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Taken from first-person accounts and historical documents, this book chronicles more than 300 examples of alien encounters, conspiracy theories, and the influence of extraterrestrials on human events throughout history. Investigating claims of visits from otherworldly creatures, aliens living among us, abductions of humans to alien spacecraft, and accounts of interstellar cooperation since the UFO crash in Roswell, this discussion of the theories and mysteries surrounding aliens is packed with thought-provoking stories and shocking revelations of alien involvement in the lives of Earthling
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in various historical, anthropological, religious
and mythological contexts, is the use of certain
kinds of alleged supernatural or magical powers.
A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft, and may
be male or female. While mythological witches are
often supernatural creatures, historically many
people were also accused of witchcraft, or claimed
to be witches. Witchcraft still exists in a number
of belief systems, with many modern practitioners.
The term "witchcraft"
can have positive or negative connotations depending
on cultural context; for instance, in post-Christian
European cultures it has historically been associated
with evil and the Devil, while most contemporary
people who self-identify as witches see it as beneficent
and morally positive.
In both historical and mythological
contexts, witches are most often female, the male
equivalent being a wizard, sorcerer, warlock or
Practices and beliefs
that have been termed "witchcraft" do
not constitute a single identifiable religion, since
they are found in a wide variety of cultures, both
present and historical; however these beliefs do
generally involve religious elements dealing with
spirits or deities, the afterlife, magic and ritual.
Witchcraft is generally characterised by its use
Sometimes witchcraft is used to refer, broadly,
to the practice of indigenous magic, and has a
connotation similar to shamanism. Depending on
the values of the community, witchcraft in this
sense may be regarded with varying degrees of
respect or suspicion, or with ambivalence, being
neither intrinsically good nor evil. Members of
some religions have applied the term witchcraft
in a pejorative sense to refer to all magical
or ritual practices other than those sanctioned
by their own doctrines - although this has become
less common, at least in the Western world. According
to some religious doctrines, all forms of magic
are labelled witchcraft, and are either proscribed
or treated as superstitious. Such religions consider
their own ritual practices to be not at all magical,
but rather simply variations of prayer.
is also used to refer, narrowly, to the practice
of magic in an exclusively inimical sense. If the
community accepts magical practice in general, then
there is typically a clear separation between witches
(in this sense) and the terms used to describe legitimate
practitioners. This use of the term is most often
found in accusations against individuals who are
suspected of causing harm in the community by way
of supernatural means. Belief in witches of this
sort has been common among most of the indigenous
populations of the world, including Europe, Africa,
Asia and the Americas. On occasion such accusations
have led to witch hunts.
Under the monotheistic religions of the Levant
(primarily Christianity, and Islam), witchcraft
came to be associated with heresy, rising to a
fever pitch among the Catholics, Protestants,
and secular leadership of the European Late Medieval/Early
Modern period. Throughout this time, the concept
of witchcraft came increasingly to be interpreted
as a form of Devil worship. Accusations of witchcraft
were frequently combined with other charges of
heresy against such groups as the Cathars and
In the modern Western
world, witchcraft accusations have often accompanied
the Satanic Ritual Abuse hysteria. Such accusations
are a counterpart to blood libel of various kinds,
which may be found throughout history across the
HAGS OF NIGHT
Hans Baldung Grien 1510
Woodcut with tone block, 379 x 260 mm
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nurember
During early 18th century, the practice subsided.
The last execution for witchcraft in England
took place in 1716, when Mary Hicks and her
daughter Elizabeth were hanged. Jane Wenham
was among the last subjects of a typical witch
trial in England in 1712, but was pardoned
after her conviction and set free. However
as late as 1944, Helen Duncan was the last
person to be convicted under the British Witchcraft
Act, authorities fearing that by her alleged
clairvoyant powers she could betray details
of the D-Day preparations. She spent nine
months in prison. The Act was repealed in
Helena Curtens and Agnes Olmanns were the
last women to be executed as witches in Germany,
in 1738. In Austria, Maria Theresa outlawed
witch-burning and torture in the late 18th
century; the last capital trial took place
in Salzburg in 1750. The last execution in
Switzerland was that of Anna Göldi in
1782, at the time it was widely denounced
as state-sponsored murder throughout Switzerland
and Germany, and not technically a witch trial
since explicit allegations of witchcraft were
avoided in the official trial.
Punishments for witchcraft in 16th century
Germany. Woodcut from Tengler's Laienspiegel,
A witch-hunt is a search for witches or evidence
of witchcraft, often involving moral panic,
mass hysteria and mob lynching, but in historical
instances also legally sanctioned and involving
official witchcraft trials.
The classical period of witch-hunts in Europe
fall into the Early Modern period or about
1450 to 1700, spanning the upheavals of the
Reformation and the Thirty Years' War, resulting
in tens of thousand of executions.
Many cultures throughout the world, both
ancient and modern, have reacted to allegations
of witchcraft either by superstitious fear
and awe, and killed any alleged practitioners
of witchcraft outright; or, shunned it as
quackery, extortion or fraud. Witchhunts still
occur in the modern era, in many and various
communities where religious values condemn
the practice of witchcraft and the occult.
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