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Related: counterculture - paganism - Inquisition

In film: The Devils (1971)

Haxan (Witchcraft Through the Ages) (1922) - Benjamin Christensen [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Witchcraft is an originally derogatory term for the practice of magic forms that are not sanctioned by society. When used before the 20th century, the term invariably has a connotation of malice or wrongdoing. Modern sources have reimagined both witches and witchcraft and consequently the term has lost much of its negative connotation, especially in neopagan quarters. Gerald Gardner, the main founder of Wicca, claimed witchcraft actually meant 'The Craft of the Wise', though there is no solid etymological foundation for this.

The belief in the existence and efficacy of witchcraft has been held nearly universally through time and culture, although the concept and its portrayal have varied widely.

The Craft, an alternative term for modern neopagan witchcraft, is also a term used by Freemasons to refer to Freemasonry. The Masonic use is far older than any use of the term to refer to a witchcraft practice. The modern neopagan use thus appears to be a borrowing from an older source in order to confer a sense of antiquity and historical precedent, in the same way that Wiccan rituals borrow heavily from the Masonic. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft [May 2005]

Male witches

Halvdan Egedius (1877-1899)
image sourced here.

During the Christianization of Norway, King Olaf Trygvasson had male völvas (shamans) tied up and left on a skerry at ebb.--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft#European_witchcraft [Jul 2005]

Colloquially, the term witch is applied almost exclusively to women, although in earlier English the term was applied to men too. Most people would call male witches sorcerers, wizards, or warlocks; however, modern self-identified witches and Wiccans continue to use the term witch for all who practice witchcraft. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft#Etymology [Jul 2005]

see also: men

Execution by burning

Execution by burning is the execution of individuals by fire. It has a long history as a method of punishment for crimes such as treason and for other unpopular acts such as heresy and the practice of witchcraft. For a number of reasons, this method of execution fell into disfavor among governments. The particular form of execution by burning in which the condemned is bound to a large stake is more commonly called burning at the stake. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Execution_by_burning [May 2005]

The Malleus Maleficarum (1486) Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger

  1. The Malleus Maleficarum (1486) Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger [Amazon.com]
    The Malleus Maleficarum ("The Hammer of Witches" or the "Hexenhammer") is considered by many to be the classic Roman Catholic text on witchcraft, although it was in fact condemned by the Inquisition in 1490, and never officially used by the Catholic Church. First published in 1487, the book is notorious for its use in the witchhunt craze of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries.

    It was compiled by two Dominican inquisitors, Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer. They submitted the book to the University of Cologne's Faculty of Theology on May 9, 1487, hoping for its endorsement. This is usually taken as the date of publication, although earlier editions may have been produced in 1485 or 1486. It was published in a number of editions, thirteen times from 1487 to 1520 and sixteen times from 1574 to the Lyon edition of 1669. The book was popular throughout Europe, although less so in England and The Netherlands, and was accepted by both Catholics and Protestants.

    Modern translations of the works include a 1906 German translation by J. W. R. Schmidt, titled "Der Hexenhammer", and an English translation (with introduction) by Montague Summers in 1928 which was reprinted in 1948 and is still available until today as a 1971 reprint by Dover Publications (ISBN 0486228029).

    Through the Middle Ages and Renaissance and the entire time that witchcraft hysteria reigned, it was the most influential guide for popular witchhunters. Summers called it: One of the most important, wisest and weightiest books in the world. During its time it was second only to the Bible in sales, until John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was published in 1678 and exceeded it. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malleus_Maleficarum [Jan 2005]

  • Haxan (Witchcraft Through the Ages) (1929) - Benjamin Christensen [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Witchcraft through the ages is explored with dark wit in this silent classic. Writer-director Benjamin Christensen uses a historical study of witchcraft as a jumping-off point for a fascinating film that is part science, part horror, and part social commentary. This Criterion edition uses a beautiful print, a rearrangement of music from the original Danish premiere, and the original Swedish intertitles (with subtitles). Goodies include commentary by Danish film scholar Casper Tybjerg, the option of watching a narrated version without intertitles, and test shots from the film. The test shots, in particular, give insight into the early filmmaking process, as when Christensen uses his own image to try out (and reject) a flying effect. This is a worthy edition to the collection of fans of horror films, silent films, and film in general. --Ali Davis for amazon.com
    Description Grave robbing, torture, possessed nuns, and a satanic Sabbath: Benjamin Christensen's legendary film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the middle ages suffered the same hysteria as turn-of-the-century psychiatric patients. But the film itself is far from serious-instead it's a witches' brew of the scary, gross, and darkly humorous.

    Conqueror Worm/The Witchfinder General (1968) - Michael Reeves

  • Conqueror Worm/The Witchfinder General (1968) - Michael Reeves [Amazon.com]
    A bewigged Vincent Price goes full-on evil in The Conqueror Worm, based on the life of England's self-proclaimed "Witchfinder General" Matthew Hopkins. Hopkins and his assistant, John Stern, ride through spectacular location shots around England, looking for disciples of the devil to torture and burn. (Indeed, the devil must be at work, for the skies are bright blue even though people keep saying it's nighttime.) Nevertheless, Hopkins and Stern seem to have a knack for picking on the innocent, notably the fiancée of young soldier Richard Marshall. Price turns in another top performance, delicately mixing false piety and sadism with a dash of lecherousness. Can Hopkins be stopped? Will Marshall risk desertion to save his love? Why are those women just sitting around the inn topless? The answers to these questions and more await you in The Conqueror Worm. --Ali Davis for Amazon.com

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