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A witch is a female practitioner of witchcraft; a male practitioner is a wizard. Witches, in league with Satan practice the black arts through supernatural powers and magic. The Bible gives us clear instructions on how to deal with witches: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” (Exodus 22:18). Traditionally the easiest method of determining if someone is a witch is to tie their right thumb to their left toe and attach a rope to the waist then thrown them into a river or deep pond. If the suspect floats they are clearly in league with the Satan, shown by their rejection of the baptismal water. If the suspect drowns they clearly possess no supernatural powers and are innocent. The most secure method of destroying witches is to burn them, preferably at the stake. Since the liberal enlightenment and the rise of atheistic junk science the Biblical truth has been rejected and in many countries freedom of religion has been restricted by outlawing witch-hunting. However, the practice is still allowed in Saudi Arabia and Cameroon, and witch-hunts regularly occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, India and Papua New Guinea.


From 1350 to 1650, in both Catholic and Protestant areas, several hundred thousand witches were executed after legal proceedings, often by burning. One-quarter of those executed for witchcraft were men. A famous British case was the Pendle Witch trials of 1612 AD.

Colonial America

The most famous episode was the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in Massachusetts, in which 19 witches were hanged (none were burned).

Salem was typical in that it reflected the public concern abour unabated witchcraft in colonial America. Many witches arrived in the New World with the early settlers.[1]

Most of the American Indian tribes believe in witchcraft and practised magic. The tribes have all become Christian, but reports of witchcraft still abound.[2]


In 19th century romanticism, witches and the occult became popular figures of novels and fairy-tales. Most of the times they were of evil and dangerous character, but there are also examples of benevolent character. At about the same time they became popular carnival figures.

Modern Usage

The term witchhunt is also used to denote a political crusade against a particular group.

Witchcraft remains prevalent in Black Africa, and in Haiti.

Today Wicca is a re-invented form of witchcraft.[3]

See also

Further reading

Colonial America

  • Boyer, Paul, and Stephen Nissenbaum. Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (1974)
  • Breslaw, Elaine G., ed. Witches of the Atlantic World: A Historical Reader and Primary Sourcebook (2000). 561 pp.
  • Demos, John. Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (1982)
  • Godbeer, Richard. The Devil's Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England. (1992). 253 pp.
  • Hall, David D. "Witchcraft and the Limits of Interpretation," New England Quarterly 1985 58(2): 253-281. in JSTOR


  • Ankarloo, Bengt and Henningsen, Gustav, eds. Early Modern European Witchcraft. Centres and Peripheries. (1990). 477 pp.
  • Barstow, Anne Llewellyn. Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts. (1994). 255 pp.
  • Ben-Yehuda, Nachman. "The European Witch Craze of the 14th to 17th Centuries: A Sociologist's Perspective," American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 86, No. 1 (Jul., 1980), pp. 1-31 in JSTOR
  • Breslaw, Elaine G., ed. Witches of the Atlantic World: A Historical Reader and Primary Sourcebook (2000). 561 pp.
  • Levack, Brian P. The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe. (1987). 267 pp.
  • Macfarlane, Alan. Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England (1970)
  • Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971) in Britain and Europe
  • Williams, Gerhild Scholz. Defining Dominion: The Discourses of Magic and Witchcraft in Early Modern France and Germany. (1995). 234 pp.

Witchcraft today

  • Ashforth, Adam. "Witchcraft, Violence, and Democracy in the New South Africa," Cahiers d'Études Africaines, Vol. 38, in JSTOR
  • Ciekawy, Diane, and Peter Geschiere. "Containing Witchcraft: Conflicting Scenarios in Postcolonial Africa," African Studies Review, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Dec., 1998), pp. 1-14 in JSTOR
  • Lewis, James R., ed. Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft (1996). 423 pp.
  • Reis, Elizabeth, ed. Spellbound: Women and Witchcraft in America (1998). 282pp. on Wicca


  • Edward L. Bond, "Source of Knowledge, Source of Power: the Supernatural World of English Virginia, 1607-1624," Virginia Magazine of History and Biographywicc 2000 108(2): 105-138. 0042-6636
  • See Martha Royce Blaine, "They Say He Was Witched." American Indian Quarterly 2000 24(4): 615-634. 0095-182x; Ekkehart Malotki, Hopi Stories of Witchcraft, Shamanism, and Magic (2001). 290 pp.
  • Helen Berger, A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States (1999)