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1 Concept

Witch redirects here. For other uses, see Witchcraft

(disambiguation) and Witch (disambiguation).
Witchcraft (also called witchery or spellcraft) broadly

The concept of witchcraft and the belief in its existence

has existed since the dawn of human history. It has been
present or central at various times, and in many diverse
forms, among cultures and religions worldwide, including both primitive and highly advanced cultures,[3]
and continues to have an important role in many cultures
today.[2] Scientically, the existence of magical powers
and witchcraft are generally believed to lack credence
and to be unsupported by high quality experimental testing, although individual witchcraft practices and eects
may be open to scientic explanation or explained via
mentalism and psychology.

Historically, the predominant concept of witchcraft in

the Western world derives from Old Testament laws
against witchcraft, and entered the mainstream when belief in witchcraft gained Church approval in the Early
Modern Period. It posits a theosophical conict between good and evil, where witchcraft was generally
evil and often associated with the Devil and Devil worship. This culminated in deaths, torture and scapegoating
(casting blame for human misfortune),[4][5] and many
years of large scale witch-trials and witch hunts, especially in Protestant Europe, before largely ceasing during the European Age of Enlightenment. Christian views
in the modern day are diverse and cover the gamut of
views from intense belief and opposition (especially from
Christian fundamentalists) to non-belief, and in some
churches even approval. From the mid-20th century,
Witches by Hans Baldung. Woodcut, 1508
witchcraft sometimes called contemporary witchcraft
to clearly distinguish it from older beliefs became the
means the practice of, and belief in, magical skills and name of a branch of modern paganism. It is most notably
abilities that are able to be exercised individually, by practiced in the Wiccan and modern[6]witchcraft traditions,
designated social groups, or by persons with the neces- and no longer practices in secrecy.
sary esoteric secret knowledge. Witchcraft is a com- The Western mainstream Christian view is far from the
plex concept that varies culturally and societally, there- only societal perspective about witchcraft. Many culfore it is dicult to dene with precision[1] and cross- tures worldwide continue to have widespread practices
cultural assumptions about the meaning or signicance of and cultural beliefs that are loosely translated into Enthe term should be applied with caution. Witchcraft of- glish as witchcraft, although the English translation
ten occupies a religious, divinatory, or medicinal role,[2] masks a very great diversity in their forms, magical beand is often present within societies and groups whose liefs, practices, and place in their societies. During the
cultural framework includes a magical world view.[1] Age of Colonialism, many cultures across the globe were
Although witchcraft can often share common ground exposed to the modern Western world via colonialism,
with related concepts such as sorcery, the paranormal, usually accompanied and often preceded by intensive
magic, superstition, necromancy, possession, shamanism, Christian missionary activity (see "Christianization"). Behealing, spiritualism, nature worship, and the occult, it liefs related to witchcraft and magic in these cultures were
is usually seen as distinct from these when examined by at times inuenced by the prevailing Western concepts.
sociologists and anthropologists.
Witch hunts, scapegoating, and killing or shunning of


suspected witches still occurs in the modern era,[7] with

killings both of victims for their supposedly magical body
parts, and of suspected witchcraft practitioners.
Suspicion of modern medicine due to beliefs about illness being due to witchcraft also continues in many countries to this day, with tragic healthcare consequences.
HIV/AIDS [8] and Ebola virus disease [9] are two examples of often-lethal infectious disease epidemics whose
medical care and containment has been severely hampered by regional beliefs in witchcraft. Other severe
medical conditions whose treatment is hampered in this
way include tuberculosis, leprosy, epilepsy and the common severe bacterial Buruli ulcer.[10][11] Public healthcare often requires considerable education work related
to epidemology and modern health knowledge in many
parts of the world where belief in witchcraft prevails,
to encourage eective preventive health measures and
treatments, to reduce victim blaming, shunning and
stigmatization, and to prevent the killing of people and
endangering of animal species for body parts believed to
convey magical abilities.

Etymology and denitions

Further information: Witch (word)

Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse, 1886

The word witchcraft derives from the Old English wic- 3.1 Alleged practices
cecrft, a compound of wicce (witch) and crft
Historically the witchcraft label has been applied to pracIn anthropological terminology, a witch diers from tices people believe inuence the mind, body, or property
a sorcerer in that they do not use physical tools or ac- of others against their willor practices that the person
tions to curse; their malecium is perceived as extend- doing the labeling believes undermine social or religious
ing from some intangible inner quality, and the person order. Some modern commentators believe the malec
may be unaware that they are a witch, or may have nature of witchcraft is a Christian projection. The conbeen convinced of their own nature by the suggestion cept of a magic-worker inuencing another persons body
of others.[13] This denition was pioneered in a study of or property against their will was clearly present in many
central African magical beliefs by E. E. Evans-Pritchard, cultures, as traditions in both folk magic and religious
who cautioned that it might not correspond with normal magic have the purpose of countering malicious magic
or identifying malicious magic users. Many examples
English usage.[14]
appear in ancient texts, such as those from Egypt and
Historians of European witchcraft have found the an- Babylonia. Malicious magic users can become a credible
thropological denition dicult to apply to European cause for disease, sickness in animals, bad luck, sudden
and British witchcraft, where witches could equally use death, impotence and other such misfortunes. Witchcraft
(or be accused of using) physical techniques, as well as of a more benign and socially acceptable sort may then
some who really had attempted to cause harm by thought be employed to turn the malevolence aside, or identify
alone.[15] European witchcraft is seen by historians and the supposed evil-doer so that punishment may be carried
anthropologists as an ideology for explaining misfortune; out. The folk magic used to identify or protect against
however, this ideology has manifested in diverse ways, as malicious magic users is often indistinguishable from that
described below.[16]
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


Good and evil

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 benecial magic is tolerated or even accepted wholesale by the
people even if the orthodox establishment opposes it.

Spell casting

Main article: Magic (paranormal)

Probably the most obvious characteristic of a witch was
the ability to cast a spell, spell being the word used to
signify the means employed to carry out 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.[17] 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 aect 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.[18]

and had lands and possessions conscated. The majority
of those accused were women, though in some regions the
majority were men.[23][24] Warlock is sometimes mistakenly used for male witch.[25] Accusations of witchcraft
were often combined with other charges of heresy against
such groups as the Cathars and Waldensians.
The Malleus Malecarum, (Latin for Hammer of The
Witches) was a witch-hunting manual written in 1486
by two German monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. It was used by both Catholics and
Protestants[26] for several hundred years, outlining how to
identify a witch, what makes a woman more likely than a
man to be a witch, how to put a witch on trial, and how to
punish a witch. The book denes a witch as evil and typically female. The book became the handbook for secular
courts throughout Renaissance Europe, but was not used
by the Inquisition, which even cautioned against relying
on the work,[27] and was later ocially condemned by
the Catholic Church in 1490.
In the modern Western world, witchcraft accusations
have often accompanied the satanic ritual abuse moral
panic. Such accusations are a counterpart to blood libel
of various kinds, which may be found throughout history
across the globe.
3.2.2 White witches


Necromancy (conjuring the dead)

Main article: White witch

Further information: Folk religion, Magical thinking and
Strictly speaking, "necromancy" is the practice of conShamanism
juring the spirits of the dead for divination or prophecy
Throughout the early modern period, the English term
although the term has also been applied to raising the
dead for other purposes. The biblical Witch of Endor
performed it (1 Sam. 28), and it is among the witchcraft
practices condemned by lfric of Eynsham:[19][20][21]
Witches still go to cross-roads and to heathen burials with their delusive magic and call
to the devil; and he comes to them in the likeness of the man that is buried there, as if he
arise from death.[22]


Good and evil


In Christianity and Islam, sorcery came to be associated with heresy and apostasy and to be viewed as evil.
Among the Catholics, Protestants, and secular leadership
of the European Late Medieval/Early Modern period,
fears about witchcraft rose to fever pitch, and sometimes
led to large-scale witch-hunts. Throughout this time, it
was increasingly believed that Christianity was engaged
in an apocalyptic battle against the Devil and his secret
army of witches, who had entered into a diabolical pact.
In total, tens or hundreds of thousands of people were executed, and others were imprisoned, tortured, banished,

