Witchcraft historiography Historians of European witchcraft have found the anthropological definition difficult to apply to European and British witchcraft, which doesn't match African models. The presence or absence of magical techniques seems to have been of little concern to those participating in witch trials, and some of the accused really had attempted to cause harm by mere ill-wishing. As in anthropology, witchcraft is seen by historians as an ideology for explaining misfortune, however this ideology manifested in diverse ways. There were a few varieties of witch in popular belief, and a few types of people accused of witchcraft for different reasons. Richard Kieckhefer places the accused into three categories: Those caught in the act of positive or negative sorcery; well-meaning sorcerers or healers who lost their clients' or the authorities' trust; and those did nothing more than gain the enmity of their neighbours. To these Christina Larner adds a fourth category: those reputed to be witches and surrounded with an aura of witch-beliefs. Éva Pócs in turn identifies three varieties of witch in popular belief: * The 'neighbourhood witch' or 'social witch': a witch who curses a neighbour following some conflict. * The 'magical' or 'sorcerer' witch: either a professional healer, sorcerer, seer or midwife, or a person who has through magic increased their fortune to the perceived detriment of a neighbouring household; due to neighbourly or community rivalries and the ambiguity between positive and negative magic, they can become labelled as 'witches'. * The 'supernatural' or 'night' witch: portrayed in court narratives as a demon appearing in visions and dreams. 'Neighbourhood witches' are the product of neighbourhood tensions, and are found only in self-sufficient serf village communities where the inhabitants largely rely on each other. Such accusations follow the breaking of some social norm, such as the failure to return a borrowed item, and any person part of the normal social exchange could potentially fall under suspicion. Claims of 'sorcerer' witches and 'supernatural' witches could arise out of social tensions, but not necessarily; the supernatural witch in particular often had nothing to do with communal conflict, but expressed tensions between the human and supernatural worlds, and in Eastern and Southeastern Europe such supernatural witches became an ideology explaining calamities that befell entire communities.In England, the term 'witch' was[clarification needed] not used exclusively to describe malevolent magicians, but could also indicate cunning folk. "There were a number of interchangable terms for these practitioners, ‘white’, ‘good’, or ‘unbinding’ witches, blessers, wizards, sorcerors, however ‘cunning-man’ and ‘wise-man’ were the most frequent." The contemporary Reginald Scott noted “At this day it is indifferent to say in the English tongue, ‘she is a witch’ or ‘she is a wise woman’”. While cunning-folk could command a lot of respect, public perceptions of them were often ambivalent and a little fearful, for many were deemed just as capable of harming as of healing. Throughout Europe many such healers and wise men and women were convicted of witchcraft (Éva Pócs' 'sorcerer witches'): many English 'witches' convicted of consorting with demons seem to have been cunning folk whose fairy familiars had been demonised; many French devins-guerisseurs were accused of witchcraft;and over half the accused witches in Hungary seem to have been healers. Some of the healers and diviners historically accused of witchcraft have considered themselves mediators between the mundane and spiritual worlds, roughly equivalent to shamans.Such people described their contacts with fairies, spirits or the dead, often involving out-of-body experiences and travelling through the realms of an 'other-world'. Beliefs of this nature are implied in the folklore of much of Europe, and were explicitly described by accused witches in central and southern Europe. Repeated themes include participation in processions of the dead or large feasts, often presided over by a female divinity who teaches magic and gives prophecies; and participation in battles against evil spirits, 'vampires' or 'witches' to win fertility and prosperity for the community.Practices to which the witchcraft label have historically been applied are those which influence another person's mind, body or property against his or her will, or which are believed, by the person doing the labelling, to undermine the social or religious order. Some modern commentators consider the malefic nature of witchcraft to be a Christian projection. The concept of a magic-worker influencing another person's body or property against his or her will was clearly present in many cultures, as there are traditions in both folk magic and religious magic that have the purpose of countering malicious magic or identifying malicious magic users. Many examples can be found in ancient texts, such as those from Egypt and Babylonia, where malicious magic is believed to have the power to influence the mind, body or possessions, malicious magic users can become a credible cause for disease, sickness in animals, bad luck, sudden death, impotence and other such misfortunes. Witchcraft of a more benign and socially acceptable sort may then be employed to turn the malevolence aside, or identify the supposed evil-doer so that punishment may be carried out. The folk magic used to identify or protect against malicious magic users is often indistinguishable from that used by the witches themselves.
There has also existed in popular belief the concept of white witches and white witchcraft, which is strictly benevolent. Many neopagan witches strongly identify with this concept, and profess ethical codes that prevent them from performing magic on a person without their request..
