Magic as such has always raised something more than passion in all the spheres of influence in which it has been involved and also within the cultural manifestations related to it. The very concept of magic (What can we consider as magical? Does it really exist?) arouses curiosity, mystery and fascination, but also suspicion, mistrust and fear. Plenty of fear… Witchcraft is, to some extent, the opaque reflection of this sheer fear; the forbidden practice which remains in the shadows and gives us the creeps between tenebrous potions and hot steaming pots. Now: what can we conclude, of all this? Beyond popular imagination, what is the origin of this strong animosity towards witchcraft and the halo that still draws today?
The belief in magic and rituals is as old as humanity itself. There have always been figures, within each social structure, whose mission was to use their esoteric knowledge to carry out supernatural practices with different objectives: religious, economic, healing, fertility… Or other ones which might be darker and less well-meaning. This is where we could introduce the distinction between white magic (made for the benefit of some person or situation) and black magic (to harm our enemies), but the debate is long enough and we can talk about it on another occasion. Witchcraft would be inscribed in this second darker branch, and thus, of course, it has usually been persecuted and forced into obscurantism. However, we have already commented that magicmongers have always existed, and not necessarily under secrecy or with macabre functions. In ancient times shamans or priests had a great political-social importance and were among the most powerful classes, sharing honours —or even surpassing— with the military establishment. So, why is it that we often have this very negative image of witchcraft? As in so many other things, it’s just a matter of conventions.
First of all, we must say that here we are talking about the European, Western vision of this issue, since in other latitudes (Africa and Asia, above all) these considerations are not exactly the same. In fact, in many African countries shamanism is quite alive and has a widespread and transversal diffusion. Normally the loss of influence of witchcraft has been closely linked with that of religion… And precisely to religion we owe its most modern dismal imagery. The wave of panic and superstition that ravaged the European continent between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries led to a burning death millions of women under the name of Christian orthodoxy. It was the great witch hunt, a concept that has lasted until today. Any excuse (fire, plague, drought, infertility…) was good to accuse someone of be allied with the Devil himself… A blood bath based on fear (of knowledge and, as a matter of fact, of the female figure itself) that we can define as one of the most nefarious chapters of Western civilization.
We will deepen in it this matter in upcoming weeks …