Category Archives: Paranormal

Should astrology or horoscopes be taken seriously?

Astrology at one time was looked upon with great seriousness by the educated classes. For many centuries people believed that the earth was the center of the universe, and this mistaken cosmology led to the conviction that the personality and character of people could be influenced by the position of the heavenly spheres at their time of birth.

Since the introduction of modern astronomy, it became impossible for any serious-minded scientist to accept the original principles of astrology. Besides the fact that the heavenly bodies are at a much greater distance than our ancestors believed them to be, their positions in the sky have drastically changed with the passage of time.

After the scientific discoveries of the Enlightenment made the original basis for astrology untenable, there have been numerous attempts by occultists to maintain confidence in it by mystical and occult means.

Though there is no genuinely scientific basis for astrology, millions of people resort to daily horoscopes for guidance in their lives. If nothing else, this behavior shows how deeply religious people are, and how strongly they long for a basis for hope and faith. It may not harm someone to read horoscopes, but anyone taking them seriously will be endangered.

At the very least, astrology is a crutch to avoid the effort of seeking out an informed basis for our decisions. At its worse, it becomes compulsive, a false god gripping us with demonic power. This is probably why the Old Testament warns against it (Isaiah 47:13).

(For more information about the occult, see the Discovery Series booklet What’s The Appeal Of The New Age Movement?)

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What Should I Think of what I Experience in Dreams?

Scientific evidence is accumulating that dreams have vital physiological and psychological functions. Our dreams apparently play an important role in creativity and problem solving.

1  This and other scientific discoveries about the important physiological role of dreaming show that the mysterious activity of dreaming is “hardwired” into us by God’s design, for our benefit. For that reason, we shouldn’t fear dreaming.

The Bible illustrates how highly the Hebrews and other ancient people esteemed dreams and those who could interpret them (Genesis 41; Daniel 2), and that they viewed dreams at times as natural (Ecclesiastes 5:3), as evil (Deuteronomy 13:1-2; Jeremiah 29:8), or as divine revelation (Genesis 28:12-13; Genesis 37:5,9). ( See the ATQ article Is it possible that some dreams contain important symbolic meaning—or even a message from God?)

Like the daydreams and thoughts that drift into our minds in our conscious state, dream fantasies generally seem spontaneous. Sexual activity, rage, and violence often occur abruptly and uncontrollably in dreams. In dreams, all of us do things we certainly would never do if we were awake. We also have nightmares that seem to express our deepest fear and insecurity.

Many people describe having had “lucid dreams.” In lucid dreams, we are aware that we are dreaming and are sometimes able to choose our actions. Some early Christian ascetic monks actually believed that we are responsible not only for what we do in our waking state, but for what we do in our dreams. These monks withdrew from society and dedicated themselves to an isolated life of grueling hardship. Their solitary focus on subjective experience may have made them aware of some things that most of us don’t experience.

Occultists in many cultures have been interested in lucid dreams and have sometimes sought to cultivate lucid dreams and increase control over their fantasies. Such efforts to use occult technique to gain control over one’s dreams are sinister. At the very least, they focus attention away from the real world into a fantasy. At the worst, it may open one’s mind to overtly demonic or subconsciously destructive influences. (See the ATQ articles Why Is It Dangerous for Subconscious Images to Penetrate Our Waking Consciousness? and Why Are Channeling and Mediumship Dangerous?)

To the degree we are aware that we are dreaming and to the extent that our dreams are under our control—that is, lucid—we may be responsible for our actions and shaping our character by our choices.

However, the vast majority of dreams aren’t lucid. Most dreams are fantasies created by our sleeping brain from random memories. In certain ways we feel especially vulnerable when we are sleeping. But God never sleeps. He is always guarding and protecting us (Psalm 121:1-3).

Scripture nowhere indicates that God holds us responsible for what happens in our dreams. But our dreams should serve as a vivid reminder of how dependent we are on His love and grace.

  1. See the papers, “Sleep Inspires insight” in Nature magazine, January 2004 (Wagner, Gais, Haider, Verleger, and Born, from research at the University of Luebeck) and “REM, not incubation, improves creativity by priming associative networks” (Cai, Mednick, Harrison, Kanady, and Mednick). (The Mednick paper is at http://www.saramednick.com/htmls/pdfs/Cai_PNAS_2009) Back To Article
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How Can I Break the Spiritual Bonds Passed on from My Ancestors?

Some Christians believe that people can be “demonized” by ancestral sin. They believe that in such cases the demonized individual needs to be freed of inherited demonic influence by a “power encounter” in which the inherited demonic influence is exposed and expelled.

In our view, there is no scriptural precedent for using power encounters or exorcisms to deal with the sinful patterns of living that are passed down from our ancestors. In fact, Scripture seems to place a clear limitation on the power of evil ancestral influences, comparing it to the much greater influence of godliness:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:5-6 NIV).

