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Witchcraft For nearly two centuries, witchcraft seemed to have disappeared. Although it was driven underground for a time, it is now the fastest growing religion in the United States. There are several reasons for its disappearance and now, for its return. Until the fifteenth century, witchcraft was not considered an evil practice. It was about that time that the Catholic church started labeling witches as heretics and sinners because of their belief in social rebellion.

The idea of social rebellion was also a rebellion against the church, which taught that It was the duty of the common people to endure the tyranny of authority, no matter how oppressive. (Donovan 118) There were also the other acts in the rituals of witchcraft which included feasting and dancing, both of which the church considered rebellious. But, it was not until the end of the fifteenth century that witchcraft got the reputation of being a satanic religion. The idea of a purely diabolical witchcraft was said to have been invented by the Roman Catholics to supply a way to destroy the threat of the heretic Germans. The idea of satan as an evil figure in religion was not even in the Old Testament, it was put there for an easy way to accuse people. Witches were seen worshipping a horned God, so the church created a horned figure that they related to evil, they called this figure satan.

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But the creation of this figure did much more than kill just Germans. The theory that witches were devil worshippers gave the church license to begin persecuting them as heretics, and they did. It was the beginning of two hundred years of torture and execution. In those two hundred years it has been estimated that anywhere from 200,000 to 9,000,000 people were executed or met their death. These people were cruelly tortured, tormented, and harassed until they confessed, and then they were tortured again to be sure that they had given a full confession and that they had been properly purified. Some tortures included strapping the accused’s feet in a pair of metal boots and then filling the boots with boiling hot oil.

The accused were often whipped for their purification, sometimes they were left out in the open for hours after having been whipped while the torturers went out to lunch. They had to hang there and wait until they returned and often they received additional torture after their wait just to be certain they had been purified. Tortures were so extreme that many people took their practices underground to avoid the Inquisition. Tyagi stated on his website on witchcraft that up to 90% of the people executed probably were not witches. They were innocents who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, or have some abnormal traits or habits, or even just being the wrong person could be a sufficient reason.

It was not until after the Salem witch trials that people really started to see how foolish the entire witch-hunt was. By then, the entire witchcraft population had been either killed or scared off by the hunters. But, even after the trials, people still practiced the rituals and beliefs. It became a family religion, passed down from generation to generation. It also stayed alive in small isolated areas where it was practiced in folk customs and in their celebrations and festivals.

It just proves the incredible integrity of those involved. Those who still secretly practiced witchcraft kept their secret for many years. It was not until after World War I that witchcraft started to make a comeback. Even then it was still kept underground for fear of it losing its spiritual inspiration if it was practiced publicly and for an audience. By the 1960’s witches began to feel free enough to practice the Craft openly, and by the 1970’s there were many public groups.

Quite a few of these groups were feminists who had adopted witchcraft as a feminist movement. Witchcraft started to return at this time because of a general change in the people of the United States as Scott Moreau said in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. He says that a large reason for its return is because people started thinking magically again, rather than scientifically. It was also inviting to those who did not fit in and wanted a place to go where they would feel wanted, or for those who did not want to fit in. Now, close to a hundred years after it began its comeback, it is the fastest growing religion in the United States.

Although it is mostly middle class, people from all walks of life are members; doctors, scientists, farmers, even people living on the streets. The religion’s beliefs cater mostly to those who are not happy with their present lives and wish to have a retreat, somewhere that they can go and feel important and accepted, which is something that many people today want. There were several people who were large factors in the resurrection of the Craft. In the 20th century, Aleister Crowly renounced his background and began to write down new rituals and beliefs. His thoughts and ideas laid the path for future writers and thinkers like Gerald Gardner and Margaret Murray.

Gerald Gardner was a retired British civil servant whose writings had a profound influence on modern witchcraft practices. He wrote down many other people’s ideas along with ancient practices of pagan religions, possibly with some of his own ideas added in. Many of his ideas may possibly have come from the writings of Margaret Murray, another very influential writer. Their ideas and writings were the foundation of a religio Witchcraft was driven underground by fear of death, and the fear of pain. But, even though witches were not allowed to openly practice their beliefs, their beliefs still lived on in secret gatherings and local customs. And it is our modern ideas and attitudes, and people like Gerald Gardner and Margaret Murray who brought about the revival of witchcraft.

