Attitudes to witches (was Re: The Potterverse)

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at
Sun Feb 22 20:12:27 EST 2004

--- minnow at wrote:
> Charlie wrote
> >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. (snip)
So I think
> >I'll stand by my original remarks, perhaps omitting
> the word 'official'!
> How about settling for "magic" as being what the
> church has always opposed,
> instead of "witches"?  I suspect the Church has
> always opposed things
> magical, because they are supposed only to happen
> when Holy People aka
> Saints are involved, at which point the word is
> "miracle" rather than
> "magic".
It is my understanding that the early medieval church
opposed the burning of witches because the "official"
church position at the time was that there was no such
thing. They believed that the church had a monopoly on
magic and it was a crime to believe that others could
perform magic. The belief in witches that was
legislated against while present in a Xtian population
wasn't a christian belief, but the hold over of a
pagan one. The concept of the malevolent witch and the
belief that it is OK to persecute them is common in
most societies. In pre-christian Europe witches were
seen as something contrary to nature in a literal
sense (so they were "unatural"). Many witchcraft
traditions have them doing things in reverse. They
ride pigs or broomsticks facing backwards, they dance
widdershins "against the sun" and so on. I am always
annoyed by the neo-pagan belief that there was a
golden age when Goddess worshipping witches were
respected members of society. 
The church's acceptance of persecution of witches came
about partly, i believe, from popular pressure from
the masses (although I doubt if there is any
documentation to back this up) and partly as
Work-for-the-tithe scheme for unemployed inquisitors. 
This is certainly backed up by documentation showing
witch trials growing out of heresy trials. 
Were witch trials in England Church trials or secular
Who was the first "good witch" in literature? the
earliest I can think of is in Baum. Are there any

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