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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Witch Trials In Early Modern Europe

Witch Trials In Early Modern Europe Image
Very little is known among the general public about what witchcraft actually is. There are so many myths and misunderstandings surrounding it that rumors are easy to spread. Here's an overview of the history of witchcraft on the British Islands as that's where it originates.

What can be said about witchcraft is that it is both a religion and also a way of life or a mindset. It is actually gaining weight as more and more people around the world start to practice its various rituals.

One of the most common questions people want to know regarding witchcraft is if it's real or not. The answer to this question depends solely on how you define 'real'. Because it is a subculture and a way of life and there are so many people practicing it, then yes, it can be said that witchcraft is very real. However, the question of whether witchcraft practitioners actually wield any supernatural powers is a tougher one to definitively answer.

Witchcraft has its roots in paganism as it's closely related to that belief system as well. Both of them can be classified as unorthodox religions, even though during the times when these religions were very wide-spread, it would not have been labeled so.

Witchcraft is not a single system, but it's a set of different ways of practicing it. Some of them are very traditional and conservative, sticking to the old ways of how rituals used to be performed, and some of them are very modern, incorporating into its canon elements from other contemporary movements. The self-help and/or New Age movement is one example of such an influence.

Traditional witchcraft got its start from Britain - it has a centuries long tradition there, and as was said, up to the Middle Ages it was the predominant belief system. This was simply the way people went about their day-to-day lives - practicing witchcraft.

At a certain point it received a strong stigma from the church, in part due to some practitioners (witches) going to extremes and using, for example, blood in their rituals. This attracted the attention of the church powers who used this fact to proclaim witchcraft a heresy. This lead to widespread discrimination against witchcraft practitioners.

Such was the legacy of the church that in England anti-witchcraft laws were actually in effect up until 1951, when they were finally repealed. However, before that time the movement was underground and in great secrecy. It could even be called a hidden society, as even until 1944 people were actually convicted of practicing witchcraft.

In fact, in the Republic of Ireland, the anti-withcraft laws were in force even longer than in England - it was repealed in 1983. And in Israel, which gained independence from Britain before the laws were repealed in 1951, still has the Witchcraft Act in force. Whether it's actually enforced is an entirely different question.

Witchcraft has been widely practiced in the past and is still quite alive today, with millions of practitioners all over the world.

Also read these ebooks:

Nathan Johnston - The Devil And Demonism In Early Modern England
Friedrich Adler - The Witchcraft Trial In Moscow
Margaret Alice Murray - The Witch Cult In Western Europe