History Essays.


Witchcraft is a phenomenon that has captured the minds of millions since the beginning of history. These so-called witches have caused fear, hatred, interest, widespread panic, and a variety of other emotions in other people from all over the world. Every society and civilization on this planet have all some form of witchcraft in their history. Witchcraft itself has a deep history of its own causing it to be recognized in literature and modern society.

First, witchcraft has a very fascinating history, which is fairly important to discuss. Because much of its history is shrouded in superstition and has not properly been recorded, its exact history is hard to explain. It is easier to see witchcraft as a mindset or belief than an organized institution. According to Montague Summers, witches can be described as heretics and anarchists, most of which follow the chief of demons, also known as the Devil. Obviously Mr. Summers, along with many other people, takes a pessimistic view towards the realm of witchcraft. Among these anti-witch enthusiasts was Henry VIII, who was the first king of England to pass Statute against the practice of witchcraft. Many kings who ruled after Henry VIII also created statutes against witchcraft. James I made one in 1604, which was repealed over a century later in 1736. Throughout the centuries in England, strict laws and numerous trials were held against suspected witches. Some of the more notable trials include the Chelmsford trials in 1566, 1579, and 1589, the trials in Lancashire in 1612, and the Staffordshire trials in 1597. Some cases even tried people posing as witches like Thomas Darling, John Smith, and William Perry. Many books had been written at the time about the subject of witchcraft like Demonology, Discovery of Witches, Discovery of Witchcraft, and Dr. Lambs Darling. (Wysiwyg://7/
Second, witchcraft is recognized around the world through its appearance in literature. Many well-known examples of a wide variety of witches can be found throughout literature. Many of these literary works include The Wizard of Oz, which not only has one witch but two: Glenda the Good Witch and The Wicked Witch of the West. These two witches seem to represent some of the many views of witches. Glenda takes on the view of a fairy godmother, a type of witch that only has good intentions and poses no harm to anyone. But, wicked witch poses as the stereotypical halloweenish view of a witch: an old, ugly, ill-hearted, broomstick riding, spell-casting, evil, maniacal woman. Another story that features a witch is The Witch of Blackbird Pond. This story exhibits an old woman that who is exiled from the village for merely holding different beliefs than the other villagers. So instead of allowing her to practice her Quaker beliefs, she branded a witch and persecuted for her differences.

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Third, most importantly witchcraft has made its presence known through its appearance in American popular culture. Namely, it has become the subject of numerous television programs. Since the early 1960s there have been almost a dozen network television programs based on the lives of witches. These shows include many popular hits like Bewitched, Angelique, Tabitha, Tuckers Witch, Free Spirit, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Charmed. Of these few programs, the most popular witches include Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) from Bewitched and Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Samantha always portrayed a caring, good witch that must keep her true identity hidden from everyone but her husband, Darrin. On the other hand, Sabrina is a bewildered teenager trying to cope with her newfound powers and the everyday problems of being a teenager. Witches have also appeared in numerous childrens programming that sets in at an early age the stereotypical view of witches. Some of these shows include Casper the Friendly Ghost, H.R. Pufnstuf, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and The Bugaloos (Weeks, 23-25).

In conclusion, witches, in all their forms, have played an important role in the world, as we know it. They have caused such things as literature, culture, and society all a little more interesting by creating fear and curiosity. But, more often than not those who are different from everyone else are regarded as witches and not even treated with proper dignity. Possibly in the future people will reach a greater understanding of the so-called witches in society and become more aware of those who are different from them.

Summers, Montague. The History of Witchcraft and Demonology. Dorset Press,
Weeks, Janet. Charmed Life. TV Guide. Vol. 46, No. 50, Issue #2385. News America
Publications Inc., Radnor. Dec. 12, 1999.

Van der Linde, Laurel. The Devil in Salem Village: The Story of the Salem. Witchcraft
Trials. The Millbrook Press, Brookfield.1992.

Zeinert, Karen. The Salem Witchcraft Trials. Franklin Watts, New York.1989


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