Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the use of alleged supernatural or magical powers or spells. A witch (from Old English wicca masculine, wicce feminine) is a practitioner of witchcraft. Historically, it was widely believed in early modern Christian Europe that witches were in league with the Devil
Both men and women were accused, imprisoned, and executed for witchcraft prior to and during the Salem hysteria. In colonial New England, however, almost all accused "witches" were older women, who tended to be independent and nonconfomist.
Both men and women are portrayed as engaging in witchcraft, and contrary to the modern distinction made in academic circles between socially empowered sorcerers and socially marginal witches, witches in the Bible are often shown in positions of power, notably the wizards in the employ of the kings of Babylon and Egypt and the witches in the employ of King Manasseh.
A witch craze swept the small Puritan community of Salem Village, Massachusetts in 1692. It began when a group of girls gathered in the evenings in the home of Reverend Parris to listen to stories told by one of his slaves, Tituba.
Most witches presumably lived their lives trying to escape the notice of the authorities, so perhaps you would not expect evidence of witchcraft even if it did exist.
The European witchcraze stands as a clear example of the dynamic power of a cultural myth, the myth than an earthly alliance of Satan’s minions (most of them female) had conspired to destroy Christendom.
Popular accounts of witch-burnings suggest that, as far back as 1600, there existed people whom the community regarded as witches. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that these witches were evil hags in black pointed hats who flew on broomsticks and dabbled in Satanism! It is also unlikely that they were all innocent victims of superstition.
Witchcraft, with its close links to Christian churches in Africa, is seen by extremists of a natural extension to the religion, and has followed African Communities here. Whilst the practise is centuries old, the accusing of children of witchcraft is thought to be a modern phenomena, first becoming common in the mid-1990s.
The writings of Gardner and his associate Doreen Valiente, brought the long-withered stem of Witchcraft, the Old Religion out into the world again, back from the hidden secret societies of the Victorian age and the attempts of the Inquisition to destroy all who practiced these ancient beliefs.
James l was on the throne, living in fear of a Catholic rebellion in the aftermath of Guy Fawkes' gun powder plot. The king had a reputation as an avid witch-hunter and wrote a book called Demonology. "It was a mandate for the British to fight witches," explains Prof Ronald Hutton from the University of Bristol.
The word "witch" in Exodus is a translation of the Hebrew word "kashaph," which comes from the root meaning "to whisper." The word as used in Exodus probably thus meant "one who whispers a spell." In context, the Exodus passage probably was intended to urge Jews to adhere to their own religious practices and not those of surrounding tribes.