Practically speaking, how could we possibly distinguish the sinful tendencies inherited from our parents from those we learned by exposure to them and other significant people in our lives? Throughout the New Testament, deliverance from sin involves repentance and confession. Whatever the origin of our sinful tendencies, the biblical approach to dealing with them is neither quick nor easy. The New Testament gives us no reason to believe they can be “cast out” in the same way Jesus and the disciples cast out demons of the possessed. (See the ATQ article, Can Christians Be Demon Possessed?)

All of us are deeply affected by the sinful patterns of living of significant people in our lives. Our behavior is largely shaped by the behavior of our parents, whose behavior, in turn, was shaped by the behavior of their parents, and so on. John describes how God can cleanse our hearts of sin’s influence:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NKJV).

This doesn’t mean that our struggle is merely psychological or emotional. Satan is a real and personal foe, attacking us relentlessly, systematically (Ephesians 6:12). Yet the biblical pattern for overcoming inherited sinful patterns of living is not to obsess on the demonic element of our sinful traits, but to accept the direction of the Holy Spirit in uncovering and overcoming them.

A person who wins a lottery is much more likely to squander his wealth than someone who earns it in years of patient effort. Likewise, Christians need to understand their sinful tendencies and struggle with them before they can fully appreciate the value of being delivered from them.

The New Testament doesn’t promise power encounters that deliver us effortlessly from our sinful ways without the growing pains of spiritual renewal.

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Can Christians Be Demon Possessed?

The word demonization is a term recently coined by evangelicals who believe that Christians can be inhabited by demons. These evangelicals believe that Christians can be inhabited by demons who control unyielded areas of their spirit, while not possessing them entirely (in the sense of displacing the union between their spirit and the Holy Spirit, or taking away their salvation).

It is important to note, however, that the terms demonization and demonized are simply transliterations of the Greek word that has traditionally been translated as “possessed” (daimonizomai: Matthew 4:24; 8:16, 28; 9:32; 12:22 ). This word indicates overwhelming demonic control as The Easton Bible Dictionary clarifies regarding demon possession: “This influence is clearly distinguished from the ordinary power of corruption and of temptation over men. In the demoniac, his personality seems to be destroyed, and his actions, words, and even thoughts to be overborne by the evil spirit Acts 19:15 ).”

There is no biblical basis for believing that a genuine Christian can be under the degree of demonic control indicated by the word daimonizomai. First Corinthians 6:19 makes it clear that the Holy Spirit establishes a permanent, intimate relationship with every believer. The body of a Christian is the Holy Spirit’s temple. Other passages also describe the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of Christians ( John 3:3-7; Romans 8:5-11; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 6:16; Ephesians 1:13-14; Titus 3:4-7 ).

In all of the documents left us by Paul, Peter, John, and the other New Testament writers, there is not one passage that directly states or even implies that Christians may have to deal with their own sin or the sin of another Christian by confronting and casting out an inhabiting demon.

This doesn’t mean that Christians can afford to be careless in respect to Satan’s power. Scripture warns of the danger of spiritual evil ( 2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 4:27; 6:11-12; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8 ). While the biblical examples of demonic possession imply a degree of direct demonic control that can’t exist when a person has established an intimate relationship with God through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, Christians can still be oppressed and influenced by the demonic. One of the most striking examples in Scripture was Simon Peter’s opposition to Jesus’ commitment to the cross . 1
Ironically, in a misguided attempt to directly confront the demonic, Christian people sometimes become obsessed with it. This happens when they mistakenly conclude that all—or nearly all—of the evil they perceive within themselves derives from a separate personality—Satan or a demon. There may be disastrous consequences for Christians who attribute their personal sins to exterior, demonic causes rather than taking responsibility for the evil within their own hearts (See the ATQ article, Is Demonic Deliverance Ministry Biblical?)

  1. “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’ ” (Matthew 16:23). But this kind of demonic influence doesn’t involve demonic possession or “inhabiting demons.” Nor does it require exorcism. Back To Article
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Can Dreams Have Symbolic Meaning or Messages from God?

It’s easy to expect either too little or too much of dreams.

An excellent book by a scientist who has researched the physiology of dreams (The Dreaming Brain by J. Allan Hobson) sets forth the hypothesis that because the brain is never completely inactive during sleep, it is constantly triggering the images of memories and experiences into our sleeping consciousness. Because we human beings are continually in search of meaning (and meaningful patterns), the process of trying to make sense of our world doesn’t stop when we are sleeping. Therefore, even when we are sleeping we try to create order and meaning out of random memories and images projected by our dreaming brain. He concludes that dreams are the result of this process.

