Translating "witch"

Charles Butler hannibal at
Tue Feb 24 05:59:10 EST 2004

> [b] Deut 18 (10) There shall not be found among you any one
> who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who
> practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer
> (11)or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

Before leaving this topic entirely: 'pythones' ('medium') was the word that
struck me, from the Vulgate sentence. Presumably the Latin word derives from
the Pythoness who interpreted the words of Apollo at Delphi: and for
Jerome's readers would therefore have connoted a very particular kind of
'medium'. I don't know how old the Delphic Oracle is, but even if it had
been around at the time Deutoronomy was written, is it likely the writer
would have been alluding to it? Not at all, is my guess, so the Latin must
already be a pretty loose approximation to whatever the Hebrew meant, while
for modern readers the word 'medium' (with its connotations of Noel Coward
and ouija boards) means something else again.

Who'd be a translator?


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