A painting in the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, condemning

witchcraft and traditional folk magic

witch was not exclusively negative in meaning, and

could also indicate cunning folk. There were a number
of interchangeable terms for these practitioners, 'white',
'good', or 'unbinding' witches, blessers, wizards, sorcerers, however 'cunning-man' and 'wise-man' were the most
frequent.[28] The contemporary Reginald Scot noted,
At this day it is indierent to say in the English tongue,

'she is a witch' or 'she is a wise woman'".[29] Folk magicians throughout Europe were often viewed ambivalently
by communities, and were considered as capable of harming as of healing,[30] which could lead to their being accused as witches in the negative sense. Many English
witches convicted of consorting with demons seem to
have been cunning folk whose fairy familiars had been
demonised;[31] many French devins-guerisseurs (divinerhealers) were accused of witchcraft,[32] and over one
half the accused witches in Hungary seem to have been
Some of the healers and diviners historically accused
of witchcraft have considered themselves mediators between the mundane and spiritual worlds, roughly equivalent to shamans.[34] Such people described their contacts with fairies, spirits often involving out-of-body experiences and travelling through the realms of an otherworld.[35] 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 horned male
deity or 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.


The supernatural or night witch: portrayed in

court narratives as a demon appearing in visions and
Neighbourhood witches are the product of neighbourhood tensions, and are found only in self-sucient 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 exclusively; the supernatural
witch in particular often had nothing to do with communal conict, 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.[37]
3.3.1 Violence related to accusations

Belief in witchcraft continues to be present today in some

societies and accusations of witchcraft are the trigger of
serious forms of violence, including murder. Such incidents are common in places such as Burkina Faso, Ghana,
India, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal and Tanzania. Accusations
of witchcraft are sometimes linked to personal disputes,
jealousy, and conicts between neighbors or family over
3.3 Accusations of witchcraft
land or inheritance. Witchcraft related violence is ofva Pcs states that reasons for accusations of witchcraft ten discussed as a serious issue in the broader context of
violence against women.[38][39][40][41][42]
fall into four general categories:[16]
In Tanzania, about 500 older women are murdered each
1. A person was caught in the act of positive or negative year following accusations against them of witchcraft.[43]
Apart from extrajudicial violence, there is also statesorcery
sanctioned violence in some jurisdictions. For instance,
2. A well-meaning sorcerer or healer lost their clients in Saudi Arabia practicing 'witchcraft and sorcery' is a
or the authorities trust
crime punishable by death and the country has executed
people for this crime in 2011, 2012 and 2014.[44][45][46]
3. A person did nothing more than gain the enmity of
Children in some regions of the world, such as parts
their neighbours
of Africa, are also vulnerable to violence related to
4. A person was reputed to be a witch and surrounded witchcraft accusations.[47][48][49][50] Such incidents have
with an aura of witch-beliefs or Occultism
also occurred in immigrant communities in the UK, including the much publicized case of the murder of Victoria Climbi.[51][52]
She identies three varieties of witch in popular belief:
The neighbourhood witch or social witch": a 3.4 Contemporary witchcraft
witch who curses a neighbour following some conict.
Main articles:
Witchcraft (contemporary) and
The magical or sorcerer witch: either a professional healer, sorcerer, seer or midwife, or a per- Further information: Neoshamanism and Modern
son who has through magic increased her fortune paganism
to the perceived detriment of a neighbouring household; due to neighbourly or community rivalries and Modern practices identied by their practitioners as
the ambiguity between positive and negative magic, witchcraft have grown dramatically since the early
20th century. Generally portrayed as revivals of presuch individuals can become labelled as witches.


Contemporary Witchcraft contrasted with Satanism

Christian European ritual and spirituality, they are understood to involve varying degrees of magic, shamanism,
folk medicine, spiritual healing, calling on elementals and
spirits, veneration of ancient deities and archetypes, and
attunement with the forces of nature.

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.

The rst Neopagan groups to publicly appear, during the

1950s and 60s, were Gerald Gardner's Bricket Wood
coven and Roy Bowers' Clan of Tubal Cain. They operated as initiatory secret societies. Other individual practitioners and writers such as Paul Huson[53] also claimed
inheritance to surviving traditions of witchcraft.[54]

Modern Stregheria closely resembles Charles Leland's

controversial late-19th-century account of a surviving
Italian religion of witchcraft, worshipping the Goddess
Diana, her brother Dianus/Lucifer, and their daughter
Aradia. Lelands witches do not see Lucifer as the evil
Satan that Christians see, but a benevolent god of the Sun
and Moon.

The ritual format of contemporary Stregheria is roughly

similar to that of other Neopagan witchcraft religions
3.4.1 Wicca
such as Wicca. The pentagram is the most common symbol of religious identity. Most followers celebrate a series
Main article: Wicca
of eight festivals equivalent to the Wiccan Wheel of the
Year, though others follow the ancient Roman festivals.
During the 20th century, interest in witchcraft in English- An emphasis is placed on ancestor worship.
speaking and European countries began to increase, inspired particularly by Margaret Murray's theory of a
pan-European witch-cult originally published in 1921, 3.4.3 Feri Tradition
since discredited by further careful historical research.[55]
Interest was intensied, however, by Gerald Gardners Main article: Feri Tradition
claim in 1954 in Witchcraft Today that a form of
witchcraft still existed in England. The truth of Gard- The Feri Tradition is a modern traditional witchcraft
ners claim is now disputed too, with dierent historians practice founded by Victor Henry Anderson and his wife
oering evidence for[56][57] or against[58][59][60] the reli- Cora. It is an ecstatic tradition which places strong emgions existence prior to Gardner.
phasis on sensual experience and awareness, including
The Wicca that Gardner initially taught was a witchcraft sexual mysticism, which is not limited to heterosexual exreligion having a lot in common with Margaret Murrays pression.
hypothetically posited cult of the 1920s.[61] Indeed Murray wrote an introduction to Gardners Witchcraft Today,
in eect 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 aliation with traditional Wicca. Wiccan writings and ritual show borrowings from a number of sources including 19th and 20thcentury ceremonial magic, the medieval grimoire known
as the Key of Solomon, Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi
Orientis and pre-Christian religions.[62][63][64] Both men
and women are equally termed witches. They practice
a form of duotheistic universalism.

Most practitioners worship three main deities; the Star

Goddess, and two divine twins, one of whom is the blue
God. They believe that there are three parts to the human
soul, a belief taken from the Hawaiian religion of Huna
as described by Max Freedom Long.

3.5 Contemporary Witchcraft contrasted

with Satanism

Main articles: Satanism and Satanism and Witchcraft

Satanism is a broad term referring to diverse beliefs
that share a symbolic association with, or admiration for,
Satan, who is seen as a liberating gure. While it is heir to
the same historical period and pre-Enlightenment beliefs
that gave rise to modern witchcraft, it is generally seen as
completely separate from modern witchcraft and Wicca,
Since Gardners death in 1964, the Wicca that he claimed
and has little or no connection to them.
he was initiated into has attracted many initiates, becoming the largest of the various witchcraft traditions in the Modern witchcraft considers Satanism to be the dark
Western world, and has inuenced other Neopagan and side of Christianity rather than a branch of Wicca: - the
character of Satan referenced in Satanism exists only in
occult movements.
the theology of the three Abrahamic religions, and Satanism arose as, and occupies the role of, a rebellious
3.4.2 Stregheria
counterpart to Christianity, in which all is permitted and
the self is central. (Christianity can be characterized as
Main article: Stregheria
having the diametrically opposite views to these.)[65] Such
beliefs become more visibly expressed in Europe after


4 Historical and religious perspectives

4.1 Abrahamic religions
The belief in sorcery and its practice seem to have been
widespread in the Ancient Near East. It played a conspicuous role in the cultures of ancient Egypt and in
Babylonia, with the latter composing an Akkadian antiwitchcraft ritual, the Maql. A section from the Code of
Hammurabi (about 2000 B.C.) prescribes:
If a man has put a spell upon another man
and it is not justied, he upon whom the spell is
laid shall go to the holy river; into the holy river
shall he plunge. If the holy river overcome him
and he is drowned, the man who put the spell
upon him shall take possession of his house.
If the holy river declares him innocent and he
remains unharmed the man who laid the spell
shall be put to death. He that plunged into the
river shall take possession of the house of him
who laid the spell upon him.[77]

Eliphas Lvis Sabbatic goat (known as The Goat of Mendes or

Baphomet) is one of Satanisms most common symbols.

