Attitudes to witches (was Re: The Potterverse)

Charles Butler hannibal at
Sun Feb 22 12:23:38 EST 2004

> What Simon Magus is most noted for is not acts of witchcraft, no details
> which are given in the book and which he presumably gave up when he was
> christened (which is the point of the story), but trying to buy the power
> of the Holy Ghost -- hence simony for trying to buy preferment in the
> church.

True - but it does say that he was a sorceror, which is the other point: as
a popular and respected sorceror he'd have been quite a 'catch' for the

> Oh, and "servants of the Devil".  That's surely more an attitude that
> during the "witch-craze" in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when
> popes and theoretically "enlightened" and educated men seem to have gone
> somewhat doolally on the subject.  Witches had traffic with spirits, and
> muttered spells, and all like that, in early beliefs, but the Satanism
> aspect seems to have been a later accretion.

Yes, I think you're right that 'servants of the Devil' isn't a phrase that
applies equally well throughout Xianity's history, if by that we mean the
full-blown witches' sabbat, sex-with-goats scenario a la Matthew Hopkins.
That there was indeed a change in attitude around the time of the *Malleus*
we clearly agree. On the other hand, your quotations from Boniface,
Charlemagne etc, showing that the early Church found it necessary to tell
people not to burn/believe in witches, is pretty clear evidence that many
Christians *did* believe in them, and probably burn them too. So I think
I'll stand by my original remarks, perhaps omitting the word 'official'!


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