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  • Religion News Service welcomes thoughtful comments from all viewpoints.
    Rules are simple:
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    — Be civil. Do not denigrate individuals or groups for their ideas or opinions.
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  • With respect to the final point of the article, I’d like to point out that wicca.com is only one of the training options that exist online within the larger Pagan community. There’s also witchschool.com, the Temple of Witchcraft offers a correspondence course, Circle Sanctuary has a ministry training program, and we can’t forget Cherry Hill Seminary just to name a few.

    I’m a contemporary Pagan and while we don’t have “official” authority figures (like a Pope, for example), if anyone has any additional questions about Paganism and/or Wicca, I can do my best to answer or find an answer.

  • Larry

    One of the most eccentric and interesting films on the image of witches in Medieval imagery is Haxan aka Witchcraft through the Ages (1922).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMN3i4tUy8M
    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/haxan_witchcraft_through_the_ages/

    It has zero value as an accurate or historical depiction of witchcraft, but as a film it is one of the wildest of the Silent Era.

  • Diane

    Very interesting. But I’m curious: What is the connection between Martin Luther’s 95 theses and the witch hunts?

  • Jon

    Overall, a good article and especially timely. It’s good to see this explained well and not kept in the code of silence. Something to correct for next time – the quotes in the second to last sentence of the article imply that this is a fake religion and school. Please don’t support Christian privilege, where non-Christian religions get insulted by implying that they are somehow “less” of a religion than Christianity.

  • No intention of implying it is a fake school! I am sure it is not.

  • Neon Genesis

    I’m all for positive portrayals of witches but most scholars don’t believe there is any historical basis for the witch cult hypothesis and most accept there is little connection between pre-Christian shamans and modern day neo-pagans. Wicca, for instance, has long been accepted as being largely the creation of Gerald Gardner’s imagination. That does not make it a less valid religion but we don’t need to spread misunderstandings about history to foster a positive interest in paganism.

  • Papa Ken

    I fail to understand the connection between Luther’s posting the 95 theses (having to do with indulgences and papal prerogatives) and the witch mania of the 16th and 17th Centuries.

  • Shell

    Dan Horn with the Thomas Hardye School has a paper which might help you on this point. http://www.thomas-hardye.dorset.sch.uk/documents/news_12/dan_horn.pdf
    In short, economic instability lead to both the Reformation and witch hunts. When people are scared for their futures, they lash out at what they perceive to be wrong. Same thing going on in the Middle East, Africa, and for that matter, the US.

  • So Mizzle

    The witch of endor was not presented as a comforter to Saul, but rather a for-profit charlatan (similiar to today’s “spiritual readers”) who was freaked out when an actual spirit (Samuel) started conversing with Saul. Go back and re-read the text if you me mistaken.

  • Jon

    Not a fake religion either? The quotes are still there in both cases. However, thanks for clarifying that you had no intention of implying it was a fake school.

  • I see what you are saying. Those quotation marks are there to show that I am reporting they call themselves a school and a church but that I have no actual knowledge of whether they are incorporated as such. But your point is well taken and I will raise the question with my editor.

  • Bingo

    It’s sad that “witches” have to suffer the humiliation of being portrayed as ugly hags, causing distress in our world. These fine, gifted women should be recognized for the gifts inborn in them as healers, mystics, and cleansers of souls.

  • It’s not only women. “Witch” is generally considered a non-gendered term in contemporary Paganism; both male, female, and trans* persons can use the term.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    “Witchhunt” is a metaphor for a search for incriminating evidence after the searcher has already decided the individual is guilty for good reason: the middle ages religious police and those of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 followed that modus operandi exactly. The fear of witches is a usage of superstition in order to maintain power and control over others. We saw this in the “ritual child abuse scare” of the 1980s and in actions by today’s religious extremists. Rousas John Rushdoony’s advocacy of the death penalty for witchcraft is one of many examples of his sociopathy in action.

  • George Lucas

    “The witch of endor was not presented as a comforter to Saul, but rather a for-profit charlatan ”

    This is what you get for hanging out with ewoks. 🙂

  • Ben in Oakland

    Two much easier explanations.

    1) an uncertain, ignorant, superstitious world, where everything was considered magical.

    2) there is a fungus called ergot which grows on stored wheat, especially where the wheat isn’t entirely dry. Ergot has an derivative very similar to LSD.

    Put the two together. Witch hysteria.

  • Larry

    Throw in sectarian/political hysteria as well.

    Witch hunts, especially in Civil War/Cromwell’s England were used to root out Catholic supporters of the monarchy.

    Although entirely fictional, a good film on the subject is “Witchfinder General” (also known as “The Conqueror Worm”) with Vincent Price.

  • Ben

    Bingo, “healers, mystics, and cleansers of souls” are all fraudulent, all the time. There’s not a one that can prove results, and there never has been.