4.1.1 Hebrew Bible

Main article: Witchcraft and divination in the Bible
According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:

the Enlightenment, when works such as Milton's Paradise

Lost were described anew by romantics who suggested
that they presented the biblical Satan as an allegory representing crisis of faith, individualism, free will, wisdom
and enlightenment; a few works from that time also begin
to directly present Satan in a less negative light, such as
Letters from the Earth. The two major trends are theistic
Satanism and atheistic Satanism; the former venerates Satan as a supernatural patriarchal deity, while the latter
views Satan as merely a symbolic embodiment of certain
human traits.[66]
Organized groups began to emerge in the mid 20th century, including the Ophite Cultus Satanas (1948)[67] and
The Church of Satan (1966). It was estimated that there
were up to 100,000 Satanists worldwide by 2006, twice
the number estimated in 1990.[68] Satanistic beliefs have
been largely permitted as a valid expression of religious
belief in the West. For example, they were allowed
in the British Royal Navy in 2004,[69][70][71] and an appeal was considered in 2005 for religious status as a
right of prisoners by the Supreme Court of the United
States.[72][73] Contemporary Satanism is mainly an American phenomenon,[74] although it began to reach Eastern
Europe in the 1990s around the time of the fall of the
Soviet Union.[75][76]

In the Holy Scripture references to sorcery

are frequent, and the strong condemnations of
such practices found there do not seem to be
based so much upon the supposition of fraud as
upon the abomination of the magic in itself.[78]
The King James Bible uses the words witch,
witchcraft, and witchcrafts to translate the Masoretic
( kashaph or kesheph) and ( qesem);[79] these
same English terms are used to translate
(pharmakeia) in the Greek New Testament text. Verses
such as Deuteronomy 18:1112 and Exodus 22:18
(Thou shalt not suer a witch to live) thus provided
scriptural justication for Christian witch hunters in the
early Modern Age (see Christian views on magic).
The precise meaning of the Hebrew kashaph, usually
translated as witch or sorceress, is uncertain. In the
Septuagint, it was translated as pharmakeia or pharmakous. In the 16th century, Reginald Scot, a prominent
critic of the witch-trials, translated kashaph, pharmakeia,
and their Latin Vulgate equivalent venecos as all meaning poisoner, and on this basis, claimed that witch was
an incorrect translation and poisoners were intended.[80]
His theory still holds some currency, but is not widely
accepted, and in Daniel 2:2 kashaph is listed alongside


Abrahamic religions

4.1.2 New Testament
See also: Christian views on magic
The New Testament condemns the practice as an abomination, just as the Old Testament had (Galatians 5:20,
compared with Revelation 21:8; 22:15; and Acts 8:9;
13:6), though the overall topic of Biblical law in Christianity is still disputed. The word in most New Testament translations is sorcerer"/"sorcery rather than
4.1.3 Judaism
See also: Witchcraft and divination in the Hebrew Bible

Execution of alleged witches, 1587

other magic practitioners who could interpret dreams:

magicians, astrologers, and Chaldeans. Suggested derivations of Kashaph include mutterer (from a single root) or
herb user (as a compound word formed from the roots
kash, meaning herb, and hapaleh, meaning using).
The Greek pharmakeia literally means herbalist or one
who uses or administers drugs, but it was used virtually
synonymously with mageia and goeteia as a term for a
The Bible provides some evidence that these commandments against sorcery were enforced under the Hebrew
And Saul disguised himself, and put on
other raiment, and he went, and two men with
him, and they came to the woman by night:
and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by
the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom
I shall name unto thee. And the woman said
unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath
done, how he hath cut o those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land:
wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life,
to cause me to die?[82]

Jewish law views the practice of witchcraft as being laden

with idolatry and/or necromancy; both being serious theological and practical oenses in Judaism. Although
Maimonides vigorously denied the ecacy of all methods
of witchcraft, and claimed that the Biblical prohibitions
regarding it were precisely to wean the Israelites from
practices related to idolatry, according to Traditional Judaism, it is acknowledged that while magic exists, it is
forbidden to practice it on the basis that it usually involves the worship of other gods. Rabbis of the Talmud also condemned magic when it produced something
other than illusion, giving the example of two men who
use magic to pick cucumbers (Sanhedrin 67a). The one
who creates the illusion of picking cucumbers should not
be condemned, only the one who actually picks the cucumbers through magic. However, some of the Rabbis
practiced magic themselves or taught the subject. For
instance, Rabbah created a person and sent him to Rabbi
Zera, and Rabbi Hanina and Rabbi Oshaya studied every
Friday together and created a small calf to eat on Shabbat
(Sanhedrin 67b). In these cases, the magic was seen
more as divine miracles (i.e., coming from God rather
than unclean forces) than as witchcraft.
Judaism does make it clear that Jews shall not try to
learn about the ways of witches (Deuteronomy/Devarim
18: 910) and that witches are to be put to death.
(Exodus/Shemot 22:17)
Judaisms most famous reference to a medium is undoubtedly the Witch of Endor whom Saul consults, as
recounted in the First Book of Samuel, chapter 28.
4.1.4 Islam

Note that the Hebrew word ob, translated as familiar spirit

in the above quotation, has a dierent meaning than the
usual English sense of the phrase; namely, it refers to a
spirit that the woman is familiar with, rather than to a
spirit that physically manifests itself in the shape of an

Divination, and magic or sorcery in Islam, encompass

a wide range of practices, including black magic, warding o the evil eye, the production of amulets and other
magical equipment, conjuring, casting lots,and astrology.


Muslims do commonly believe in magic (Sihr) and explicitly forbid its practice. Sihr translates from Arabic
as sorcery or black magic. The best known reference to
magic in Islam is the Surah Al-Falaq (meaning dawn or
daybreak), which is known as a prayer to Allah to ward
o black magic.
Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of the
Dawn From the mischief of created things;
From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads; From the mischief of those who practise secret arts; And from the mischief of the
envious one as he practises envy. (Quran

ruqya contains verses of the Qur'an as well as prayers

specically targeted against demons. The knowledge of
which verses of the Qur'an to use in what way is what is
considered magic knowledge.
A Hadeeth recorded by Al-Bukhari narrates that one who
has eaten seven Ajwa dates in the morning will not be
adversely aected by magic in the course of that day.
Students of the history of religion have linked several
magical practises in Islam with pre-Islamic Turkish and
East African customs. Most notable of these customs is
the Zar Ceremony.[83][84]

5 By region

Also according to the Quran:

And they follow that which the devils
falsely related against the kingdom of Solomon.
Solomon disbelieved not; but the devils disbelieved, teaching mankind sorcery and that
which was revealed to the two angels in Babel, Harut and Marut ... And surely they do
know that he who tracketh therein will have
no (happy) portion in the Hereafter; and surely
evil is the price for which they sell their souls,
if they but knew. (al-Qur'an 2:102)

5.1 Africa
Further information: Witchcraft and children and Witch
Children in Africa
The term witch doctor, a common translation for the
South African Zulu word inyanga, has been misconstrued
to mean a healer who uses witchcraft rather than its
original meaning of one who diagnoses and cures maladies caused by witches.

