Witches In America: Their Beliefs and Experiences

    Witches in today's enlightened society do not have to hide in a forest to follow
    most of their ritualistic beliefs. Herbs and their uses encompass most of
    their practices and spells are usually performed to have a positive influence on
    a situation or person and not to harm someone, as many still believe. Black
    magic is frowned on by most of today's witch groups.

    Interestingly, the crimes of which most witches were accused had, at their
    core, an economic element-- the theft of milk, the destruction of property,
    threats of physical harm that came true (or at least came true in the witness
    accounts), and curses that were coincidentally efficacious.

    In a fascinating tabulation of witness statements from Danish witchcraft
    trials, there were 271 accusations of murder, 510 of causing human illness,
    339 of causing cattle's death, thirty-nine of causing cattle's illness, 104 of
    stealing or spoiling milk, 157 of killing horses or causing illness, thirty-seven of
    killing sheep, twenty-seven of killing pigs, twenty-one of ruining beer, and
    eleven of inflicting poverty.

    All of these crimes constitute some form economic transgression as both
    murder and illness could have significant economic repercussions in the tight
    knit rural communities; furthermore, nearly half the cases (735 out of 1,519)
    speak of crimes whose primary effect was economic.

    While the church saw witches as a spiritual threat to the community, in
    practical and juridical term witches were largely prosecuted because of their
    imputed economic threat to the community.

    Quite simply, in the eyes of the courts and the local populace who brought the
    initial charges, witches were seen as an economic threat that needed to be

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