Witchcraft in various historical, anthropological, religious and mythological contexts, is the use of powers or abilities conceived as supernatural or magical. Historically witchcraft has often been associated with evil and the infliction of harm upon members of a community or their property, but the term is now also used in the context of virtuous activity involving healing. Concepts of witchcraft as innately harmful are often treated as products of cultural ideology, as a means of explaining human misfortune by blaming it either on a supernatural entity or a known person in the community. A practitioner of witchcraft is called a witch (from Old English wicce f. / wicca m.), a sorceress, sorcerer, magician or a wizard, with males sometimes being called warlocks.
Medical explanations of bewitchment, where "bewitchment" describes physical or mental afflictions which were believed to be caused by witches, provide physical explanations for historical witchcraft persecutions, such as occurred in Early Modern Europe and the United States, e.g., the Salem witch trials.
- Warlock redirects here; for the fictional Marvel superhero known by that name see: Adam Warlock
- Alphabetized by author or source
- When I consider the Question, Whether there are such Persons in the World as those we call Witches? my Mind is divided between the two opposite Opinions; or rather (to speak my Thoughts freely) I believe in general that there is, and has been such a thing as Witchcraft; but at the same time can give no Credit to any Particular Instance of it.
- Joseph Addison ,The Spectator, No. 117.
- Now, it's common knowledge that most towns of a certain size have a witch, if only to eat misbehaving children and the occasional puppy who wanders into her yard. Witches use those bones to cast spells and curses that make the land infertile... Yet of all the witches in Alabama, there was one who was the most feared. For she had one glass eye, which was said to contain mystical powers.
- WITCH, n. (1) Any ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil. (2) A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
- Witch. From the Anglo-Saxon word wicce, German wissen, “to know”, and wikken, “to divine”. The witches were at first called “wise women”, until the day when the Church took it unto herself to follow the law of Moses, which put every “witch” or enchantress to death.
- Witches’ Sabbath. The supposed festival and gathering of witches in some lonely spot, where the witches were accused of conferring directly with the Devil. Every race and people believed in it, and some believe in it still. Thus the chief headquarters and place of meeting of all the witches in Russia is said to be the Bald Mountain (Lyssaya Gorâ), near Kief, and in Germany the Brocken, in the Harz Mountains. In old Boston, U.S.A., they met near the “Devil’s Pond ”, in a large forest which has now disappeared. At Salem, they were put to death almost at the will of the Church Elders, and in South Carolina a witch was burnt as late as 1865. In Germany and England they were murdered by Church and State in thousands, being forced to lie and confess under torture their participation in the “ Witches’ Sabbath ”.
- Generals gathered in their masses
just like witches at black masses.
Evil minds that plot destruction,
sorcerer of death's construction.
- Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.
- Louis Brandeis, concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 376 (1927).
- We have winning wiles and witcheries,
Such incantations as thy sterner wit
Did never dream of. Time hath been ere now
That Jove hath listen'd to our minstrelsy.
Till wrath would seem to drop out of his soul
Like a forgotten thing.
- We were apparently rather resistant to the idea of destroying witches in England, unlike views espoused in so-called books — and I use the word "book" very loosely — like The Da Vinci Code. [pretends to spit in disgust] It is complete loose stool water. It is arse-gravy of the worst kind.
- Stephen Fry on QI Series C Episode 12 "Combustion"
- Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft are written by men.
- Any prowling maniac would have had more than his work cut out if he had accosted Anathema Device. She was a witch, after all. And precisely because she was a witch, and therefore sensible, she put little faith in protective amulets and spells; she saved it all for a foot-long bread knife which she kept in her belt.
- The Parliament of Toulouse burned 400 witches at one time. Four hundred women at one hour on the public square, dying the horrid death of fire for a crime which never existed save in the imagination of those persecutors and which grew in their imagination from a false belief in woman’s extraordinary wickedness, based upon a false theory as to original sin.
- Matilda Joslyn Gage : ‘Church, Woman and State’, New York, 1893. reprinted by Voice of India, New Delhi, 1997 p. 228
- Massachusetts was not the only, colony that treated witchcraft as a crime. Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia possessed similar enactments. Witchcraft was considered and treated as a capital offense by the laws of both Pennsylvania and New York, trials taking place in both colonies not long before the Salem tragedy......... Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York, eight of the thirteen colonies recognized witchcraft as a capital crime.
- Matilda Joslyn Gage : ‘Church, Woman and State’, New York, 1893. reprinted by Voice of India, New Delhi, 1997 pp. 289-90
- If a man has put a spell upon another man and it is not yet justified, 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.
- Code of Hammurabi "The Avalon Project : Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy".
- "Found among his people certain witches, whom he called in his native tongue Haliurunnae. Suspecting these women, he expelled them from the midst of his race and compelled them to wander in solitary exile afar from his army. There the unclean spirits, who beheld them as they wandered through the wilderness, bestowed their embraces upon them and begat this savage race, which dwelt at first in the swamps, a stunted, foul and puny tribe, scarcely human, and having no language save one which bore but slight resemblance to human speech.
