The Emergence of Witches’ Stereotypes
- The mentioning of the word witch draws up a bleak image that includes an old, worn-down, ugly, and, most frequently, female individual.
- It is imperative to find out where these negative perceptions of witches originated from as this will inform future attitudes of the public. General misperceptions of witchcraft and the perpetrators are typically shaped by a poor understanding of these phenomena that significantly alter the reality of their emergence.
- At the heart of these common misconceptions is the assumption that the largest number of people who practiced witchcraft were aged, poor women. Another popular mistake was that witches were inherently wicked and iniquitous.
- It is already clear that most of the features that are used to describe a typical witch cannot be found in any ordinary human being (Bailey 400). Far from it, the concept of the witch is an imaginary one that has been reinforced over the years. However, this did not stop people from believing in them and their associated powers.
- Between the 15th and 17th century, the more significant part of Europe was rife with numerous hunts and executions targeting witches. Approximately 45,000 people were punished for this crime, women being the most substantial number.
- Negative Image of Witches
- The accusations leveled against witches were fundamental in painting a picture of an evil group of people within the community (Guiley 161).
- Witches naturally had a close relationship with the Devil who empowered them with magical power that facilitated their evil deeds. These misconceptions not only stopped at associating with Satan but went as far as proposing that witches had sexual relations with demons in night-time trysts.
- It is imperative to note the introduction of a religious perspective that was fuelled mainly by the rise of the Roman Catholic Church. Witches have also been accused of causing impotence among men by stealing their organs.
- The role played by society in reinforcing witchcraft stereotypes
- The problem with the society at that particular period was their lack of understanding concerning scientific and natural phenomena. For this reason, rather than seeking an explanation, most people opted to find an appropriate scapegoat that could carry the accusations and blame.
- While some societies perceived a witch as possessing supernatural powers, in other organizations, their abilities were reduced (Guiley 158). Instead, they represented an average person but having the free will to learn and use magic. In reality, witches did not exist.
- The people hunted over the years were ordinary people boxed into a category because of their unusual approach towards life. The very act of using alternative medicine in itself was considered an act of witchcraft.
- Most doctors and healers that could use advanced science to cure people were immediately labeled as witches and persecuted. Regardless of the origin of their power and the method of execution, witches were blamed for causing all manner of disease and problems in the community (Bailey 397).
- Logic behind witchcraft
- Witchcraft emerges as the best possible explanation when logic fails. It is easy to blame inexplicable diseases and other mysteries on witchcraft, a phenomenon that in itself is mystical. Witchcraft has also been used to explain the rapid and overwhelming success of people across different fields.
- Since witchcraft is not clearly defined, the witch is then classified as a selfish person who desires more than they deserve. In the same vein, they are seen as having excessive and illegitimate ambitions.
- Placing witches in such a category would automatically expose them as a common enemy of the community. By painting them as vicious, evil, and villainous individuals, it would be easy to justify their persecution.
- The role played by pop culture and media
- Pop culture also contributed towards introducing and reinforcing the negative stereotypes surrounding witches. Television and film have contributed towards vilification of people whose occupation typically bordered on witchcraft.
- Movies showing witches as planning and orchestrating evil deeds worsened the case for people having a different approach towards life, medicine, and science (Guiley 160).
- Special holidays such as Halloween also contributed towards painting witches as evildoers even though many other characters also engaged in the malevolent behavior.
- The problem with the attitude against witches is that they were considered enemies of the state, enemies of development as well the source of other setbacks. The phenomenon of witchcraft in the early civilizations was cause for real concern (Bailey 390).
- It was an indicator that the society was yet to develop to a level that it could embrace advancements in science and medicine.
- Apart from the resistance to science and development, witchcraft was also an indicator that popular culture is an active agent of change. Art, media, theatre, and other conventional methods of enlightening the society had already embraced the fact that witches were real and that they were to blame for the problems being experienced.
- Painters depicted witches engaging in heinous acts while plays and musicals reenacted these scenes with a gory accuracy that left little to the imagination. The outcome was a society that was convinced that witches were evil and that it was necessary to eliminate them.
- The combination of these different factors contributed to the perpetuated persecution and negative perception of witches across most civilizations.
Bailey, Michael D. “The Disenchantment of Magic: Spells, Charms, and Superstition in Early European Witchcraft Literature.” The American Historical Review, vol. 111, no. 2, 2006, pp. 383-404.
Guiley, Rosemary. The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. Infobase Publishing, 2009.
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