Witchcraft, also called black magic, is the power or practices of witches. Western people used to believe that witches had supernatural powers. They were supposed to be able to call up spirits and make them do evil things. Their special helping spirits are called “familiars”, who take the form of animals, particularly cats, snakes, owls, and dogs.
Some people believed witches had the power to change into animals. This power enabled them to travel about secretly. Witches also were said to be able to fly. They flew by riding brooms or rakes, or riding magical animals. Witches had great knowledge of how to make magical potions and charms, which were used to change people’s behavior. Witches were believed to be able to see into the future. They were also believed to have the evil eye – that is, the ability to harm or kill by looking.when crops failed, horses ran away, cattle sickened, wagon broke, women miscarried, or storms destroyed house, a witch was always found to blame. Some of these reputed witches were thought to hold yearly ceremonies called “Witches Sabbath”, a midnight meeting of 12 witches and the Devil.
Nearly all those who were suspected of practicing witchcraft were women, especially old women who were lean and ugly, looking pale and melancholy, or with red hair. In many witch trials of the 17th century in Europe and colonial America, a suspected witch was tied up and thrown into water. If she sank, she was considered a witch and was ecuted.
In the early Christian centuries, the church was relatively tolerant of magical practices. But in the late Middle Ages European people began to look upon those women who tried to cure diseases by using magic as witches, or the followers of Satan. Many women accused of practicing witchcraft were tortured or even burned to death. Most of them were obviously innocent.The belief in witchcraft declined at the beginning of the 18th century when people began to examine their old beliefs again with a skeptical eye.
2010-09-13 12:19 编辑：kuaileyingyu