Where belief in malicious magic practices exists, such practitioners are typically forbidden by law as well as hated and feared by the general populace, while beneficial magic is tolerated or even accepted wholesale by the people – even if the orthodox establishment objects to it.Probably the most obvious characteristic of a witch was the ability to cast a spell, a "spell" being the word used to signify the means employed to accomplish a magical action. A spell could consist of a set of words, a formula or verse, or a ritual action, or any combination of these. The most important part of a spell is of course the energy the practitioner puts into it; this being done in a variety of ways by many different people. Spells traditionally were cast by many methods, such as by the inscription of runes or sigils on an object to give it magical powers, by the immolation or binding of a wax or clay image (poppet) of a person to affect him or her magically, by the recitation of incantations, by the performance of physical rituals, by the employment of magical herbs as amulets or potions, by gazing at mirrors, swords or other specula (scrying) for purposes of divination, and by many other means.In Early Modern European tradition, witches have stereotypically, though not exclusively, been women. European pagan belief in witchcraft was associated with the goddess Diana and dismissed as "diabolical fantasies" by medieval Christian authors.
The familiar witch of folklore and popular superstition is a combination of numerous influences. The characterization of the witch as an evil magic user developed over time.
Early converts to Christianity looked to Christian clergy to work magic more effectively than the old methods under Roman paganism, and Christianity provided a methodology involving saints and relics, similar to the gods and amulets of the Pagan world. As Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe its concern with magic lessened.
The Protestant Christian explanation for witchcraft, such as those typified in the confessions of the Pendle Witches, commonly involve a diabolical pact or at least an appeal to the intervention of the spirits of evil. The witches or wizards addicted to such practices were alleged to reject Jesus and the sacraments, observe "the witches' sabbath" (performing infernal rites which often parodied the Mass or other sacraments of the Church), pay Divine honour to the Prince of Darkness, and, in return, receive from him preternatural powers. It was a folkloric belief that a Devil's Mark, like the brand on cattle, was placed upon a witches skin by the devil to signify that this pact had been made. Witches were most often characterized as women. Witches disrupted the societal institutions, and more specifically, marriage. It was believed that a witch often joined a pact with the devil to gain powers to deal with infertility, immense fear for her children's well-being, or revenge against a lover.
The Church and European society were not always so zealous in hunting witches or blaming them for bad occurrences. Saint Boniface declared in the 8th century that belief in the existence of witches was un-Christian. The emperor Charlemagne decreed that the burning of supposed witches was a pagan custom that would be punished by the death penalty. In 820 the Bishop of Lyon and others repudiated the belief that witches could make bad weather, fly in the night, and change their shape. This denial was accepted into Canon law until it was reversed in later centuries as the witch-hunt gained force. In 1307 the trial of the Knights Templar shows close parallels to accusations of witchcraft, maleficium, and sorcery and may have been the beginning of the great European witch-hunt.Other rulers such as King Coloman of Hungary declared that witch-hunts should cease because witches (more specifically, strigas) do not exist.
The Church did not invent the idea of witchcraft as a potentially harmful force whose practitioners should be put to death. This idea is commonplace in pre-Christian religions. According to the scholar Max Dashu, the concept of medieval witchcraft contained many of its elements even before the emergence of Christianity. These can be found in Bacchanalias, especially in the time when they were led by priestess Paculla Annia
However, even at a later date, not all witches were assumed to be harmful practicers of the craft. In England, the provision of this curative magic was the job of a witch doctor, also known as a cunning man, white witch, or wiseman. The term "witch doctor" was in use in England before it came to be associated with Africa. Toad doctors were also credited with the ability to undo evil witchcraft. (Other folk magicians had their own purviews. Girdle-measurers specialised in diagnosing ailments caused by fairies, while magical cures for more mundane ailments, such as burns or toothache, could be had from charmers.)
"In the north of England, the superstition lingers to an almost inconceivable extent. Lancashire abounds with witch-doctors, a set of quacks, who pretend to cure diseases inflicted by the devil... The witch-doctor alluded to is better known by the name of the cunning man, and has a large practice in the counties of Lincoln and Nottingham.
Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos: ¡Linda maestra! ("The Spoils: Beautiful Teacher!") - witches heading to a Sabbath
Such "cunning-folk" did not refer to themselves as witches and objected to the accusation that they were such. Records from the Middle Ages, however, make it appear that it was, quite often, not entirely clear to the populace whether a given practitioner of magic was a witch or one of the cunning-folk. In addition, it appears that much of the populace was willing to approach either of these groups for healing magic and divination. When a person was known to be a witch, the populace would still seek to employ their healing skills; however, as was not the case with cunning-folk, members of the general population would also hire witches to curse their enemies. The important distinction is that there are records of the populace reporting alleged witches to the authorities as such, whereas cunning-folk were not so incriminated; they were more commonly prosecuted for accusing the innocent or defrauding people of money.