However, whereas performing miracles in Islamic

thought and belief is reserved for only Messengers and
Prophets, supernatural acts are also believed to be performed by Awliyaa the spiritually accomplished. Disbelief in the miracles of the Prophets is considered an act
of disbelief; belief in the miracles of any given pious individual is not. Neither are regarded as magic, but as signs
of Allah at the hands of those close to Him that occur by
His will and His alone.
Some Muslim practitioners believe that they may seek the
help of the Jinn (singularjinni) in magic. It is a common belief that jinn can possess a human, thus requiring
Exorcism. Still, the practice of seeking help to the Jinn
is prohibited and regarded the same as seeking help to a
The belief in jinn is part of the Muslim faith. Imam Muslim narrated the Prophet said: Allah created the angels
from light, created the jinn from the pure ame of re,
and Adam from that which was described to you (i.e., the
clay.)". Also in the Quran, chapter of Jinn:
And persons from among men used to
seek refuge with persons from among the jinn,
so they increased them in evil doing.
(The Qur'an) (72:6)
Shona witchdoctor (n'anga) in Zimbabwe

To cast o the jinn from the body of the possessed, the In Southern African traditions, there are three classicaruqya, which is from the Prophets sunnah is used. The tions of somebody who uses magic. The thakathi is usu-



ally improperly translated into English as witch, and is

a spiteful person who operates in secret to harm others.
The sangoma is a diviner, somewhere on a par with a
fortune teller, and is employed in detecting illness, predicting a persons future (or advising them on which path
to take), or identifying the guilty party in a crime. She
also practices some degree of medicine. The inyanga is
often translated as witch doctor (though many Southern Africans resent this implication, as it perpetuates the
mistaken belief that a witch doctor is in some sense a
practitioner of malicious magic). The inyanga's job is to
heal illness and injury and provide customers with magical items for everyday use. Of these three categories the
thakatha is almost exclusively female, the sangoma is usually female, and the inyanga is almost exclusively male.

around 1000 women.[89] Some of the camps are thought
to have been set up over 100 years ago.[89] The Ghanaian government has announced that it intends to close the
camps and educate the population regarding the fact that
witches do not exist.[89]
In April 2008, in Kinshasa, the police arrested 14 suspected victims (of penis snatching) and sorcerers accused
of using black magic or witchcraft to steal (make disappear) or shrink mens penises to extort cash for cure, amid
a wave of panic.[90] Arrests were made in an eort to
avoid bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12
alleged penis snatchers were beaten to death by mobs.[91]
While it is easy for modern people to dismiss such reports, Uchenna Okeja argues that a belief system in which
such magical practices are deemed possible oer many
benets to Africans who hold them. For example, the belief that a sorcerer has stolen a mans penis functions as
an anxiety-reduction mechanism for men suering from
impotence while simultaneously providing an explanation
that is consistent with African cultural beliefs rather than
appealing to Western scientic notions that are tainted by
the history of colonialism (at least for many Africans).[92]

Much of what witchcraft represents in Africa has been

susceptible to misunderstandings and confusion, thanks
in no small part to a tendency among western scholars
since the time of the now largely discredited Margaret
Murray to approach the subject through a comparative
lens vis-a-vis European witchcraft.[85] Okeja argues that
witchcraft in Africa today plays a very dierent social role than in Europe of the pastor presentand It was reported on May 21, 2008 that in Kenya, a mob had
should be understood through an African rather than post- burnt to death at least 11 people accused of witchcraft.[93]
colonial Western lens.
In Tanzania in 2008, President Kikwete publicly conIn some Central African areas, malicious magic users are demned witchdoctors for killing albinos for their body
believed by locals to be the source of terminal illness such parts, which are thought to bring good luck. 25 albias AIDS and cancer. In such cases, various methods are nos have been murdered since March 2007.[94] In Tanused to rid the person from the bewitching spirit, occa- zania, albinos are often murdered for their body parts on
sionally physical and psychological abuse. Children may the advice of witch doctors in order to produce powerful
be accused of being witches, for example a young niece amulets that are believed to protect against witchcraft and
may be blamed for the illness of a relative. Most of these make the owner prosper in life.[95] Every year, hundreds
cases of abuse go unreported since the members of the of people in the Central African Republic are convicted
society that witness such abuse are too afraid of being of witchcraft.[96]
accused of being accomplices. It is also believed that Complimentary remarks about witchcraft by a native
witchcraft can be transmitted to children by feeding. Par- Congolese initiate: From witchcraft ... may be develents discourage their children from interacting with peo- oped the remedy (kimbuki) that will do most to raise up
ple believed to be witches.
our country.[97] Witchcraft ... deserves respect ... it can
As of 2006, between 25,000 and 50,000 children in
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, had been
accused of witchcraft and thrown out of their homes.[86]
These children have been subjected to often-violent abuse
during exorcisms, sometimes supervised by self-styled
religious pastors. Other pastors and Christian activist
strongly oppose such accusations and try to rescue children from their unscrupulous colleagues.[87] The usual
term for these children is enfants sorciers (child witches)
or enfants dits sorciers (children accused of witchcraft).
In 2002, USAID funded the production of two short lms
on the subject, made in Kinshasa by journalists Angela
Nicoara and Mike Ormsby.[88]
In Ghana, women are often accused of witchcraft and
attacked by neighbours. Because of this, there exist six
witch camps in the country where women suspected of
being witches can ee for safety.[89] The witch camps,
which exist solely in Ghana, are thought to house a total of

embellish or redeem (ketula evo vuukisa).[98] The ancestors were equipped with the protective witchcraft of
the clan (kindoki kiandundila kanda). ... They could also
gather the power of animals into their hands ... whenever
they needed. ... If we could make use of these kinds of
witchcraft, our country would rapidly progress in knowledge of every kind.[99] You witches (zindoki) too, bring
your science into the light to be written down so that ...
the benets in it ... endow our race.[100]
Among the Mende (of Sierra Leone), trial and conviction for witchcraft has a benecial eect for those convicted. The witchnder had warned the whole village
to ensure the relative prosperity of the accused and sentenced ... old people. ... Six months later all of the people
... accused, were secure, well-fed and arguably happier
than at any [previous] time; they had hardly to beckon
and people would come with food or whatever was needful. ... Instead of such old and widowed people being left



helpless or (as in Western society) institutionalized in old

peoples homes, these were reintegrated into society and
left secure in their old age ... . ... Old people are 'suitable' candidates for this kind of accusation in the sense
that they are isolated and vulnerable, and they are 'suitable' candidates for 'social security' for precisely the same
In Nigeria, several Pentecostal pastors have mixed their
evangelical brand of Christianity with African beliefs in
witchcraft to benet from the lucrative witch nding and
exorcism businesswhich in the past was the exclusive
domain of the so-called witch doctor or traditional healers. These pastors have been involved in the torturing and
even killing of children accused of witchcraft.[102] Over
the past decade, around 15,000 children have been accused, and around 1,000 murdered. Churches are very
numerous in Nigeria, and competition for congregations
is hard. Some pastors attempt to establish a reputation for
spiritual power by detecting child witches, usually following a death or loss of a job within a family, or an accusation of nancial fraud against the pastor. In the course
of exorcisms, accused children may be starved, beaten,
mutilated, set on re, forced to consume acid or cement,
or buried alive. While some church leaders and Christian
activists have spoken out strongly against these abuses,
many Nigerian churches are involved in the abuse, although church administrations deny knowledge of it.[103]
In Malawi it is also common practice to accuse children
of witchcraft and many children have been abandoned,
abused and even killed as a result. As in other African
countries both African traditional healers and their Christian counterparts are trying to make a living out of exorcising children and are actively involved in pointing out
children as witches.[104] Various secular and Christian organizations are combining their eorts to address this

Examination of a Witch by T. H. Matteson, inspired by the Salem

witch trials

men were executed in a witch-hunt that lasted throughout

New England from 16451663.[108]
The Salem witch trials followed in 169293. These witch
trials were the most famous in British North America
and took place in the coastal settlements near Salem,
Massachusetts. Prior to the witch trials, nearly 300
men and women (mostly women) had been suspected
of partaking in witchcraft and over 30 of these people
were hanged.[109] 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, Suolk 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 29 people of the capital
felony of witchcraft. Nineteen of the accused, 14 women
and 5 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 ve more of the
accused died in prison.

