We all have that stereotype image of an ugly woman flying in her scrum or dancing around a pot preparing a potion with an evil spell. They got a better reputation after the popular Harry Potter and we love to decorate our house and office with their images in Halloween. Witchcraft and its associated ideas are never far from the surface of popular consciousness and—sustained by folk tales—find explicit focus from time to time in popular television and films and in fiction.  But, could be possible their existence in the past and, even more intriguing , today ? What is real and what is fantasy behind this mythic figure that we usually called "witches"?
I resorted to the dictionary to start with a good definition and I found that a witch is a person who practices witchcraft, the exercise or invocation of alleged supernatural powers to control people or events, practices typically involving sorcery or magic. That sounds pretty cool, but in the past witches were far from being cool at all. The intensity of these bad fame is best represented by the European witch-hunts of the 14th to 18th century, and even in the bible where the punishment of witchcraft is mention to be death.
However magic was not always frowned. Early converts to Christianity looked to Christian clergy to work magic more effectively than the old methods under Roman paganism, and Christianity provided a methodology involving saints and relics, similar to the gods and amulets of the Pagan world. As Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe, its concern with magic lessened.
Saint Boniface declared in the 8th century that belief in the existence of witches was un-Christian. The emperor Charlemagne decreed that the burning of supposed witches was a pagan custom that would be punished by the death penalty. In 820 the Bishop of Lyon and others repudiated the belief that witches could make bad weather, fly in the night, and change their shape. This denial was accepted into Canon law until it was reversed in later centuries as the witch-hunt gained force. Other rulers such as King Coloman of Hungary declared that witch-hunts should cease because witches (more specifically, strigas) do not exist.
Subsequently, the Protestant Christian explanation for witchcraft, such as those typified in the confessions of the Pendle witches, commonly involves a diabolical pact or at least an appeal to the intervention of the spirits of evil. The witches or wizards engaged in such practices were alleged to reject Jesus and the sacraments; observe "the witches' sabbath" (performing infernal rites that often parodied the Mass or other sacraments of the Church); pay Divine honour to the Prince of Darkness; and, in return, receive from him preternatural powers. Witches were most often characterized as women. Witches disrupted the societal institutions, and more specifically, marriage. It was believed that a witch often joined a pact with the devil to gain powers to deal with infertility, immense fear for her children's well-being, or revenge against a lover.
Witch-hunts first appeared in large numbers in southern France and Switzerland during the 14th and 15th centuries. The peak years of witch-hunts in southwest Germany were from 1561 to 1670. Current scholarly estimates of the number of people executed for witchcraft vary between about 40,000 and 100,000. The total number of witch trials in Europe known for certain to have ended in executions is around 12,000.
read complete article here http://skepticsvsbelievers.blogspot.ca/2...
I just wanted to post this as a heads up. Magician and Occult author Josephine McCarthy launched a new on-line occult school this weekend - Quareia.
It looks fantastic and I for one will be picking up these lessons and working through the course.
Think you guys might be interested in this YouTube series. It is entitled Crash Course: Psychology and it gives a basic overview of the different topics studied in the field. It's fun to watch and fairly neutral. Check it out if you can!
It's always good to have some understanding of psychology under your belt, especially when it comes to these fringe topics.
Photos of the Little Girl Who Was Raised Alongside Wild Animals in Africa Will Blow You Away
Disclaimer: this article is only critical of the subculture of aggressive and bullying sceptics, NOT sceptics who are mature, polite and reasonable in their conduct. If you identify as a sceptic but are also tolerant and well-mannered, this does *not* apply to you.
When a movement or a group - whether religious or secular - contains some foundational principles that are downright insidious and threatening to others' personal freedoms (and, in some cases, safety) thoughtful and intelligent criticisms are often made. This is why there are insightful critical commentaries on fundamentalist Christianity, radical Islam, the Ku Klux Klan, Nazism, Soviet and Chinese communism and various other social and political structures. Dogma, totalitarianism, oppression and bigotry of all stripes are subjects which invite mature and impassioned dissent.
However, when a movement or a group contains NONE of the aforementioned unpleasant characteristics and is generally innocuous in nature - both in its defining principles and the majority of its adherents - there is very little of significance or substance to attack. Therefore, the attacks these groups and people DO get, tend to be rather shallow - superficial at best, and bullying at worst.
