Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Belief in witches and witchcraft has existed and the active pursuit and persecution of people accused of practicing witchcraft have occurred throughout human history and in many different types of societies around the world. Both the historical and ethnographic records are rich with accounts of witchcraft from the ancient Near East, in the early modern period in Europe, among Native American peoples, and in traditional and contemporary ethnic groups in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. While the specific meanings associated with witchcraft vary over time and place, a general definition (excluding the neopagan Wiccan movement) is that a “witch” is a person who participates in maleficia , the use of supernatural power to perpetuate harm against others. Witches are often accused of causing sickness, injury, or death (of a person or livestock), sexual impotence, adverse weather, or crop failure. From a sociological perspective, witchcraft can be explained as a form ...