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[Witchcraft, Satanism, Magick, Etc.; Was] Encarta Entry

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.satanism,talk.religion.misc
From: (mordred)
Subject: [Witchcraft, Satanism, Magick, Etc.; Was] Re: Encarta Entry (LONG!)
Date: 11 Feb 1995 12:53:12 -0800

[from alt.pagan: (Nova Solo)]

Someone on alt.religion.wicca asked for this, so I thought I'd repost it
here, too.  Gee, wonder if I'll get sued!  Neat...  

The first part is from the caption of The Sabbath, which was a picture
included with the Witchcraft entry.  Warning:  You're going to be at times
amused, outraged, and sickened.
Witches' Sabbath

Witches’ Sabbath (circa 1650) by the Flemish artist David Teniers is a
striking painting, with its macabre subject matter and bizarre creatures.
Teniers’ use of chiaroscuro in this painting adds to the dreamlike quality
of the piece. The Sabbath, better known as the Sabbat, often included a
Black Mass, which is a blasphemous and obscene parody of the Christian
mass, followed by revelry and feasting. Witches were among the different
groups put on trial and executed for heresy during the Spanish Inquisition
in the 15th century. 
Archiv Fur Kunst Und Geschichte, Berlin

"Witches' Sabbath," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1993 Microsoft
Corporation. Copyright (c) 1993 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation

[Note: Below is the Witchcraft entry]

Witchcraft, exercise of supposed supernatural powers by people who call
themselves witches. Witches are assumed to be servants of the devil and in
this respect differ from sorcerers, wizards, warlocks, conjurors, and
other practitioners of black magic, who have supposedly learned to master
the devil. Witchcraft is worldwide in scope but has had greatly varying
roles at different times and places. 

Witchcraft depends on certain presuppositions. These include the beliefs
that the devil and his subordinates, such as demons, imps, incubi, and
succubi (see Demon), are real and have power in the world; that people can
have physical relations with them; and that contracts between people and
demons can be enforced. 

In return for serving the devil according to contract, witches allegedly
receive certain powers, notably to cause or cure illness or transfer it
from one person to another; to raise storms and to make rain or,
sometimes, to cause drought; to produce impotence in men and sterility in
women; and to cause crops to fail, animals to be barren, and milk to go
sour. They are believed able to arouse love through the use of philters
and potions and to destroy love by charms and spells; and to do harm or
even bring about death by a glance (the so-called evil eye) or by sticking
pins into a wax image of the victim. They supposedly can become invisible
and fly, sometimes with the aid of a broom or special ointments. Witches
allegedly foretell the future; animate inanimate objects, revive the dead,
and conjure up other spirits; and transform themselves and others into
animals, particularly cats and wolves (see Werewolf). 
Traditional Organization and Practice
According to most authorities, witches in Europe in medieval times and
later were organized into covens of 12 members, mainly but not exclusively
females, and a leader, usually a male. The leader was the vicar of the
devil and was regarded by many of his simpler worshipers as the devil
himself. Traditionally, he is represented as dressed all in black or in
the guise of a goat, stag, or other horned animal. The coven assembled
once or twice a week in what was generally a local gathering. At these
meetings, the witches performed acts of devil worship, reported on their
activities, and made plans for the coming week. Larger regional meetings,
called Sabbats, would draw hundreds, sometimes thousands, of joyous
revelers, including witches and their uninitiated followers. 
The most celebrated witch's meeting place in ancient and medieval Europe
was Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains of Germany, the scene
of the Sabbat so vividly described in Goethe's Faust. The two most
important Sabbats were held on the night of April 30 (Roodmas or Walpurgis
Night) and the night of October 31 (Halloween). Sabbats were celebrated
also on the nights of July 31 (Lammas) and February 1 (Candlemas) and
probably on other nights. 

The opening procedure at a Sabbat was the initiation of new members. The
initiation ceremony supposedly involved taking the oath of obedience to
the devil, signing contracts with him in blood, and desecrating crucifixes
and other sacred objects; assignment of a familiar, in the form of a cat,
mouse, weasel, toad, or other small animal, to do the bidding of the
witch; and various obscene acts of obeisance to the devil and his vicar.
Initiation was followed by general worship, including frequently the Black
Mass, which was a travesty of the Roman Catholic Mass (see Black Mass;
Satanism). Worship blended into dancing, which became increasingly wild
and indecent. The Sabbat ended in a sexual orgy. 

