Witchcraft Ideas and Their Parallels Across the World

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Witchcraft is said to be the most widespread cultural phenomenon in existence today and throughout history. Even those who shun the ideas of witchcraft cannot discount the similarities in stories from all corners of the globe. Witchcraft and its ideas have spread across racial, religious, and language barriers from Asia to Africa to America. Primitive people from different areas in the world have shockingly similar accounts of witchcraft occurrences. In most cases the strange parallels cannot be explained and one is only left to assume that the tales hold some truth. Anthropologists say that many common elements about witchcraft are shared by different cultures in the world. Among these common elements are the physical characteristics and the activities of supposed witches. I will go on to highlight some of the witch characteristic parallels found in printed accounts from different parts of the world and their comparisons to some famous fairytales. First of all, throughout many cultures, physical characteristics associated with witches ring strangely the same. Anthropologist Philip Mayer says that witches typically bear a physical stigma, like a red eye for example (Mayer 56). In the Brother's Grimm fairytale "Hansel and Gretel," the witch shares this same beastly characteristic. Also, people usually cast off as witches are typically always old women. In Slovakia, Milan Mramuch accused his elderly neighbor of witchcraft and allegedly beat the old woman to death (Whitmore). In "Hansel and Gretel" the witch who lives in the tempting, candy house is an old crippled woman and in the Brother's Grimm fairytale "Snow White," the witch who was an elegant queen, performs her craft disguised as an old peasant woman.

A second characteristic of witches - and what witches are most commonly known for - is that they cause horrible misfortune to their neighbors and others close to them. Death, sickness, and weather disasters are examples of natural occurrences...
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