Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 31, 2010 By Stephen Ellis

The other day I received a letter from a reader that was so unusual, I had to re-read it carefully before I could respond. The letter was from a young lady who told me that she was afraid that she was a witch; that she believed her mother was a witch.

The topic of witches and/or warlocks (the male witch) is one I have never written about although it is certainly a worthy topic.

First of all…what is a witch? There is no clear definition of a witch: someone who uses magical powers to harm someone; someone who concocts magical potions to capture someone’s heart or to do them harm or to give them power. The basic concept of witchcraft throughout history is that witches used their power against Christianity. It was on this basis that numbers of innocent women were burned at the stake in the 16th and 17th century and during the early years of colonization of America. Believe it or not, there are still areas of southern Africa and the Caribbean islands where witchcraft is used today; especially in areas where the religions of Voodoo are practiced.

Literature has had a “field-day” with witchcraft up to and including the Harry Potter series. Potter, like witches, is supposed to be able to fly on a broomstick, mix magical potions and cast spells.

Actually, more current literature has distinguished “good” witches from “evil” witches such as seen in “The Wizard of Oz or in the hit play “Wicked”. Good witches are supposed to be beautiful (“The Witches of Eastwick”) while evil witches have a characteristically long, hook nose, a face with lots of boils on it and, invariably, either wear a black hood over their heads (in Walt Disney’s “Snow White”) or a pointed black hat (“The Wizard of Oz”).

The distinguishing thing about witches and warlocks is that they have the power of “black magic”. Black Magic is a power that supposedly emanates from the Devil (the Anti-Christ) himself. Literature, especially 15th through the 18th century books, often speak about the power of the Devil, the summoning of his Demons through witchcraft through designs of the pentagram, etc. Often witchcraft has been used to give sexual powers to men and make wanton sluts out of virginous women. It’s all pure literature!

The fact is that Christianity, as we know it today, was not created until 326 AD at the Conference of Nicaea. Although the Devil was mentioned as a fallen angel in the Old Testament, it was Dante’s “Divine Comedy” written in about 1320 AD that first described what Hell and the Devil looked like and attributed magical powers to him.

Is witchcraft and black magic all nonsense? Probably. There are still many things in our world that defy rational explanation, and possibly witchcraft and black magic are among them. To me, however, it is highly unlikely.

So what about the girl who is afraid she is a witch…and believes her mother is one? The word “fear” rears its ugly head again!

Perhaps she saw her mother mixing potions…perhaps she saw her mother attempting to cast spells, etc. and was afraid her mother fit the description of a witch. Witches are not the only ones who do such things: Witch Doctors and pseudo-physicians do this too…as do many people who are fanatically religious.

Even today, Jews flock to their Synagogue on Yom Kippur to atone for their sins and pray that God will seal them in the Book of Life for another year. Christians re-avow their love of Jesus to give them the strength to fight the sins tempted by the Devil. Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca to purify them from their sins. I could go on and on. The reason for all of this is “fear” and “superstition”.

The woman who wrote to me feared that she had inherited some evil traits from her mother. Her fear is understandable because superstitions are readily passed down from parent to child. The truth is that there is some evil in all of us, and all of us have the ability to overcome it. Every human has the right and the wherewithal to say “no” and to not do something they believe is wrong or harmful. In the case of my reader, the fear that her mother’s practices had been inherited has dominated her life. The practice of evil is not inherited…it is taught! She can gain her freedom from the thoughts that have imprisoned her mind by recognizing that she is her own person, and not just her mother’s daughter.

Years ago I witnessed a Voodoo ritual where black magic and witchcraft was supposedly used. It was interesting to watch. If you have ever seen a Voodoo ritual and/or joined others trying to practice witchcraft, even if just for fun, please tell me about it.