We notice the presence of witchcraft each time we go into a bookshop, at least when Harry Potter is mentioned anywhere. Though this is not the only time we can see it somewhere. Of course there are other books dealing with that topic, not only children’s books like The little witch by Ottfried Preußler or series like Twitches, but also in adult literature and modern TV series. There has a new series started recently called Witches of East End, and of course we know the old series like Sabrina or Bewitched.
Did you ever wonder how this fascination for witchcraft started? We know that people hunted for witches in the Middle Ages, they burned them in Europe and hanged them in the USA. We hear about the Salem Witch Trials, about Witch Hunts in England and Witch Rituals in Germany. People feared this stuff. And now they act like they would like to be one of these outcasts!
Now here is something I learned: People did not always fear witchcraft. Back in the Ancient World there were different cults that practiced things like reading palms or fortune telling. One of these was for example the Artemis Cult, and just writing this I wonder how this is connected to the fact, that the Delphic Sibyl who made prophecies in the temple that was dedicated to Apollo, the twin brother of Artemis. Well, never mind.
Starting this witch hunt is linked with the rise of the Christian Church in the Roman Empire. At first both the polytheism of the Greeks and Romans could go along with the Christian belief, that there is only one God, but soon the Christians declared other religions as false and their followers as heathens. When still not everyone was converting the Church forbid profane rites and hunted for those who did them anyway. And of course they feared people who did not go along with their own belief but had more success, for example in medicine. Now it is only a thesis of mine that mostly women were accused of witchcraft because those were the ones oppressed by Christians and did not fear to look for other religions. It is a thesis and nothing more than that. It may be foolish, it may be stupid, but let me say it makes sense to me at this point, but actually it does not matter to the fact that witches were hunted.
Now how did the attitude towards witchcraft change again? I guess it was because the Christian Church lost its influence with the start of the enlightenment and people questioned religion. They were looking for other answers to their questions. And noticing that the Church had told lies maybe even the attitude to Witchcraft had changed. Maybe it was not that bad at all. Who knows? Of course the existence of witchcraft itself becomes questionable as well, which leads me to another development (and to the beginning of my text): The idea of witchcraft became substantial for the fantasy genre, because people believed that those women (for mostly women are declared as being witches) could do something that was yet not proven to be possible and probably never will. Now we enjoy all this diverging stories of witches and witchcraft. And noticing this and discussing this just made my day.