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The History of Witchcraft


According to Wikipedia, "Witchcraft, as most commonly understood in both historical and present-day communities, is the use of alleged supernatural powers of magic. A witch (from Old English wicce or wicca) is a practitioner of witchcraft. Traditionally, "witchcraft" means the use of magic or supernatural powers to inflict harm or misfortune on others, and this remains the most common and widespread meaning." but, is this information accurate? Is the main aim of witchcraft actually to inflict harm? What do we really know about the history of witchcraft?


In medieval and modern Europe, accused witches were usually women who were believed to have used black magic or maleficium (defined as forms of sorcery or witchcraft that were conducted with the intention of causing harm) against their community, and often to have communed with evil beings. Their community couldn't figure out the concept of witchcraft and dealt with something that was told to inflict harm on their people. And, like what people do when they come across something they don't understand and are scared of, they get violent. Witches were often accused by their social communities, also, suspected witches were intimidated, banished, attacked, or killed.


European witch-hunts and witch trials in the early modern period led to tens of thousands of executions of witches. Witches were hung, tortured, and physically attacked by their community. Their community attempted to drown witches, and the common sense was, "If she drowns and dies, she's not a witch and if she survives, she actually is a witch, and we should kill her", so people who were accused were killed one way or another. European belief in witchcraft gradually dwindled during and after the Age of Enlightenment.


Witches are commonly believed to cast curses; a spell or set of magical words and gestures intended to inflict supernatural harm. As well as repeating words and gestures, cursing could involve inscribing runes or sigils on an object to give that object magical powers; burning or binding a wax or clay image (a poppet) of a person to affect them magically; or using herbs, animal parts, and other substances to make potions or poisons. Certain ailments, infertility, illnesses, and even deaths were often associated with witchcraft in the past. This was generally caused by the lack of information about medical science. Witches were also known to use body parts in their spells, these "body parts" could differ from a nail to the heart of children. Of course, this is a common belief and doesn't have any proof, but it is enough to make a whole community afraid of witchcraft.


There are some myths about witches and animals. Some believe that witches are able to shapeshift and can turn into the shape of any animal they want. Some believe that this "shape-shifting" process is physical while others believe that it is the witches' spirit traveling into the body of an animal, which is often associated with shamanism. Also, the belief of "witches using animals as their assistants" is also believed by some people. To be more specific, this "animal assistant" belief is known as "the familiars" and is basically the belief that an evil spirit or demon that had taken an animal form is working as an assistant for witches. One more common belief about witches is "necromancy", which is defined as "the practice of magic involving communication with the dead by summoning their spirits as apparitions or visions for the purpose of divination; imparting the means to foretell future events and discover hidden knowledge."


There have been various views of various religions about witchcraft since the early 15th century, to summarize all of them:

-Islam: Islam's stance is against the practice of magic, considering it forbidden, and emphasizes divine miracles rather than magic or witchcraft

-Christianity: Historically, the Christian concept of witchcraft derives from Old Testament laws against it. As opposed to the helpful magic of the cunning folk, witchcraft was seen as evil and associated with Satan and Devil worship.

-Jew: Jewish attitudes toward witchcraft were rooted in its association with idolatry and necromancy, and some rabbis even practiced certain forms of magic themselves. References to witchcraft in the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, highlighted strong condemnations rooted in the "abomination" of magical belief. Christianity similarly condemned witchcraft, considering it an abomination and even citing specific verses to justify witch-hunting during the early modern period.


Witches have a long history of being depicted in art, although most of their earliest artistic depictions seem to originate in Early Modern Europe, particularly the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Many scholars attribute their manifestation in art as inspired by texts such as Canon Episcopi, a demonology-centered work of literature, and Malleus Maleficarum, a "witch-craze" manual published in 1487, by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger.


Although "Witchcraft" and "Wicca" sound like extremely similar concepts, they are not synonyms. Witchcraft is the use of magic and Wicca is a group of people who identify themselves as witches. There are a lot of groups who currently identify as witches and a lot of individuals who still perform spells and rituals, but unlike the common belief, not all witchcraft aims to harm people, at least directly. Money and success spells, for example, are for the good of individuals, and love spells are also supposed to be positive as if they aren't forced to one side of the relationship.


To sum up, some people still identify as witches, and this concept may differ from people who use it for good reasons to people who tend to harm others with their spells, so it would be wrong to define witchcraft in a completely positive or completely negative way. And, it is one's own choice to believe in witchcraft or not.


This article was inspired by Halloween since it is on the 31st of this month, so I "witch" you all a happy Halloween!


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