The history of the existence of witchcraft is far extending. It was there in different cultures, present, past, and in ancient as well as modern and advanced cultures. Due to its variation across different cultures and societies, it is hard to define it precisely. It is often thought of as the practice of using spiritual and supernatural measures or magical skills and abilities for solving problems.
The practice of witchcraft was strictly condemned due to the belief that they were connected with the evil or the sinners. Traditionally, in places like Africa or North America, those practicing it were thought to be the ones who would harm the innocent. However, in the contemporary world, in places like America and Europe, many people associate it with modern paganism having a healing role. Although witches are often considered similar to sorcerers, they differ in the sense that they do not use any kind of physical instruments or tools to curse. They are thought to exhibit some intangible inner quality which does not let others conceive them as witches easily.
The women who were usually accused of being witches were those of single mothers, midwives, or aged women living in isolation. They were thought to bring about sorrow and misery upon the people living around. They were blamed for the occurrence of disasters, droughts, or even the smallest discomfort faced by society. People go for witch hunts to identify or catch witches and thereby punish them.
The women accused of witchcraft often accept the accusations imposed on them due to the process they have to go through while proving those accusations. Often during the process known as ‘watching’, the suspected women are kept awake for several nights as it is believed that their familiars would betray her. A familiar is considered a spirit, or the witch’s second self who acts on behalf of the woman accused. It is believed that when the spirit is harmed, the woman suspected of being the witch is also harmed. Depriving the woman of sleep is just one of the numerous sufferings she has to endure along with being rejected from her own community, or being subjected to other social or psychological procedures. These make the women accused vulnerable enough to confess eventually.
In ancient times, witchcraft was not equated with any kind of an ‘evil practice’. Catholic churches viewed witches as those who sinned and thus needed to be purified. The measures taken during the purification processes were so extreme that these practices were taken underground for avoiding inquisition. The book The Malleus Maleficarum was a book that served as a manual for witch-hunting and was adopted by both Protestants as well as Catholics. The book provided ways of identifying, or punishing a witch, contained information about why a man was less likely to become a witch than a woman. However, the book was soon condemned by the Catholic Church. Many cultures still have practices which can be often seen to be similar to the practices of witchcraft. Witch-hunting, scapegoating and other similar countermeasures are still prevalent in societies showing traces of witchcraft and black magic. People in several regions still believe incurable diseases like HIV/AIDS, diseases caused by Ebola, etc are caused, witches.