Witchcraft is defined as the utilization of various kinds of magical and supernatural powers to influence people and things, with either good or bad intentions, and it has been practiced for at least a thousand years in many regions of the world, including Africa, Europe, and South America. Witchcraft has mostly been seen in the past as something that is on the dark side, with the most familiar variation of it being the witchcraft of Europe in medieval times, in which witches used spells and incantations to do things like make people get sick or commit crimes. Witchcraft has also occasionally been viewed as good, such as with European white witches who used witchcraft to reverse the effects of evil spells, or witch doctors who heal the sick.But until lately the main attitude toward them has been among fear and revulsion, that has led to thousands of individuals being killed in witch hunts.
The amount of people believing that witches and witchcraft are real, in the sense that witches not only do certain things such as using incantations, casting spells, and making potions, but that these things also really do have magical powers to influence people, has undergone an interesting evolution. With the belief being widespread among the population up until the nineteenth century, then declining steadily in the developed world as the prestige of science rose while still being widespread in undeveloped countries. But then rising again recently in developed countries with the emergence of New Age philosophies and greater respect for indigenous religious practices.
There is a large division today regarding how present day witches and witchcraft are perceived, having a negative view of it being an evil force still prevalent within the third World. With it being on the one hand portrayed positively in the media, as with portrayals of Native American shamans and Caribbean voodoo practitioners. There is considered to be a romanticized version of it is practiced by middle class people, as in the case of the neopagan Wiccan religion. There are still witch hunts in the Third World to this day; witch killing cases have been reported in countries like Tanzania, Uganda, and Ghana, and there was a report that fifteen suspected witches had been killed in the month of February 2003 alone in Nigeria. Both of these views of witchcraft have in common the belief that witches have real powers, and my personal opinion is that this belief is both incorrect, with no real scientific evidence to back it up, and harmful, because this belief encourages fear.
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