The long-term result of this amalgamation of distinct types of magic-worker into one is the considerable present-day confusion as to what witches actually did, whether they harmed or healed, what role (if any) they had in the community, whether they can be identified with the "witches" of other cultures and even whether they existed as anything other than a projection. Present-day beliefs about the witches of history attribute to them elements of the folklore witch, the charmer, the cunning man or wise woman, the diviner and the astrologer.
Powers typically attributed to European witches include turning food poisonous or inedible, flying on broomsticks or pitchforks, casting spells, cursing people, making livestock ill and crops fail, and creating fear and local chaos.
The Russian word for witch is ведьма (ved'ma, literally "the one who knows", from Old Slavic вѣдъ "to know").The most famous witchcraft incident In the British North America were the witch trials that took place in Salem, Massachusetts. The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before local magistrates followed by county court trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex Counties of colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693. Over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, with even more accused who were not formally pursued by the authorities. The two courts convicted twenty-nine people of the capital felony of witchcraft. Nineteen of the accused, fourteen women and five men, were hanged. One man who refused to enter a plea was crushed to death under heavy stones in an attempt to force him to do so. At least five more of the accused died in prison. Despite being generally known as the "Salem" witch trials, the preliminary hearings in 1692 were conducted in a variety of towns across the province: Salem Village, Ipswich, Andover, as well as Salem Town, Massachusetts. The best-known trials were conducted by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692 in Salem Town. All twenty-six who went to trial before this court were convicted. The four sessions of the Superior Court of Judicature in 1693, held in Salem Town, but also in Ipswich, Boston, and Charlestown, produced only three convictions in the thirty-one witchcraft trials it conducted. Likewise, alleged witchcraft was not isolated to New England. In 1706 Grace Sherwood the "Witch of Pungo" was imprisoned for the crime in Princess Anne County, Virginia.Modern practices identified by their practitioners as "witchcraft" have arisen in the twentieth century which may be broadly subsumed under the heading of Neopaganism. However, as forms of Neopaganism can be quite different and have very different origins, these representations can vary considerably despite the shared name.
Contemporary witchcraft often involves the use of divination, magic, and working with the classical elements and unseen forces such as spirits and the forces of nature. The practice of natural medicine, folk medicine, and spiritual healing is also common, as are alternative medical and New Age healing practices. Some schools of modern witchcraft, such as traditional forms of Wicca, are secretive and operate as initiatory secret societies. There have been a number of pagan practitioners such as Paul Huson claiming inheritance to non-Gardnerian traditions as well.
More recently a movement to recreate pre-Christian traditions has taken shape in polytheistic reconstructionism, including such practices as Divination, Seid and various forms of Shamanism.During the 20th century interest in witchcraft in English-speaking and European countries began to increase, inspired particularly by Margaret Murray's theory of a pan-European witch-cult originally published in 1921, since discredited by further careful historical research. Interest was intensified, however, by Gerald Gardner's claim in 1954 in Witchcraft Today that a form of witchcraft still existed in England. The truth of Gardner's claim is now disputed too, with different historians offering evidence for or against the religion's existence prior to Gardner.
The Wicca that Gardner initially taught was a witchcraft religion having a lot in common with Margaret Murray's hypothetically posited cult of the 1920s. Indeed Murray wrote an introduction to Gardner's Witchcraft Today, in effect putting her stamp of approval on it. Wicca is now practised as a religion of an initiatory secret society nature with positive ethical principles, organised into autonomous covens and led by a High Priesthood. There is also a large "Eclectic Wiccan" movement of individuals and groups who share key Wiccan beliefs but have no initiatory connection or affiliation with traditional Wicca. Wiccan writings and ritual show borrowings from a number of sources including 19th and 20th century ceremonial magic, the medieval grimoire known as the Key of Solomon, Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis and pre-Christian religions. Both men and women are equally termed "witches." They practice a form of duotheistic universalism.
Since Gardner's death in 1964 the Wicca that he claimed he was initiated into has attracted many initiates, becoming the largest of the various witchcraft traditions in the Western world, and has influenced other Neopagan and occult movements.Stregheria is an Italian witchcraft religion popularised in the 1980s by Raven Grimassi, who claims that it evolved within the ancient Etruscan religion of Italian peasants who worked under the Catholic upper classes.
Leland's account depicts the followers of Italian witchcraft as worshipping the Goddess Diana, along with her brother Dianus/Lucifer, and their (alleged) daughter Aradia (a claim which makes little sense, as Diana is said to be perpetually virginal). Leland's witches do not see Lucifer as the evil Satan of Christian myth, but a benevolent god of the sun and moon.
The ritual format of contemporary Stregheria is roughly similar to that of other Neo-Pagan witchcraft religions such as Wicca. The pentagram is the most common symbol of religious identity. Most followers celebrate a series of eight festivals equivalent to the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, though others follow the ancient Roman festivals. An emphasis is placed on ancestor worship.