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Magic is perhaps one of the most wonderful things we see when we're children, and it is something that everyone wants to know more about!
Women who perform magic are known as witches. They can be seen portrayed in many books, movies, and TV shows.
A witch is usually shown as a woman wearing a pointy hat. Also, black cats are considered an essential witchy symbol because it is said that witches can turn themselves into black cats.
Witches have been such a huge part of the history of the world that it has become easy to lose track of the origin of witches and witchcraft.
The very word 'witch' is a mixture of the Old English word for women, 'wicce', the opposite of wicca, meaning 'masculine', and the English word 'bewitch'. It became a reference to women wicce or a woman who would bewitch someone.
In Shakespeare's works, written at the end of the 16th century, it is mentioned that Midsummer's Eve, which falls near the Summer Solstice, is a powerful night. It is believed that magic is especially powerful, and there is increased potency of herbs that go into a witch's potions. The origin of witches cannot be placed at an exact moment in time. The ancient world is primarily responsible for creating the idea of a witch. In the story about King Saul in the Bible, the king is seen to consult the Witch of Endor.
In the Ancient Greek world, Circe is a sorceress who uses her powers to enslave Odysseus and his men as pigs. Her niece, Medea, uses her powers to make potions that help Jason in his quest to gain the golden fleece. The ideas about what a witch mainly come from the ancient world. The idea of a woman practicing magic was established during this early period.
The last image, or the image closest to the one we have today, of how witches are seen came about during the Renaissance. The Italian era of rebirth also took place for witches. The German painter Albrecht Durer played a major role in creating the image of the so-called wicked witch that is used to scare children all over the world. One image was of an old lady sitting on a horned goat. This was perhaps the beginning of connecting witches and witchcraft to Devil and Satan worship, and also the association of the goat with the Devil. Durer crafted this image that women who were witches would be beautiful enough to trap men.
It is also said that witches and witchcraft were often used for the benefit of the people in a lot of stories. In the past, some people believed that witches used to provide them with herbal ointments and other remedies that would cure them of their illnesses.
What we have discussed before in the history of witches was known as the golden age of witchcraft imagery. The years that came next were not very kind due to witch trials.
Witch trials became popular across Europe, but the most famous are the Salem Witch Trials. Salem Village was a town in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which is now Danvers in modern Massachusetts. These trials were based on the belief by some people that witches were women who traded their souls to the devil in return for their power. According to these beliefs, these women could conjure up demons and had familiar spirits in the form of animals.
The primary cause of the Salem Witch Trials began due to political reasons. This, combined with the growing paranoia about progressive women by some people in society, with a mix of family feuds, ultimately became the Salem Witch Trials. Some people thought that girls and women having fits were seen as being bewitched. This resulted in three women, all members of marginalized communities, being accused of the practice of witchcraft.
These women, one was a slave and the other two were from families that did not go to church much, were accused of being witches. One confessed because she was scared about how she had sold her soul to the devil for powers. Many people stayed silent and did nothing for the accused because they believed if they stood up for the accused, they would also be persecuted for practicing witchcraft.
These trials were used in Salem and all over Europe by some people to settle disagreements. Any woman who had progressive ideas would be persecuted for being evil and practicing black magic. These so-called witches were subjected to torture through devices such as the scold's bridle. The scold's bridle, or witch's bridle as it was popularly called, was a kind of an iron muzzle. Executions were usually done through stoning or burning. Though it is impossible to be sure, Anna Goldi is believed by many to be the last believed witch to be persecuted and executed by decapitation in 1782.
There were several tests that people used during these trials to hunt down witches and bring an end to witchcraft.
One of them was the swimming test. A person suspected of being a witch was bound and thrown into the water. If the person floated, the accusation was thought to be accurate, and it was a witch based on the belief that water is sacred and would reject a witch. What it really did was cause the death of thousands because of negligence under this irrational drive to hunt witches.
Another way of assessing was analyzing the body to see if there were any marks that signified a connection to the Devil. This would mean that even a tiny birthmark, a mole, could mean you were part of a coven of witches and was considered enough evidence for death.
One more way was making the accused recite the entire Bible. This worked on the assumption that a witch would not be able to recite holy words and would be exposed. These are just some of the ways used to root out these so-called witches.
Witches have been extremely popularized in the day and age we live in today. They have become a popular feature of Halloween and make for interesting costumes!
One of the most prominent pieces of media to feature witches and witchcraft is the Harry Potter franchise. The tale is about the boy who lived and the story enters into the world of magic, witchcraft, and wizardry. Some of the most iconic characters, such as Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall, and Bellatrix Lestrange, were witches in the series. The actress who played Hermione Granger in the movies, Emma Watson, stands in real life as a champion of women's rights and is a known feminist!
Another representation of witches is in 'The Wizard Of Oz'. 'The Wizard Of Oz' had a good witch and an evil witch, with pointy hats and the ability to fly on brooms. It made for a very popular movie and book not only for children but also for adults!
Roald Dahl is famous for writing his book titled 'The Witches'. Here, witches are depicted as evil women bent on the death of the children of the world.
Similarly, in the tale of 'Hansel And Gretel', the witch is shown as a woman who wanted to eat children.
There are many other examples of the portrayal of witches in popular culture, from 'Alice In Wonderland' to 'The Chronicles Of Narnia'.
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