Social, Cultural and Religious Control Through the Persecution of Witches

Essay, 2009

7 Pages, Grade: A


Social, Cultural and Religious Control Through the Persecution of Witches

This essay will compare the different views, religiously, socially and culturally of witchcraft in different areas of the world, including America, Europe and Africa. It will explore the explanations given by the persecutors and the communities involved. The story of modern witchcraft was first published in 1960 by Gerald Gardner, who wrote a biography which included his encounters with witches and a coven that claims to be a surviving coven from the ancient witchcraft religion, and he reveals that the witchcraft religious rituals consists of dancing to promote fertility, coming of age events (such as the start of menstruation) and eating consecrated food and drink. The witches believed that when naked more magical power is released from the body so the rituals were often erotic, worshipping nature, coming of age and the body. Hutton states that ‘no academic historian has ever taken seriously Gardner’s claim to have discovered a genuine survival of ancient religion’ (Hutton, 1999, pg 206). No one believed Gardner as the religion he described was nothing like the ‘traditional English witchcraft beliefs’ (Hutton, 1999, pg 206). This essay will investigate academic articles, books and the Witch Child (2006) documentary on contemporary modern beliefs of witchcraft in various countries, and determine the cause of the problems in the countries that have the most severe representations of witchcraft.

Hutton states that the foundation myth for modern pagan witchcraft is ‘the belief that it represents a modern regrowth of a surviving ancient religion which was persecuted in the witch trials of the early modern period.’ (Hutton, 2007, pg 121) the witch trials drove the religion underground and according to the myth it resurfaced in the mid-twentieth century. The most well known witches abandoned this ancient myth. For example, Starhawk interpreted and founded the Reclaiming Witchcraft community and others followed in San Francisco, California, America. Salomonsen states that

The public appearance of ritualizing women, men and children in urban areas in the western world is no longer unusual. For example, an occasional Sunday walker in Lincoln Park in San Francisco, California, may one day have observed the following: thirteen women of many ages, all dressed up in red party clothes, are gathered for the ritual celebration of a teenage girls menstruation. As it happens, these women belong to the Reclaiming Witchcraft Community (Salomonsen, 2002, pg 33)

This is now seen as just a religious event, no children sacrificed and no criminal activity or child abuse involved, just a group of people with the same views, celebrating an important event. Hutton states that, Jarcke and Mone, two German scholars conceded that ‘Witchcraft was an illusion’ (Hutton, 2007, pg 122), they also believed that witches that had been tried ‘in the early modern period had been practitioners of a surviving pagan religion.’ (Hutton, 2007, pg 122) they state how the religion was ‘disgusting and blood sacrifice’ (Hutton, 2007, pg 122) and that the church was right to commit the acts they did. Hutton discusses how Wilhelm Gottlieb Soldan believed the


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Social, Cultural and Religious Control Through the Persecution of Witches
University of Derby
BA in Sociology and Film and Television Studies
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social, cultural, religious, control, through, persecution, witches
Quote paper
Lea Weller (Author), 2009, Social, Cultural and Religious Control Through the Persecution of Witches, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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