Also in Malawi, according to William Kamkwamba,

witches and wizards are afraid of money, which they consider a rival evil. Any contact with cash will snap their
Despite being generally known as the Salem witch trispell and leave the wizard naked and confused. So placals, the preliminary hearings in 1692 were conducted
ing cash, such as kwacha around a room or bed mat will
in a variety of towns across the province: Salem Vil[106]
protect the resident from their malevolent spells.
lage, 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.
5.2 Americas
All 26 who went to trial before this court were convicted. The four sessions of the Superior Court of Judi5.2.1 North America
cature in 1693, held in Salem Town, but also in Ipswich,
Boston, and Charlestown, produced only 3 convictions in
In 1645, Springeld, Massachusetts, experienced Amer- the 31 witchcraft trials it conducted. Likewise, alleged
icas rst accusations of witchcraft when husband and witchcraft was not isolated to New England. In 1706
wife Hugh and Mary Parsons accused each other of Grace Sherwood the Witch of Pungo was imprisoned
witchcraft. At Americas rst witch trial, Hugh was found for the crime in Princess Anne County, Virginia.
innocent, while Mary was acquitted of witchcraft but sentenced to be hanged for the death of her child. She Accusations of witchcraft and wizardry led to the
of a man in Tennessee as recently as
died in prison.[107] From 16451663, about eighty people prosecution
throughout Englands Massachusetts Bay Colony were accused of practicing witchcraft. Thirteen women and two Author C. J. Stevens wrote The Supernatural Side of




Maine, a 2002 book about witches and people from ing the several denunciations and confessions given to
Maine who faced the supernatural.
the Holy Oce of Bahia (15911593), Pernambuco and
Paraiba (15931595).[116]

5.3 Asia
Main article: Asian witchcraft

5.3.1 India
Belief in the supernatural is strong in all parts of India,
and lynchings for witchcraft are reported in the press
from time to time.[117] Around 750 people were killed
as witches in Assam and West Bengal between 2003 and
2008.[118] Ocials in the state of Chhattisgarh reported
in 2008 that at least 100 women are maltreated annually
as suspected witches.[119] A local activist stated that only
a fraction of cases of abuse are reported.[120]
5.3.2 Japan

Ordeal by water was associated with the witch-hunts of the 16th

and 17th centuries: an accused who sank was considered innocent, while oating indicated witchcraft.

Witchcraft was also an important part of the social and

cultural history of late-Colonial Mexico. Spanish Inquisitors viewed witchcraft as a problem that could be
cured simply through confession. Yet, as anthropologist
Ruth Behar writes, witchcraft, not only in Mexico but
in Latin America in general, was a conjecture of sexuality, witchcraft, and religion, in which Spanish, indigenous, and African cultures converged.[113] Furthermore,
witchcraft in Mexico generally required an interethnic
and interclass network of witches.[114] Yet, according to
anthropology professor Laura Lewis, witchcraft in colonial Mexico ultimately represented an armation of
hegemony for women, Indians, and especially Indian
women over their white male counterparts as a result of
the casta system.[115]
Okabe The cat witch


South America

In Japanese folklore, the most common types of witch

can be separated into two categories: those who employ
In Chile there is a tradition of the Kalku in the Mapuche snakes as familiars, and those who employ foxes.[121]
mythology; and Witches of Chilo in the folklore and The fox witch is, by far, the most commonly seen witch
Chilote mythology.
gure in Japan. Diering regional beliefs set those who
The presence of the witch is a constant in the use foxes into two separate types: the kitsune-mochi, and
ethnographic history of colonial Brazil, especially dur- the tsukimono-suji. The rst of these, the kitsune-mochi,



is a solitary gure who gains his fox familiar by bribing

it with its favourite foods. The kitsune-mochi then strikes
up a deal with the fox, typically promising food and daily
care in return for the foxs magical services. The fox of
Japanese folklore is a powerful trickster in and of itself,
imbued with powers of shape changing, possession, and
illusion. These creatures can be either nefarious; disguising themselves as women in order to trap men, or they
can be benign forces as in the story of The Grateful
foxes.[122] However, once a fox enters the employ of a
human it almost exclusively becomes a force of evil to be
feared. A fox under the employ of a human can provide
many services. The fox can turn invisible and nd secrets
its master desires. It can apply its many powers of illusion to trick and deceive its masters enemies. The most
feared power of the kitsune-mochi is the ability to command his fox to possess other humans. This process of
possession is called Kitsunetsuki.
By far, the most commonly reported cases of fox
witchcraft in modern Japan are enacted by tsukimono-suji
families, or hereditary witches.[123] The Tsukimono-suji
is traditionally a family who is reported to have foxes under their employ. These foxes serve the family and are
passed down through the generations, typically through
the female line. Tsukimono-suji foxes are able to supply
much in the way of the same mystical aid that the foxes
under the employ of a kitsune-mochi can provide its more
solitary master with. In addition to these powers, if the
foxes are kept happy and well taken care of, they bring
great fortune and prosperity to the Tsukimono-suji house.
However, the aid in which these foxes give is often overshadowed by the social and mystical implications of being
a member of such a family. In many villages, the status of
local families as tsukimono-suji is often common, everyday knowledge. Such families are respected and feared,
but are also openly shunned. Due to its hereditary nature,
the status of being Tsukimono-suji is considered contagious. Because of this, it is often impossible for members of such a family to sell land or other properties, due
to fear that the possession of such items will cause foxes
to inundate ones own home. In addition to this, because
the foxes are believed to be passed down through the female line, it is often nearly impossible for women of such
families to nd a husband whose family will agree to have
him married to a tsukimono-suji family. In such a union
the womans status as a Tsukimono-suji would transfer to
any man who married her.



5.3.4 Philippines
Witchcraft in the Philippines is often classied as
malevolent, with practitioners of black magic called
Mangkukulam in Tagalog and Mambabarang in Cebuano;
there are also practitioners of benevolent, white magic,
with some practising both. Mambabarang in particular
are noted for their ability to command insects and other
invertebrates to accomplish a task, such as delivering a
curse to a target.
Magic and witchcraft in the Philippines varies considerably across the dierent ethnic groups, and is commonly
a modern manifestation of pre-Colonial spirituality interwoven with Catholic religious elements such as the invocation of saints and the use of pseudo-Latin prayers
(oracin) in spells, and anting-anting (amulets).
Practitioners of traditional herbal-based medicine and
divination called albularyo are not considered witches.
They are perceived to be either quack doctors or a quasimagical option when western medicine fails to identify or
cure an ailment that is thus suspected to be of malevolent, supernatural origin (often the work of black magic).
Feng shui, an inuence from Filipino Chinese culture, is
also not classied as witchcraft, and it is seen as a separate
realm of belief altogether.
5.3.5 Pakistan
In Pakistani mythology, a common perception of a witch
is a being with her feet pointed backwards.
5.3.6 Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia continues to use the death penalty for sorcery. In 2006 Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali was condemned to death for practicing witchcraft.[125] There is
no legal denition of sorcery in Saudi, but in 2007 an
Egyptian pharmacist working there was accused, convicted, and executed. Saudi authorities also pronounced
the death penalty on a Lebanese television presenter, Ali
Hussain Sibat, while he was performing the hajj (Islamic
pilgrimage) in the country.[126]
In April 2009, a Saudi woman Amina Bint Abdulhalim
Nassar was arrested and later sentenced to death for practicing witchcraft and sorcery. In December 2011, she
was beheaded.[127] A Saudi man has been beheaded on
charges of sorcery and witchcraft in June 2012.[128] A beheading for socercy occurred in 2014.[46]
5.3.7 Tocharians

