executions didn't initally start. After Christanity became the dominating religion of Europe, Witchcraft was not taken as seriously as before.
It is noted, between the 15th and 18th century of Europe, that the "witch craze" was popularised, however many have associated this to be around 13th century Europe, when the Black Death (the plague) was spreading, and in the 14th century, where the "panics" of Europe were beginning.
Witches – usually being women – were accused of Witchcraft, and more often than not, condemned by secular courts, where they would be sentenced to torture, prison, or a public death by hanging or burning. Most who were tortured would "confess" in reponse to the brutality of torture. These witch-hunts and trials were most known from 1550 to 1650, and became extinct at the end of the 18th century.
Africa and it's inhabitants are well known for their wide variety in religious traditions, and Witchcraft is one. Africa categorises those who use magic or Witchcraft into three divisions: thakathi, a vengeful person who secretly harms others; sangoma, often in relation to a fortune teller, and uses sight to see into the future, or helps divine the guilty party of a crime; and inyanga, who is often a healer, and provides magical items for use. The two former of the terms are usually female (the first being exclusively female), and the latter is almost exclusively a male.
Though in several countries Witchcraft's negative effect has lessoned on society over the centuries, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo has convicted 25,000-50,000 children of witchcraft, and continues to prosecute others of witchcraft throughout Africa.
What's considered the most famous in Witchcraft history, North America held the Salem witch trials – the Salem witch trials were actually held in Salem Village, and Ipswich, Andover and Salem Town, Massachusetts – between February 1692 and May 1693. Over 150 people were imprisoned, twenty-nine convicted, and nineteen hanged. Furthermore, Massachusetts was not the only region of North America to hold these trials, as Grace Sherwood was imprisoned in Virgina in 1706.
A witch doctor is also fairly popular in witchcraft, and was first used in the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds to explain doctors in England. Though these doctors are not strictly believed to be of the manevolent kind – in fact, witch doctor actually means a doctor who heals someone believed to have an illness caused by magic – in Africa this term is regarded as insulting, as it is believed that the term witch doctor means to practice Witchcraft in a malicious way, though this is misconstrued from the true meaning.