The group labelled as the "New Age" - and most of the individuals that comprise it - are an example of what I am describing. I do have an interest in some subjects that the New Age covers, and appreciate parts of it, but I believe I am being objective when I give my perspective that, overall, the New Age as a group is harmless and non-threatening, with no discernibly negative affect on society at large.
See, the New Age "movement" wasn't, and isn't, really a movement in the classical sense. The New Age is largely fairly disorganised and is a melting pot of different spiritual and alternative science views, ranging from Western esotericism to Eastern mysticism to the paranormal (and the scientific study thereof, parapsychology) to holistic health/medicine and natural ways of living. There is no foundational dogma and no rules about what to believe or *not* to believe, which is what makes defining New Age views so difficult. At most, it can only be said that "many" New Agers may have a certain point of view, but this by no means suggests that *all* do. For example, the New Age is not *necessarily* theistic - while many New Agers do believe in some concept of deity/ies, this is not a requirement. Many New Age and spiritual beliefs have nothing to do with the concept of deity, so it is entirely plausible for a New Ager to also be an atheist and vice versa. (If anyone is confused by this, remember that atheism is MERELY the lack of belief in God/s. It does *not* preclude any other spiritual views, and an atheist who believes in ghosts, an afterlife and paranormal abilities is no less of an atheist than one who doesn't believe in those things.)
The New Age also has no strict moral code or instructions - it's essentially a group that is free of these things. There are no sets of prejudices - the New Age has nothing to say on race, sexual orientation, gender or alternative belief systems, and so is devoid of intolerance of prejudice. There may be some individuals who subscribe to a New Age worldview who happen to ALSO have some prejudiced ideas, but these views are not New Age in origin, nor are they influenced by the New Age - unlike the way that a member of the KKK is a racist by dint of being a member of the KKK to begin with.
Neither is the New Age known for trying to impose its viewpoints on unwilling or disinterested parties. Think about it: when have you ever had a New Ager knock on your door in an attempt to spread their ideas? It just doesn't happen. New Agers typically don't care about getting converts - they're happy to inform people if people COME TO THEM but they generally don't go looking. What many MAY enjoy is being open about their spiritual choice/lifestyle and discussing it - but there is a difference between being open about who and what you are and having a conversation and/or debate about it, and actually trying to force your way of thinking onto other people.
Taking into account all of the above, my experience has led me to believe that a great deal of organised scepticism's attacks on the New Age are lacking in depth and amount to little more than superficial sneering and mockery. (Not ALL criticisms - there are some intelligent countering views that make some salient points) but it seems like far too many "sceptical" writings on the New Age follow the arc that I first outlined. What is actually offered is very often no more than bullying and abuse.
Perhaps this is because there isn't really THAT much about the passive and non-threatening New Age onto which one can mount frequent sustained and intelligent criticisms. The New Age is so overwhelmingly harmless that most of the attacks have to stoop to ridicule and name-calling, rather than say anything of substance.
Aggressive sceptics probably know that they can't call out the New Age movement on grounds of discrimination and bigotry. Attacking the New Age on those grounds would be untenable - the movement simply has no principles which promote discrimination or bigotry. Since this is the case, it is also difficult to criticise the New Age on generic standards of morality. At best, what can be legitimately criticised is an individual who happens to be fraudulent or who is using their status for personal gain - but in these cases, they are personal flaws of the INDIVIDUAL and they are no more endemic to the New Age movement than plagiarism is endemic to writers and the literary establishment in general.
It is my contention that when aggressive sceptics wage their war on the New Age, they have very little to actually work with, which is why the discourse so often descends into petty name-calling. (It also might be that some of these people are just plain immature and bigoted.) Cases in point are James Randi, PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne, who love to hurl the abusive and offensive epithets "woo" and "woo-meister" at any and all alternative spiritual and scientific notions, and the people (including professional academics, scientists and investigators) who choose to keep an open mind and actually look into these things.