After nearly 60 years of reflecting on my dreams, I think Dr. Hobson’s hypothesis fits the content of most of them. Still, I’m not sure that all dreams have a completely random neurological source. Sometimes the images are so unusual that it is hard to remember (or even imagine having had) any memories or experiences that might be their source. In fact, sometimes dreams have such duration and continuity that their content seems created by the interpreting mind rather than rising independently of it. Clearly, Dr. Hobson’s hypothesis leaves open the possibility that some dreams and nightmares expose the conflicts and fears we repress during waking hours as well as the fact that the process of working through problems and issues continues even when we are asleep.

In addition to dreams that might have symbolic significance are supernatural/preternatural dreams. Most of us have heard a trustworthy person tell of a dream that depicted a future event or alerted them to the fact that a loved one was in danger. The Bible also describes dreams that involve clairvoyance or precognition (Genesis 20:3; 31:10, 24; 37:5; 40:5; Numbers 12:6; Judges 7:13; 1 Kings 3:5; Daniel 2:3; 4:5; 7:1; Joel 2:28; Matthew 1:20; 2:12; 27:19).

When we think about our dreams, it’s important to try to understand them on the basis of Scripture. God warned the Israelites about false prophets who told lies based on dreams:

“I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long will this be in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal” (Jeremiah 23:25-27).

In 2 Corinthians 11:14, the apostle Paul warned us that Satan “transforms himself into an angel of light” and could conceivably use dreams to deceive us. Obsession with dreams and their interpretation might lead a person into occult interests and estrangement from reality.

Remember, our heavenly Father is the “Father of lights” (James 1:17) who reveals the truth openly and clearly. He will never give us a message in our sleep that is contrary to reason or Scripture.

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Do Witches Always Practice Black Magic?

Many modern Neopagans and other practitioners of what they call the “Old Religion” insist that they aren’t involved in black magic.

1 While they call themselves witches and use the term “witchcraft” in reference to what they do, they renounce the use of a manipulative or malevolent black magic, and they have adopted an ethic that generally fits in well with the moral values of Western culture. Outsiders find it puzzling that such groups refer to their religious practice as witchcraft even though the term has many so bad connotations.

  1. There is reason to question whether a clear distinction between “white” and “black” magic really exists. This will be taken up in a later article. Back To Article
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Can Christians Be Hurt by Witchcraft or Black Magic?

God is the Creator and Master of the natural world. Satan is only the master of illusion. He deals in hallucination and deceit. Any limited powers over nature he may possess are entirely circumscribed by God, but he can control susceptible minds. People in Satan’s power are obsessed and hypnotized by evil. The source of black magic’s power is fear. Academic writers have documented the life and death power of pagan magic over people who believe in it.

Dr. Herbert Basedow (1925), in his book, The Australian Aboriginal, has presented a vivid picture of the first horrifying effect of bone pointing on the ignorant, superstitious and credulous natives, and the later more calm acceptance of their mortal fate: The man who discovers that he is being boned by any enemy is, indeed, a pitiable sight. He stands aghast, with his eyes staring at the treacherous pointer, and with his hands lifted as though to ward off the lethal medium, which he imagines is pouring into his body. His cheeks blanch and his eyes become glassy and the expression of his face becomes horribly distorted. . . . He attempts to shriek but usually the sound chokes in his throat, and all that one might see is froth at his mouth. His body begins to tremble and the muscles twist involuntarily. He sways backwards and falls to the ground, and after a short time appears to be in a swoon; but soon after he writhes as if in mortal agony, and, covering his face with his hands, begins to moan.

After a while he becomes very composed and crawls to his wurley. From this time onwards he sickens and frets, refusing to eat and keeping aloof from the daily affairs of the tribe. Unless help is forthcoming in the shape of a countercharm administered by the hands of the Nangarri, or medicine-man, his death is only a matter of a comparatively short time (Walter B. Cannon, “Voodoo Death,” American Anthropologist, vol. 33, 1942).

Another anthropologist described the circumstances in which superstitious fear can take hold:

In “Voodoo Death” (Cannon 1972 [1942]) a person violates a taboo, such as walking on sacred ground, [or] eating a forbidden fruit, and, shortly after discovering that a taboo has been violated, the person is dead. The closely related phenomenon of “hex” death (Seligman 1975, p. 1977) occurs when a person learns that they have been cursed by someone with the appropriate technical knowledge and supernatural authority. As in the case of voodoo death, hex death kills within hours or days. While such deaths exhibit a fairly standard set of physical symptoms, they cannot be attributed to external agents such as poisons or bacteria nor to externally induced physical trauma. The death is psychosomatic.