- Jordanes; Charles C. Mierow (transl.). The Origin and Deeds of the Goths. pp. § 24.
- “Witches are of particular interest in this context because their persecution required an extraordinary degree of credulity to get underway, for the simple reason that a confederacy of witches in medieval Europe seems never to have existed. There were no covens of pagan dissidents, meeting in secret, betrothed to Satan, abandoning themselves to the pleasures of group sex, cannibalism, and the casting of spells upon neighbors, crops, and cattle.”
- The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, Sam Harris
- Let nobody presume to kill a foreign serving maid or female servant as a witch, for it is not possible, nor ought to be believed by Christian minds.
- Lombard Code Hutton, Ronald. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles..
- We need to launch a nationwide campaign against superstition and belief in witchcraft. Nigerians should be told that witches are not real, and that witches and spirits are imaginary entities created by primitive minds during the infancy of human race to explain situations and issues they could not understand or resolve commonsensically. This campaign should be taken to all Nigerian schools, colleges and universities. It should be publicized over the radios and television, in the newspapers, in market places, in churches and mosques. In particular, we need to check the activities of our so called pastors and other self styled men and women of God who use the Bible or Holy books to perpetrate and justify atrocious acts and human right abuses. These religious charlatans continue to act and preach in ways that reinforce the belief in witches and provoke acts of witch accusation, persecution and killing. This has been the driving force in Akwa Ibom State, and until Nigerians learn to reject superstition and irrationalism such tragedies will continue to occur.
- To save the witch-children in Nigeria and rescue this nation from witch-believing forces, we need to get all Nigerians to exercise their common sense, reason and critical intelligence when practicing or professing their religion or belief. This is especially important when they are reading, preaching and interpreting messages and doctrines contained in their holy books.
- A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.
- "I am mistress of all the sciences. I go so far beyond all else that my work is called magic. I manipulate noumena, regarding monads as points of entry tangential to hylomorphism. As to the paradox of Primary Essence being contained in Quiddity, the larger in the smaller, I have my own solution. The difficulty is always in not confusing Contingency with Accidence. Do you understand me?"
"Sure. You're a witch."
- R. A. Lafferty, Space Chantey (1968), Ch. 6.
- A study by Rachel Moseley, researcher at the University of Warwick, found that, by the early 2000s, shows like Sabrina and Charmed had created a direct association between witchcraft and the notion of “girl power”. She wrote of her findings: “Historically, witches have been outcasts and much of this unease clearly stems from a fear of female force. The teenage witch genre articulates a new powerful image of femininity. It’s not that the Hag and herb potions have become hip, rather witchcraft has become synonymous with power and girly magic.”
- Clarisse Loughrey, “How each incarnation of Sabrina the Teenage Witch is symbolic of feminism through the years", The Independent, (26 October 2018).
- Go tell Mankind, that there are Devils and Witches; and that tho those night-birds least appear where the Day-light of the Gospel comes, yet New-Engl. has had Exemples of their Existence and Operation; and that no only the Wigwams of Indians, where the pagan Powaws often raise their masters, in the shapes of Bears and Snakes and Fires, but the House of Christians, where our God has had his constant Worship, have undergone the Annoyance of Evil spirits. Go tell the world, What Prays can do beyond all Devils and Witches, and What it is that these Monsters love to do; and through the Demons in the Audience of several standers-by threatned much disgrace to thy Author, if he let thee come abroad, yet venture That, and in this way seek a just Revenge on Them for the Disturbance they have given to such as have called on the Name of God.
- It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned.
- Increase Mather Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits Personating Men, Witchcrafts, infallible Proofs of Guilt in such as are accused with that Crime (1692); a variant of this has become known as Blackstone's formulation, through its expression by William Blackstone in Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765 - 1769).
- In Early Modern Europe witchcraft persecution occurred at time of widespread impairment of the health of people and animals. The distribution of illness, often interpreted as a sign of bewitchment, mimics the pattern of the incidence of ergotism: it was most common in alpine areas and those with summers in the 17.4°-18.9° C temperature range; a majority of the victims were children and teenagers; and rye was a dietary staple in the areas affected. ...
Cold winters traumatize rye and increase the risk of ergot alkaloid formation. Such alkaloids may have caused the symptoms of "bewitchment." When the incidence of these symptoms increased, so did the incidence of witchcraft persecution. We today should avoid the mistake made by the witch-burners of long ago by not overlooking the physical cause for the events that mystify us.
- Mary Kilbourne Mattosian, Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics, and History (1989) Ch. 5, Witch Persecution in Early Modern Europe, p. 80.
- It struck me that it might be interesting for once to do an almost blue-collar warlock. Somebody who was streetwise, working class, and from a different background than the standard run of comic book mystics. Constantine started to grow out of that.
- Although the most acute judges of the witches and even the witches themselves, were convinced of the guilt of witchery, the guilt nevertheless was non-existent. It is thus with all guilt.
- One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar and I didn't know it. I mean there was a little blood there, and something like that.
