Elite and Popular Conceptions of Witchcraft

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  • Topic: Witchcraft, Witch-hunt, Magic
  • Pages : 3 (1052 words )
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  • Published : August 21, 2006
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Elite and Popular Perspectives of Witchcraft

The elite perspective is the perspective of those in power. It may be the perspective of the monarchy but it may also be administrative/judicial or that of the church. Popular conceptions are those held by the common people. These two perspectives were not very distinctive because the elite and common people did not live completely separate lives from one another – there was some mixing of culture, and thus there were many similarities in the conceptions held. The main differences between the popular and elite beliefs were regarding the type of accusation of witchcraft: the common people tended to make accusations of maleficium whereas the elites made accusations based on diabolism. Maleficium is magic that is controlled by the person themselves; "It is the performance of harmful deeds by means of some sort of extraordinary, mysterious, occult, preternatural or supernatural power" (p. 4 Levack). Diabolism is worshipping the devil: when a witch acquires his or her powers from making a pact with the devil and often then pays some sort of homage (p. 8 Levack).

The church wanted to recruit people to the Christian religion and so they used features of the gods of other religions in their depiction of the devil (p. 30 Levack). When a witch said that they worshipped a horned beast, they may not have specifically meant the devil, referring to Satan, but a Pagan fertility god instead (p. 34 Levack).

The elites believed that all witchcraft was because of the devil. Witches worship the devil and do all acts of magic in the name of the devil. The bible prohibits witchcraft; therefore all acts of witchcraft are acts of heresy and must be severely punished (p. 134 course reader). The elites were concerned with persecuting witches as a way to reduce heresy and rebellion among the common people (p. 160 Levack).

One of the preconditions to a successful witch-hunt is that both the elites and common people had...
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