An expedition sent to what is now the Xinjiang region

MPs in Kuwait have proposed to use death penalty for of western China by the PBS documentary series Nova
sorcery.[124] Ethiopians have been deported for practising found a fully clothed female Tocharian mummy wearing a
black conical hat of the type now associated with witches




in Europe in the storage area of a small local museum,

indicative of an Indo-European priestess.[129]



Main articles: European witchcraft and Witch trials in

Early Modern Europe
In Early Modern European tradition, witches were
Burning of witches. Current scholarly estimates of the number of
people executed for witchcraft vary between about 40,000 and
100,000.[130] The total number of witch trials in Europe known
for certain to have ended in executions is around 12,000.[131]

the goddess Diana and dismissed as diabolical fantasies

by medieval Christian authors.[133] Witch-hunts rst appeared in large numbers in southern France and Switzerland during the 14th and 15th centuries. The peak years
of witch-hunts in southwest Germany were from 1561 to
The familiar witch of folklore and popular superstition is
a combination of numerous inuences. The characterization of the witch as an evil magic user developed over
Early converts to Christianity looked to Christian clergy
to work magic more eectively 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.[135]
The Protestant Christian explanation for witchcraft, such
as those typied in the confessions of the Pendle witches,
commonly involves a diabolical pact or at least an appeal
to the intervention of the spirits of evil. The witches or
Albrecht Drer circa 1500: Witch Riding Backwards On A Goat wizards engaged in such practices were alleged to reject
Jesus and the sacraments; observe "the witches sabbath"
(performing infernal rites that 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
Devils Mark, like the brand on cattle, was placed upon
a witchs skin by the devil to signify that this pact had
been made.[136] Witches were most often characterized
as women. Witches disrupted the societal institutions,
and more specically, 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 childrens
well-being, or revenge against a lover. They were also
depicted as lustful and perverted, and it was thought that
During the Christianisation of Norway, King Olaf Trygvasson
they copulated with the devil at the Sabbath.
had male vlvas (shamans) tied up and left on a skerry at ebb.

The Church and European society were not always so

stereotypically, though not exclusively, women.[23][132] zealous in hunting witches or blaming them for misforEuropean pagan belief in witchcraft was associated with tunes. Saint Boniface declared in the 8th century that be-



lief 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,
y 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. Other rulers such
as King Coloman of Hungary declared that witch-hunts
should cease because witches (more specically, strigas)
do not exist.

Burning witches, with others held in Stocks, 14th century

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 (188BC186BC).

Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos: Linda maestra! (The Follies:

Beautiful Teacher!") witches heading to a Sabbath

witches and objected to the accusation that they were


Powers typically attributed to European witches include

turning food poisonous or inedible, ying on broomsticks
or pitchforks, casting spells, cursing people, making liveHowever, even at a later date, not all witches were as- stock ill and crops fail, and creating fear and local chaos.
sumed 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 wise
man. The term witch doctor was in use in England be- 5.4.1 Spain
fore it came to be associated with Africa. Toad doctors
were also credited with the ability to undo evil witchcraft. Main articles: Akelarre (witchcraft) and Catalan mythol(Other folk magicians had their own purviews. Girdle- ogy about witches
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.) Franciscan friars from New Spain introduced Diabolism,
belief in the devil, to the indigenous people after their arrival in 1524.[138] Bartolom de las Casas believed that
In the north of England, the superstition
human sacrice was not diabolic, in fact far o from
lingers to an almost inconceivable extent. Lanit, and was a natural result of religious expression.[138]
cashire abounds with witch-doctors, a set of
Mexican Indians gladly took in the belief of Diabolism
quacks, who pretend to cure diseases inicted
and still managed to keep their belief in creator-destroyer
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.[137]
Such cunning-folk did not refer to themselves as

5.5 Oceania


Cook Islands

In pre-Christian times, witchcraft was a common practice in the Cook Islands. The native name for a sorcerer
was tangata purepure (a man who prays). The prayers offered by the ta'unga (priests)[140] to the gods worshiped on
national or tribal marae (temples) were termed karakia;
those on minor occasions to the lesser gods were named
pure. All these prayers were metrical, and were handed
down from generation to generation with the utmost care.
There were prayers for every such phase in life; for success in battle; for a change in wind (to overwhelm an adversary at sea, or that an intended voyage be propitious);
that his crops may grow; to curse a thief; or wish ill-luck
and death to his foes. Few men of middle age were without a number of these prayers or charms. The succession
of a sorcerer was from father to son, or from uncle to
nephew. So too of sorceresses: it would be from mother
to daughter, or from aunt to niece. Sorcerers and sorceresses were often slain by relatives of their supposed

Papua New Guinea

A local newspaper informed that more than 50 people

were killed in two Highlands provinces of Papua New
Guinea in 2008 for allegedly practicing witchcraft.[142]



The Russian word for witch, (ved'ma) literally

means one who knows, from Old Slavic to

faithful, lovers would cut a ribbon the length of his erect
penis and soak it in his seminal emissions after sex while
he was sleeping, then tie seven knots in it; keeping this
talisman of knot magic ensured loyalty.[148] Part of an ancient pagan marriage tradition involved the bride taking a
ritual bath at a bathhouse before the ceremony. Her sweat
would be wiped from her body using raw sh, and the sh
would be cooked and fed to the groom.[149]
Demonism, or black magic, was not prevalent. Persecution for witchcraft, mostly involved the practice of simple earth magic, founded on herbology, by solitary practitioners with a Christian inuence. In one case investigators found a locked box containing something bundled
in a kerchief and three paper packets, wrapped and tied,
containing crushed grasses.[150] Most rituals of witchcraft
were very simpleone spell of divination consists of sitting alone outside meditating, asking the earth to show
your fate.[151]
While these customs were unique to Russian culture, they
were not exclusive to this region. Russian pagan practices
were often akin to paganism in other parts of the world.
The Chinese concept of chi, a form of energy that often
manipulated in witchcraft, is known as bioplasma in Russian practices.[152] The western concept of an evil eye
or a hex was translated to Russia as a spoiler.[153] A
spoiler was rooted in envy, jealousy and malice. Spoilers
could be made by gathering bone from a cemetery, a knot
of the targets hair, burned wooden splinters and several
herb Paris berries (which are very poisonous). Placing
these items in sachet in the victims pillow completes a
spoiler. The Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and the
ancient Egyptians recognized the evil eye from as early as
3,000 BCE; in Russian practices it is seen as a sixteenthcentury concept.[154]


Pagan practices formed a part of Russian and Eastern

Slavic culture; the Russian people were deeply superstitious. The witchcraft practiced consisted mostly of earth
magic and herbology; it was not so signicant which
herbs were used in practices, but how these herbs were
gathered. Ritual centered on harvest of the crops and the
location of the sun was very important.[144] One source,
pagan author Judika Illes, tells that herbs picked on Midsummers Eve were believed to be most powerful, especially if gathered on Bald Mountain near Kiev during the witches annual revels celebration.[145] Botanicals
should be gathered, During the seventeenth minute of
the fourteenth hour, under a dark moon, in the thirteenth
eld, wearing a red dress, pick the twelfth ower on the
Spells also served for midwifery, shape-shifting, keeping
lovers faithful, and bridal customs. Spells dealing with
midwifery and childbirth focused on the spiritual wellbeing of the baby.[146] Shape-shifting spells involved invocation of the wolf as a spirit animal.[147] To keep men