- The Inquisition was established not just for the persecution of pitiful witches and sorcerers (mostly mediums), but for the annihilation of all the differently minded people, and all personal enemies of the representatives of the church, the latter having decided to obtain absolute power. First of all, among the so-called enemies of the church were the most enlightened minds, those who were working for the General Welfare, and the true followers of the Testaments of Christ. Indeed, the easiest way to destroy the enemy was by accusing him of being in league with the devil. This devilish psychology the so-called "Guardians of the purity of Christian Principles" attempted to instill into the consciousness of the masses in every possible way. Small wonder that in those days the visions of the nuns and monks had the stamp of the Satanic influence, as they were full of devilish images and all sorts of ugly temptations.
- Sorcerer, you do have magical powers, but where is your sense? How on earth could you think of going to do sorcery at Ereš, which is the city of Nisaba, a city whose destiny was decreed by An and Enlil, the primeval city, the beloved city of Ninlil?
- “What the Malleus comes down to, pretty much, is that if you’re accused of witchcraft, you’re a witch. Torture is an unfailing means to demonstrate the validity of the accusation.”
- The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan
- “The result is the same whether she confesses or not. If she confesses, her guilt is clear; she is executed. All recantation is in vain. If she does not confess, the torture is repeated—twice, thrice, four times. In exceptional crimes, the torture is not limited in duration, severity, or frequency.”
- “She can never clear herself. The investigating committee would feel disgraced if it acquitted a woman; once arrested and in chains, she has to be guilty, by fair means or foul.”
- “When, under the duress of pain, the witch has confessed, her plight is indescribable. Not only cannot she escape herself, but she is also compelled to accuse others whom she does not know, whose names are frequently put into her mouth by the investigators or suggested by the executioner, or of whom she had heard as suspected or accused.”
- In 1631, Friedrich von Spee, a Jesuit priest who heard the confessions of people accused of witchcraft in the German city of Würzburg, in his Cautio Criminalis (Precautions for Prosecutors).
- Most people think witches are a coven of lesbians dancing naked in the forest celebrating the semen stolen from imprisoned hypnotized males, which they then use to inseminate one another using turkey basters in order to create a legion of demon babies. Well, that's only part of it. We are also active in community outreach programs.
- The philosophies behind witch and a wiccan are totally different. A wiccan wears ceremonial black robes and invites her body to be inhabited by an evil spirit that commands her to perform tasks of mayhem and destruction. A witch, on the other hand, can wear anything she wants.
- Witchcraft offers the model of a religion of poetry, not theology. It presents metaphors, not doctrines, and leaves open the possibility of reconciliation of science and religion, of many ways of knowing.
- In the past, men created witches: now they create mental patients.
- When have I last looked on
The round green eyes and the long wavering bodies
Of the dark leopards of the moon?
All the wild witches, those most noble ladies,
For all their broom-sticks and their tears,
Their angry tears, are gone.
- William Butler Yeats, in "Lines Written In Dejection" in The Wild Swans at Coole (1919).
- No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass through fire, who practices divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or one that casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord.
- Book of Deuteronomy 18:10–12
- "But what can I do?" cried she, spreading out her arms helplessly. "I can not hew down trees, as my father used; and in all this end of the king's domain there is nothing else to be done. For there are so many shepherds that no more are needed, and so many tillers of the soil that no more can find employment. Ah, I have tried; hut no one wants a weak girl like me."
"Why don't you become a witch?" asked the man.
"Me!" gasped Mary-Marie, amazed. "A witch!"
"Why not?" he inquired, as if surprised.
"Well," said the girl, laughing. "I'm not old enough. Witches, you know, are withered dried-up old hags."
"Oh, not at all!" returned the stranger.
"And they sell their souls to Satan, in return for a knowledge of witchcraft," continued Mary-Marie more seriously.
"Stuff and nonsense!" cried the stranger angrily.
"And all the enjoyment they get in life is riding broomsticks through the air on dark nights," declared the girl.
"Well, well, well!" said the old man in an astonished tone. "One might think you knew all about witches, to hear you chatter. But your words prove you to be very ignorant of the subject. You may find good people and bad people in the world; and so, I suppose, you may find good witches and bad witches. But I must confess most of the witches I have known were very respectable, indeed, and famous for their kind actions."
"Oh. I'd like to be that kind of witch!" said Mary-Marie, clasping her hands earnestly.
- L. Frank Baum, "The Witchcraft of Mary-Marie", in Baum's American Fairy Tales (1908).
- Martha Jones: So. Magic and stuff — it's all a bit Harry Potter … but is it real though — I mean, witches, black magic and and all that — it's real?
The Doctor: Of course it isn't!
Martha: Well, how am I supposed to know? — I just started believing in time travel; give me a break!
The Doctor: It looks like witchcraft, but it isn't — can't be.
- The 10th incarnation of The Doctor: They've still got one foot in the Dark Ages — if I tell them the truth they'll panic and think it was witchcraft.
Martha Jones: OK. What was it then?
The Doctor [Pauses briefly, stares grimly at her]: Witchcraft.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Witchcraft.|