From what is known of the Sabbat and from other evidence, most
contemporary scholars have come to the conclusion that withcraft was the
survival of an ancient folk religion, essentially a fertility cult, that
prevailed throughout Europe before the advent of Christianity. According
to this theory, the old religion continued to exist alongside Christianity
through medieval times, although constantly losing adherents and
importance. As Christianity gained the ascendancy, it persuaded most
people to regard the gods of the old religion as devils. Those who
continued to practice the old religion became witches in the eyes of
ecclesiastical authorities and orthodox Christians. 
In the Ancient World

The belief in magical practices, through the agency of spirits and demons,
was almost universal in ancient times. Egyptian records tell of conjurers
and soothsayers who derived their powers from alien gods or devils. In the
Egyptian account of the encounter between Moses and Pharaoh, Moses appears
as a practitioner of black magic and his followers as servants of an alien
and abhorrent God; accordingly they are witches. In the biblical account
of the same episode, the Egyptian experts who competed with Moses appear
as evil sorcerers. The biblical injunction “You shall not permit a
sorceress to live” (Exodus 22:18) was one of the main justifications of
the witch persecutions of later days. An even earlier prohibition of
witchcraft is contained in the Code of Hammurabi. Witchcraft continued to
flourish, however, and Chaldeans, Egyptians, and other Eastern peoples
were known for their mastery of the black art. 
Witches and magicians figured significantly too in the civilizations of
ancient Greece and Rome; Thessaly, in Greece, was a particularly important
center of the black magic. The first major witch-hunt in the modern sense
occurred in ad 367 by order of the Roman emperor Valerian. 

In its early period, the Christian church was lenient toward witchcraft.
Persons proved to have practiced it were required only to do penance.
Clergymen, still struggling to consolidate the power of the church,
recognized that all-out conflict with the extremely numerous devotees of
the old religion would be disastrous. They therefore tolerated the old
worship and, according to reliable records, frequently participated. 
Christian Opposition

The attitude of the church began to stiffen as it grew strong enough to
fight openly against the already disintegrating old faith. Also, growing
social unrest during the later Middle Ages and early modern times found
expression in witchcraft as well as in heresy and secularism. Because
those tendencies threatened to undermine ecclesiastical authority, church
authorities treated secularism as heresy, identified heresy with
witchcraft, and attempted to destroy all three. The most influential papal
bull against witchcraft was the Summis Desiderantes promulgated by Pope
Innocent VIII (1432-92) in 1484. To implement this bull, he appointed
regional inquisitors. 
The witch-hunting mania obsessed Europe from about 1050 to the end of the
17th century; it subsided occasionally but then attained greater fury.
Children were encouraged to inform against parents, husbands against
wives, relatives and neighbors against one another. Witnesses were paid to
testify. Inhuman tortures were inflicted to force confessions. The
inquisitors did not hesitate to betray promises of pardon to those
acknowledging guilt. A class of professional witch finders arose who
collected charges and then tested the accused for evidences of witchcraft.
They were paid a fee for each conviction. The most common test was
pricking. All witches were supposed to have somewhere on their bodies a
mark, made by the devil, that was insensitive to pain. If such a spot was
found, it was regarded as proof of witchcraft. Among other proofs were
additional breasts, supposedly used to suckle familiars, inability to
weep, and failure in the water test. In this last-named test, if a woman
sank when thrown into a body of water, she was considered innocent; if she
stayed afloat, she was guilty. 
Modern Witchcraft

Witchcraft in all parts of the world is essentially similar. The most
important difference is that in many simple societies witches (called also
witch doctors, medicine men, or shamans) have established and unchallenged
roles in the community. They are assumed to derive their power from evil
spirits, but these spirits are revered, or at least feared, by the
community; persons who are thought to have access to the spirit world are
regarded with reverence or fear. Witch doctors are depended on to cure the
sick, make rain, and assure success in the hunt and in war; to exorcise
demons that may possess members of the community and to propitiate demons
that may otherwise turn hostile; and to smell out evil, denounce
evildoers, and accomplish their ruin. 
In India some tribes and members of the lower-castes commonly resort to
witches and sorcerers. Even upper-caste Hindus may turn to them in time of
drought and famine. Witches are an important part of daily life in Burma,
Malaysia, Indonesia, and other parts of Asia. Witchcraft is widespread in
Africa. The voodoo of Haiti and other Latin American countries is a form
of witchcraft, as are the devil cults of the Solomon Islands and the New

In the U.S., belief in witchcraft endures among southern mountain people
and other relatively isolated groups. Until recently the hex or witch was
greatly feared in some parts of Pennsylvania, and farmers painted special
designs on their barns to ward off witch-induced disasters. Even in large
cities believers in the evil eye and other powers of witchcraft may still
be found. 
In recent years, public interest in various types of occultism has
increased. Many books on witchcraft and astrology have been published, and
persons purporting to be witches have appeared in Europe and the U.S. 

See also Magic or Sorcery; Religion. 

Bibliographic entries: B46, B47.

"Witchcraft," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1993 Microsoft
Corporation. Copyright (c) 1993 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation
"If I eat cheerios, I get lost in a void-like depression inspired by their
empty middles." - Jon Gilliam

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