Or, take Tim Minchin's incredibly prejudiced poem 'Storm' in which he proceeds to berate a classic strawman of a New Ager for being open to auras and paranormal abilities. While it is admittedly cleverly written and perhaps amusing in parts, I think it is one of the most bigoted pieces of writing I have ever seen, lacking in nuance and any attempt to seriously engage with the deeper concepts of the New Age. In my opinion, it is pure prejudice in poetry.
Consider this: when people like Martin Luther King were speaking out against entrenched racism in the United States, and of particular groups that sought to promote such racism, did they overwhelmingly resort to childish taunts and mockery? Maybe occasionally, but in almost all of the attacks upon racial bigotry that I have seen or read, what you get is intelligent and informed criticism, taking to task backwards attitudes and those that propagate them. How often did Martin Luther Kind point and laugh and call names? He engaged seriously and maturely with what was then a very severe problem across certain swathes of the United States.
When you have grave problems to fight, you argue against them thoughtfully and intelligently. Playground taunts have no place in serious and mature discourse.
The shallowness of much of organised scepticism's attacks on the New Age highlights the fact that there is very little that they can legitimately seriously assault. Think about this: if sceptics had significant meat to sink their teeth into, would they throw around words like "woo" and "woo-meister" with such regularity? No, they would be busy confronting the negative issues with intellect and reason. It doesn't take much intellect or reason to call somebody a "woo-woo", let me tell you.
The reason so much sceptical criticism of the New Age is lacking in maturity is because there is not very much in the New Age which is negative or problematic enough to A) warrant such criticism and B) weave an intelligent attack around. The New Age movement "aims to create "a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas" that is inclusive and pluralistic. It holds to "a holistic worldview", emphasising that the Mind, Body, and Spirit are interrelated and that there is a form of monism and unity throughout the universe. It attempts to create "a worldview that includes both science and spirituality" and embraces a number of forms of mainstream science as well as other forms of science that are considered fringe." Oooh...how scary! How terrible!
Since there is such a dearth of negativity and danger upon which to mount an attack, aggressive sceptics are usually forced to resort to juvenile and bullying behaviour and, on occasions, dishonesty and misrepresentation in order to manufacture the erroneous idea that the New Age is actually a threat.
And so much of the attacks really do seem just like bullying. Okay, some New Age ideas can seem pretty "out there" and a little bit of laughter and mockery is to be expected and can be taken as just light-hearted teasing. But when there is a consistent and sustained campaign consisting mainly of ridicule and insults, it ceases to be moderate and harmless teasing and becomes prejudice and bullying. It is bullying to constantly castigate people by telling them they are stupid and crazy. And really, what kind of person systematically harasses people for being what they consider to be unintelligent? If someone abused mentally retarded people and called them "stupid" they would rightly be called out on their tormenting. Not that I am trying to imply that New Agers actually *are* mentally retarded or stupid in any way - most of them are of average, or above average, intelligence.
Now, I am not saying that the New Age is totally perfect and without flaws. *Some* New Age ideas can be fluffy and vague, and there are *some* insightful sceptical responses. But by far the majority, in my experience, have been hateful and bigoted. My suggestion to the aggressive and bullying sceptics is that rather than demonising an entire group of mostly harmless people, perhaps you could actually engage with New Agers themselves and what it is they actually believe in. Explore, learn and, if you still have questions or criticisms, pose them in a mature and reasonable way. Make suggestions to New Agers as to how they some of their views could evolve, come up with ways in which to test some of the New Age notions. Take a little time to absorb yourself into some of the people and culture that you are belittling, rather than restricting yourself to your little boxes and throwing stones. (Note that these are *suggestions* rather than orders.)
Hopefully, I don't come over as *too* angry in this article, but I am, admittedly, somewhat angry that New Agers (and other practitioners of alternative spirituality) have been bullied and humiliated for so long. I am tired of the puerile personal attacks and infantile slurs. I am not going to stand for being called an "idiot" simply because I choose to make my mind up in favour of the existence of a spiritual reality.
Of course, there is freedom of speech and expression so aggressive sceptics, you are entitled (up to a point) to continue with your abusive behaviour all you want. You can keep on calling names, mocking and hurting other people's feelings. But don't be surprised if your antics win you few friends (aside from some of those who already share your views) and don't be surprised if the targets of your attacks get fed up and start to stand up for themselves.