Friday, October 31, 2014

Treat or Treat

Why do modern historians consistently label "witchcraft:' as a medieval phenomenon? A brief glance at the dates indicates that what we call witchcraft is a distinctly modern phenomenon parallel with the beginnings of modern science. Prior to the 13th century any claims made about witches having power were regarded as blasphemous or ignorant since god alone had power to control events: any suggestion a mere mortal could cause bad things to happen to another was not a Christian view. The proper attitude toward one claiming the power to harm another through spells or curses, was to pity them.

A fresh interpretation, might point to a deeper similarity between actions leading to the witchcraft trials and the early practitioners of modern science. The simultaneous occurrence of these beliefs is a matter of historical record. Both those accusing others of witchcraft and those making the discoveries that define the early modern era share this: an assignment of human agency. Man was capable of discovering and understanding the world around him. The control over events this suggested is somewhat similar to that those poor people accused of witchcraft were thought to have.

I refer of course to the men and women who suffered dreadfully in the modern era because their neighbors accused them of casting spells, etc. The appearance in the 20th century of those who claimed to be actual witches are confused in a different way. They cling to the idea they are participating in some pagan traditions which are quite old, when actually the contemporary systems involving so-called witches were just made up in the past century and a half.

And certainly the refusal to face the fact a belief in the power of witches is a modern phenomenon, suggests an unwillingness to investigate any questions of psychology seriously. A sober view of the human intellect suggests that the aspects of the world which the human mind has not grasped may be much greater than the portion he assumes he understands. And it could be asked why this is so hard to remember.