5.6.2 Baba Yaga rituals

The most well-known aspect of Russian witchcraft is arguably the folklore of Baba Yaga. Sixteenth-century legend portrays Baba Yaga as all-knowing and connected
to death and contemplation. It was also said that she
devoured children. Baba Yaga is often depicted as a
guardian of the fountain of water and life, in triple form
with two sisters. The concept of the triple Goddess also
occurs in Egyptian, Celtic, and Greek witchcraft.[155]
While altars to deities are usually constructed to invoke
or evoke the subject, altars to Baba Yaga are only for
contemplation. Legend does not recommend contacting
Baba Yaga because she is unforgiving and does not have
time to waste. An altar to Baba would consist of birch
wood and leaves, animal imagery, mortar, pestle, broom,
and food and drink. Because Baba Yaga is always hungry, food and drink are especially recommended. Her
favorites are Russian coulibiac, samovar with blocks of
ne Russian tea, and water pipes.[156]


Societal view of witchcraft

The dominant societal concern re those practicing

witchcraft was not whether paganism was eective, but
whether it could cause harm.[157] Peasants in Russian
and Ukrainian societies often shunned witchcraft, unless
they needed help against supernatural forces. Impotence,
stomach pains, barrenness, hernias, abscesses, epileptic
seizures, and convulsions were all attributed to evil (or
witchcraft). This is reected in linguistics; there are numerous words for a variety of practitioners of paganismbased healers. Russian peasants referred to a witch as a
chernoknizhnik (a person who plied his trade with the aid
of a black book), sheptun/sheptun'ia (a whisperer male
or female), lekar/lekarka or znakhar/znakharka (a male
or female healer), or zagovornik (an incanter).[158]

tical authorities would proclaim them brought back,

but those who oated were considered guilty of practicing witchcraft, and burned at the stake or executed
in an unholy fashion. The thirteenth-century bishop
of Vladimir, Serapion Vladimirskii, preached sermons
throughout the Muscovite countryside, and in one particular sermon revealed that burning was the usual punishment for witchcraft, but more often the cold water test
was used as a precursor to execution.[162]
Although these two methods of torture were used in the
west and the east, Russia implemented a system of nes
payable for the crime of witchcraft during the seventeenth
century. Thus, even though torture methods in Muscovy
were on a similar level of harshness as Western European methods used, a more civil method was present. In
the introduction of a collection of trial records pieced together by Russian scholar Nikolai Novombergsk, he argues that Muscovite authorities used the same degree of
cruelty and harshness as Western European Catholic and
Protestant countries in persecuting witches.[163] By the
mid-sixteenth century the manifestations of paganism, including witchcraft, and the black artsastrology, fortune
telling, and divinationbecame a serious concern to the
Muscovite church and state.[164]

Ironically enough, there was universal reliance on folk

healers but clients often turned them in if something
went wrong. According to Russian historian Valerie A.
Kivelson, witchcraft accusations were normally thrown at
lower-class peasants, townspeople and Cossacks. People
turned to witchcraft as a means to support themselves.
The ratio of male to female accusations was 75% to 25%.
Males were targeted more, because witchcraft was associated with societal deviation. Because single people with
Tsar Ivan IV (reigned 1547-1584) took this matter to the
no settled home could not be taxed, males typically had
ecclesiastical court and was immediately advised that inmore power than women in their dissent.[159]
dividuals practicing these forms of witchcraft should be
excommunicated and given the death penalty.[164] Ivan
IV, as a true believer in witchcraft, was deeply con5.6.4 Witchcraft trials
vinced that sorcery accounted for the death of his wife,
Witchcraft trials occurred frequently in seventeenth- Anastasiia in 1560, which completely devastated
century Russia, although the great witch-hunt is believed to be a predominately Western European phe- from this belief, Ivan IV became majorly concerned with
nomenon. However, as the witchcraft-trial craze swept the threat of witchcraft harming his family, and feared he
across West European countries during this time, Ortho- was in danger. So, during the Oprechnina (1565-1572),
dox Christian Eastern Europe indeed partook in this so- Ivan IV succeeded in accusing and charging a good numcalled witch hysteria. This involved the persecution of ber of boyars with witchcraft whom he did not wish to
both males and females who were believed to be practic- remain as nobles. Rulers after Ivan IV, specically during paganism, herbology, the black art, or a form of sor- ing the Time of Troubles (1598-1613), increased the fear
cery within and/or outside their community. Very early of witchcraft among themselves and entire royal families,
with the fear of
on witchcraft legally fell under the jurisdiction of the ec- which then led to further preoccupation[166]
clesiastical body, the church, in Kievan Rus and Muscovite Russia.[160] Sources of ecclesiastical witchcraft jurisdiction date back as early as the second half of the
eleventh century, one being Vladimir the Great's rst edition of his State Statute or Ustav, another being multiple references in the Primary Chronicle beginning in
The sentence for an individual found guilty of witchcraft
or sorcery during this time, and in previous centuries,
typically included either burning at the stake or being tested with the ordeal of cold water or judicium
aquae frigidae.[162] The cold-water test was primarily
a Western European phenomenon, but was used as a
method of truth in Russia prior to, and post, seventeenthcentury witchcraft trials in Muscovy. Accused persons
who drowned were considered innocent, and ecclesias-

After the Time of Troubles, seventeenth-century Muscovite rulers held frequent investigations of witchcraft
within their households, laying the ground, along with
previous tsarist reforms, for widespread witchcraft trials
throughout the Muscovite state.[167] Between 1622 and
1700 ninety-one people were brought to trial in Muscovite courts for witchcraft.[168] Although Russia did partake in the witch craze that swept across Western Europe,
the Muscovite state did not persecute nearly as many people for witchcraft, let alone execute a number of individuals anywhere close to the number executed in the west
during the witch hysteria.


See also

Concepts, practices and beliefs

Concept/framework - Magic and religion, Magical thinking, Folk religion, Myth

and ritual, Occult, Familiar spirit
Practices/rituals - Witchery, Evocation,
Pharmakos (scapegoat role), Love magic,
Kitchen witchcraft
Writings - The Book of Abramelin, History
books about witchcraft
Historical - Simon Magus, Witches of
Salem, Arnold Crowther
Mythical, traditional and other - Morgan le
Fay, List of ctional witches
Classes of individuals and characters - Sea
witch, Witches, Crone, Hag,
Perceptions and position in society
as religion - Wicca, Theism, Worship,
Mysticism, Introduction to Pagan Studies
Perceptions by other religions/societies Witchcraft and divination in the Hebrew
Bible, Christian views on magic, Satanism and
Persecution and legal - Witchcraft treatises,
Witchcraft Acts, Witch hunting, Witch trials, List of people executed for witchcraft,
Beyond the Witch Trials, Christian privilege,
Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951, Witchcraft
and children, Witch Children in Africa

7 Notes
[1] Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, Jerey Russell, p.4-10.
[2] Bengt Ankarloo & Stuart Clark, Witchcraft and Magic
in Europe: Biblical and Pagan Societies, University of
Philadelphia Press, 2001
[3] Bengt Ankarloo & Stuart Clark, Witchcraft and Magic
in Europe: Biblical and Pagan Societies, University of
Philadelphia Press, 2001, p xiii: Magic is central not only
in 'primitive' societies but in 'high cultural' societies as well
[4] Jerey Burton Russell. Witchcraft - Encyclopdia Britannica. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
[5] Pcs 1999, pp. 912.
[6] Adler, Margot (1979) Drawing Down the Moon: Witches,
Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today. Boston: Beacon Press. pp. 4547, 845, 105.
[7] Pearlman, Jonathan (2013-04-11). Papua New Guinea
urged to halt witchcraft violence after latest 'sorcery'
case. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
[8] HIV in Africa: Distinguishing disease from witchcraft
[9] Ebola outbreak: 'Witchcraft' hampering treatment, says
doctor, BBC News, 2 August 2014, citing a doctor
from Medecins Sans Frontieres: A widespread belief in
witchcraft is hampering eorts to halt the Ebola virus from
[11] http://www.theghana-italynews.

History - The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval

Europe, Prehistoric religion, Renaissance
magic, Museum of Witchcraft, The Archae[12] Harper, Douglas. witchcraft (n.)". Online Etymology
ology of Ritual and Magic, History of Wicca
Dictionary. Retrieved 29 October 2013.

