Magik or Dark Arts? A Fascination with Witchcraft

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Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.- Macbeth, William Shakespeare

We were the generation that was introduced to the world of magic by an 11-year old boy with a lightning bolt scar, circular glasses and a snow-white owl, and this entire world in front of him. However, the notion of magic, witchcraft and wizardry have existed for centuries before Harry Potter graced the pages we read.

Now, I won’t be able to explain the entire history of witchcraft to you, because there is just too much to cover. But the themes of wizardry, the supernatural, and the paranormal have purged our lives, from religious beliefs such as Paganism, or Wicca, to the literature to which we find ourselves returning time and time again. Even the way in which we dress up as witches and wizards as children on Halloween, with the black cloaks, cauldrons, and of course, the all important magic wand…

With the notion of magic being labelled as both something of sorcery and heresy in the days of Early Modern Europe, it was a practice rejected from the mainstream. We know that over the centuries, the very idea of casting spells, summoning demons or putting curses on people, has become a very diluted practice; something not necessarily taken seriously by the majority of the modern day population. Throughout history, the fascination with the paranormal has not been well received or portrayed in a positive light. Is that due to the lack of understanding? The overwhelming dominance of the church, both in England and throughout Europe? Or that the rumours were true, and people who practiced magic were in fact evil?

However, studying a vast array of both religion and Gothic literature you get to know that no two types of magic are the same! There is both a ‘good’ and ‘evil’ side, who knew? With notably “good” witches being locally known as healers, a seer (someone who can read prophecies) and generally bring good vibes to people. Meanwhile, others were to be feared. Those who practiced necromancy, or believed in Satanism, were generally perceived as those who hexed people, caused a nuisance, not ones to be trifled with!

The fascination with magic has continued throughout the centuries. With events such as the Salem Witch Trials being one of the most popular event in contemporary witchcraft history, we can see just how much people feared what they didn’t understand. I mean who doesn’t float in water? But the wonder surrounding the magic we’ve been told about is something that has continued to make a reappearance. It can only be described as, well, magical!

Although the history behind our wonder is something entirely different. The struggles of individuals and the rejection by mainstream society have made something that was historically seen as taboo, instead something that can be enjoyed and not feared. Especially with some of the real life horrors we face.

 

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History student and new Features Editor for 2016/17. Consumer of chocolate, of tea and vodka, voyeur of Scandinavian crime dramas , and writer...or attempting to anyway.

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