Southern Religion

The religion of witches and witch hunters

Halloween debunking a few myths about witches, University of Edinburgh Reader in History Julian Goodare writes:

I’m sometimes told that witches practised a pagan religion that had gone underground with the coming of Christianity. This idea was popularised in the 1920s and had some scholarly credibility until about 1975, but has been recognised as a myth ever since. Most witches were executed in the 16th and 17th centuries (about 50,000 of them – not nine million, by the way). There were still survivals from paganism (a few traditional charms had pre-Christian origins), but witches and witch-hunters alike were Christians.

Many of these myths are attractive because they enable people to sympathise with the victims of witch-hunting. However, we historians wish to extend the same understanding to all the people we study – witch-hunters as well as witches. There’s little evidence that witch-hunters were considered wicked; many were considered pious. And although “wickedness” may be a plausible description of an activity, it cannot explain causation.

October 30, 2010 Posted by | Cultural | , | Comments Off on The religion of witches and witch hunters