Science - Paranormal, Medical explanations of

[13] Cohn, Norman (1975). Europes Inner Demons. pp. 176
Popular culture - Witchcraft in ction,
Witchcraft in folklore and mythology
Anthropology, sociology, psychology

Background - Cultural psychology, mentalism

Religion - Religion, Anthropology of religion,
Sociology of religion, Psychological theories
of magic

9. ISBN 0-465-02131-X.

[14] Evans-Pritchard, Edward Evan (1937). Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande. Oxford University
Press. pp. 89. ISBN 0-19-874029-8.
[15] Thomas, Keith (1997). Religion and the Decline of Magic.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 4645. ISBN 0297-00220-1.; Ankarloo, Bengt and Henningsen, Gustav
(1990) Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and
Peripheries. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1, 14.

Specic groups
African witchcraft, Traditional African
medicine, Shamanism among the indigenous
peoples of the Americas

[16] Pcs 1999 pp. 910. The rst three categories were
proposed by Richard Kieckhefer, the fourth added by
Christina Larner.

European/Western - European witchcraft,

Cunning folk in Britain

[17] Oxford English Dictionary, the Compact Edition, Oxford

University Press, p. 2955, 1971.


[18] for instance, see Luck, Georg, Arcana Mundi: Magic and
the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds; a Collection of
Ancient Texts, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
1985, 2006; also Kittredge, G. L., Witchcraft in Old and
New England, New York: Russell & Russell, 1929, 1957,
1958; and Davies, Owen, Witchcraft, Magic and Culture,
17361951, Manchester University Press, 1999.
[19] Semple, Sarah (2003). Illustrations of damnation in late
Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. Anglo-Saxon England 32:
231245. doi:10.1017/S0263675103000115.
[20] Semple, Sarah (1998). A Fear of the Past: The Place of
the Prehistoric Burial Mound in the Ideology of Middle
and Later Anglo-Saxon England. World Archaeology 30:
117. JSTOR 125012.
[21] Pope, J.C. (1968). Homilies of Aelfric: a supplementary
collection (Early English Text Society 260)" II. Oxford
University Press. p. 796., lines 118125, from the second
manuscript in an appendix to De Auguriis, lesson XVII
from lfrics Lives of the Saints.
[22] Meaney, Audrey L. (1984).
Aelfric and Idolatry. Journal of Religious History 13 (2): 11935.
doi:10.1111/j.1467-9809.1984.tb00191.x., source of English translation from Anglo-Saxon.
[23] Gibbons, Jenny (1998) Recent Developments in the
Study of the Great European Witch Hunt in The
Pomegranate #5, Lammas 1998.
[24] Barstow, Anne Llewellyn (1994) Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts San Francisco:Pandora.
p. 23.
[25] For a book-length treatment, see Lara Apps and Andrew
Gow, Male Witches in Early Modern Europe, Manchester
University Press (2003), ISBN 0-7190-5709-4. Apps,
Lara; Gow, Andrew (2003). Male Witches in Early Modern Europe. Manchester University Press. p. 8.
[26] The Emergence of Modern Europe: C. 1500 to
1788, by Britannica Educational Publishing, p.27. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
[27] 'In 1538 the Spanish Inquisition cautioned its members
not to believe everything the Malleus said, even when it
presented apparently rm evidence.', Jolly, Raudvere, &
Peters(eds.), 'Witchcraft and magic in Europe: the Middle
Ages, page 241 (2002)
[28] Macfarlane p. 130; also Appendix 2.
[29] Scot 1989 V. ix.
[30] Wilby, Emma (2006) Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits.
pp. 514.
[31] Emma Wilby 2005 p. 123; See also Alan Macfarlane p.
127 who notes how white witches could later be accused
as black witches.
[32] Monter () Witchcraft in France and Switzerland. Ch. 7:
White versus Black Witchcraft.
[33] Pcs 1999, p. 12.


[34] As dened by Mircea Eliade in Shamanism, Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, Bollingen Series LXXVI, Pantheon
Books, NY NY 1964, pp. 37.
[35] Ginzburg (1990) Part 2, Ch. 1.
[36] Pcs 1999 pp. 1011.
[37] Pcs 1999 pp. 1112.
[38] A Global Issue that Demands Action. the Academic
Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) Vienna
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already been adjusted for these, and revises the gure to
approximately 40,000.


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Alan Macfarlane, Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart
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University of Kansas Publications in Anthropology,
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Further reading
Ashforth, Adam (2000). Madumo, A Man Bewitched. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780-226-02971-9.
Easley, Patricia Thompson (August 2000). A Gobber Tooth, A Hairy Lip, A Squint Eye: Concepts of the
Witch and the Body in Early Modern Europe (M.A.
Thesis). UNT Digital Library.
Favret-Saada, Jeanne (December 1980). Deadly
Words: Witchcraft in the Bocage. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-29787-5.
Favret-Saada, Jeanne (2009). Dsorceler. L'Olivier.
ISBN 978-2-87929-639-5.
Geschiere, Peter (1997) [Translated from French
Edition (1995 Karthala)].
The Modernity of
Witchcraft: Politics and the Occult in Postcolonial
Africa = Sorcellerie Et Politique En Afrique la
viande des autres. University of Virginia Press.
ISBN 978-0-8139-1703-0.
Ginzburg, Carlo; Translated by Raymond Rosenthal
(June 2004) [Originally published in Italy as Storia
Notturna (1989 Giulio Einaudi)]. Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches Sabbath. University of Chicago
Press. ISBN 978-0-226-29693-7.
Henderson, Lizanne, Witch-Hunting and Witch Belief in the Gidhealtachd, Witchcraft and Belief in
Early Modern Scotland Eds. Julian Goodare, Lauren Martin and Joyce Miller. Basingstoke: Palgrave
MacMillan, 2007


Levack, Brian P. ed. The Oxford Handbook of

Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial
America (2013) excerpt and text search
Moore, Henrietta L. and Todd Sanders 2001. Magical Interpretations, Material Realities: Modernity,
Witchcraft and the Occult in Postcolonial Africa London: Routledge.
Pentikainen, Juha. Marnina Takalo as an Individual. C. JSTOR. 26 February 2007.
Pentikainen, Juha. The Supernatural Experience.
F. Jstor. 26 February 2007.
Pcs, va (1999). Between the Living and the Dead:
A perspective on Witches and Seers in the Early Modern Age. Budapest: Central European University
Press. ISBN 963-9116-19-X.
Ruickbie, Leo (2004) Witchcraft out of the Shadows:
A History, London, Robert Hale.
Stark, Ryan J. Demonic Eloquence, in Rhetoric,
Science, and Magic in Seventeenth-Century England (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of
America Press, 2009), 115-45.
Worobec, Caroline. Witchcraft Beliefs and Practices in Prerevolutionary Russia and Ukrainian Villages. Jstor. 27 February 2007.

10 External links

Witchcraft on In Our Time at the BBC. (listen now)

Kabbalah On Witchcraft A Jewish view (Audio)
Jewish Encyclopedia: Witchcraft
Witchcraft and Devil Lore in the Channel Islands,
1886, by John Linwood Pitts, from Project Gutenberg
A Treatise of Witchcraft, 1616, by Alexander
Roberts, from Project Gutenberg

Hutton, Ronald (1999) The Triumph of the Moon: A

History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, Oxford, OUP.

University of Edinburghs Scottish witchcraft


Hyatt, Harry Middleton. Hoodoo, conjuration,

witchcraft, rootwork: beliefs accepted by many Negroes and white persons, these being orally recorded
among Blacks and whites. s.n., 1970.

'Witchcraft and Statecraft, A Materialist Analysis of

the European Witch Persecutions

Lindquist, Galina (2006). Conjuring Hope: Magic

and Healing In Contemporary Russia. Berghahn
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May 2013.

'Spell Casting'



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negi, Medlicense, Witchcraftisbae, Eoink00 and Anonymous: 1650



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