A billion people still believe in witches

(ORDO NEWS) — More than four out of ten people sincerely believe that there are sorcerers and sorceresses who use supernatural powers to harm other people, according to a new study.

Belief in witchcraft is a very ancient phenomenon. Perhaps not much younger than humanity itself. There are speculations that some of the cave paintings could be witch signs applied to scare away spirits.

If we talk about historical sources, then we find the first mention of witchcraft in the Code of Hammurabi (1750s BC).

According to him, the death penalty was imposed for witchcraft – that is, that divination is possible, the population does not doubt at all.

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Burning of women accused of witchcraft. 16th century engraving. The humanism of the Renaissance only intensified the witch-hunt

In the middle of the 5th century BC, the punishment for witchcraft was enshrined in the Roman Laws of the Twelve Tables , and from there passed into classical Roman law.

Early Christian theologians called witches a pagan superstition, and for some time the Church did not punish such acts.

Even if the “fact” of witchcraft was mentioned in the trial, the judges were only interested in whether it caused any material damage.

Sometimes early medieval law codes did not even know the punishment for witchcraft, but instead imposed punishment for accusations of it. Then things slowly started to change.

In the XIII century, bonfires blazed in the south of France: Catholics burned the Albigensians of Provence. Approximately the same dealt with the Waldensians in the Western Alpine lands.

What at first looked like a fight against heresy, at some point became a witch hunt: the accusation of witchcraft did not require the same evidence as the accusation of heresy.

During the Renaissance, the process accelerated: witches were burned in Europe especially intensively just in the 15th-16th centuries.

The last major excess of this kind is considered to be the process in the New England city of Salem (end of the 17th century), as a result of which 20 people were executed as witches and sorcerers, almost 200 went to prison.

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Witch Trials in Salem. Lithograph by George Walker. Then it all started with the stories of two little girls who either had mental problems or were poisoned by hallucinogens. Adults readily picked up this idea, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 people

What does this have to do with our time? The most direct. Analyzes datasets collected in 2008-2017 by the Pew Research Center (USA). Employees of the organization interviewed 140,000 people from 95 countries on five continents.

People were asked questions related to their belief in magic, such as “Do you believe in the evil eye, or that certain people can cast curses or spells that cause bad things to happen to someone?”

Based on the proportion of such people in the Pew Research Center sample, the authors estimate that at least one billion people worldwide believe in witchcraft.

Women, city dwellers and younger people are more likely to believe in supernatural powers.

However, a higher level of education and living in a small household tended to be accompanied by less belief in witchcraft – although there were exceptions.

Such beliefs were found in people from different educational and socio-economic circles.

The level of adherents of magic varies greatly by country. For example, more than nine out of ten Tunisians believe in it.

But in Sweden, less than one in ten such gullible citizens. According to these data, it can be assumed that the matter is in the greater financial well-being of the inhabitants of Scandinavia.

But it turned out that this was not the case. No, there is financial well-being, only belief in witches does not directly depend on it.

If we take a sample of a single country, then people with a “very good” economic situation there were only six to seven percent less likely to believe in witchcraft than their poorest fellow citizens.

Religious people are more likely to believe in black magic than atheists.

This is rather strange, since in Western Christianity the fundamental church dogmas (as well as before the witch hunt) directly say: these are all pagan prejudices, magic does not exist.

The position of the Orthodox Church is similar.

The authors of the work believe that the key role in whether people believe in witchcraft or not is not the financial situation, not the level of education, and not even the attitude to religion.

These factors affect, but not much. The main thing, in their opinion, is the country in which a person lives.

The population of states with weak institutions, a low level of social trust, a greater emphasis on conformity, and a greater prejudice towards people from “their own group” more often believes that the sorcerer is already sharpening the needle to stick it into the wax doll.

But there is one significant clarification: during the study, residents of India and China, which are home to about 2.8 billion people, were not interviewed.


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