Witchcraft: Ideology and Power.

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As well, the elimination of paganism in favor of the Christian religion was also a goal of accusations of witchcraft. The use of accusations of witchcraft was used to control ideologies and this can be seen in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible in which the history of the Salem Witch Trials.


An accusation of witchcraft is predicated on the assumption in a belief of witchcraft. Codes and laws against the use of witchery have been seen as far back as the Code of Hammurapi from Ancient Mesopotamia where the use of drowning was one of the proofs of whether or a not someone was a witch. If the accused lived, they were a witch, if they died, they were not. This impossible thinking is the foundation of the accusation of witchcraft. Laws that were similar could be seen within the ancient Assyrian laws, as well as in the laws of ancient Jewish origin in which Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 20:27, and Deuteronomy 13:5 all discuss the death penalty for anyone practicing witchcraft (Behringer 57).
The persecution of witches was often focused on the female gender. Ancient Rome had severe laws against witchcraft that could prove fatal to the accused. According to Behringer, “Harmful magic was a punishable crime in Ancient Rome…In the context of an epidemic illness with high mortality, 170 women were executed as witches in 331 BC” (48). This was a small amount in comparison to other rounds of persecution. Three different incidents that occurred in the second century produced thousands of executions. Because of magistrates who had power that had no boundaries, the use of magic was a tool where undesirable individuals who challenged something within the political or social construct were effectively removed. ...
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