A person who violates a taboo has broken the deepest rules of their culture and thereby is thrust outside the protective web of memes and traits which give meaning and structure to the world. The person who is cursed believes that someone else has severed the link between their soul and the cultural forms and practices in which that soul lives its life. Such people are in a situation where, in effect, they see no hope of ever again satisfying their higher reference levels. They are cut off from their culture. That kills them as surely as being cut off from food or water (William Benzon, Culture as an Evolutionary Arena).

In spite of the power pagan sorcerers and witch doctors hold over people who accept their authority, Christian missionaries confront “powerful” witch doctors with immunity to curses and black magic. I personally recall a confrontation between a Christian missionary in Haiti and several witch doctors at a famous voodoo shrine, the missionary laughing at their threats while ripping their inverted cross fetishes out of the ground and throwing them into a nearby lagoon. On another occasion, a voodoo houngan actually placed a curse on a son of this missionary, only to die himself in the time frame he had set for the death of the boy. Another witch doctor cursed the womb of a woman newly converted to Christianity. When she became pregnant, she fled to the mission compound and lived there for several months out of fear for her baby. Concerned for her feelings, but realizing that she was giving in to her fear, the missionaries helped her understand that the witch doctor’s curse had no power over a believer indwelt with the Holy Spirit’s power. She moved back home, and in a few months delivered a healthy baby boy.1The Bible describes the awesome power of the Creator (Genesis 1; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 8:3-4; Proverbs 8:29; Proverbs 16:4; Isaiah 44:24-28), a power that instantly brought the material world into existence and is equally capable of instantly destroying it. The feeble magic of demons and sorcerers can no more thwart such boundless power than a grain of sand can stop a tsunami or a drop of rain the eruption of a volcano.

Obedient people empowered by God’s blessing and immersed in His favor are impervious to Satan’s power. A loyal child of the Creator stands in the power of the Creator (Genesis 15:1; Proverbs 18:10; Ephesians 6:16).

Since vulnerability to black magic is rooted in fear and lack of trust, Christians can count on God’s protection when they submit to His authority. But if they actively suppress or ignore God’s moral law for selfish purposes, they enter the realm of the demonic and become vulnerable to its power. If they live a gangster’s lifestyle, they become vulnerable to its dangers.  If they live by Satan’s code, they become subject to its rules. Sin and rebellion feed and magnify fear. Trust in God is manifested by a willingness to resist sin.

Christians should also keep guard over their imaginations, thinking of the admonitions of Paul and James:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8)

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

If we don’t put our trust in God, we may become more and more obsessed with Satan. In the Middle Ages, imaginations obsessed with Satan’s power led to the witch craze, causing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to be tortured and killed. The witch craze was the consequence of people becoming so obsessed with satanic power that they viewed the normal tragedies of a fallen world as the result of black magic. (See the ATQ article, Did Church Authorities Seek to Eradicate Paganism in Europe by Killing Millions of “Witches”?)

Once a person has accepted the authority of Jesus Christ, he has the Holy Spirit dwelling within (John 14:16-17). All of us are susceptible to the temptations and trials of the “world, flesh, and devil.” However, the Creator God loves us, sent His Son to die for us, and will protect us if we are willing to trust Him enough to do right. The focus of spiritual warfare in a Christian’s life needs to be his own sinful nature and desires. We don’t need any rituals or charms to protect us. Just a simple prayer for protection, and willingness to acknowledge and forsake any conscious sin is enough.2

  1. This baby boy went on to be raised by his Christian parents, attended mission schools and college, and now is an accountant. This family’s courage to resist Satan’s lies made it possible for their family to be lifted out of the most extreme poverty and spiritual darkness to new horizons of spiritual and material hope. Back To Article
  2. Using the metaphor of a well-equipped Roman soldier, Paul told us how we could be prepared for spiritual warfare. We are to put on the armor of God  (Ephesians 6:11-18), which includes:
    • The belt of truth. Since Satan depends on deceit to maintain his power, our first line of defense is always truth. We must never distort or misrepresent the truth, regardless of any advantage we might gain by doing so.
    • The breastplate of righteousness. Any sin in our life leaves us open to Satan’s attack. Even though we are given the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21), we must still continually put on the protection of holy living.
    • The shoes of the gospel of peace. With our feet firmly planted on the truth that we are at peace with God and that He is on our side, we can stand firmly against Satan’s attacks.
    • The shield of faith. In order to quench the “fiery darts” of Satan’s temptations, we must trust and believe what God has said about every area of our life.
    • The helmet of salvation. This is the confidence that there is coming in the future a great victory celebration. It is also referred to as the “hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). This helmet protects us against Satan’s missiles of discouragement and doubt.
    • The sword of the Spirit. Since the Word of God is the basis of our faith, we need to learn how to wield it with authority. Scripture is our best offensive weapon against the devil (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:12).

    After he described the various elements of the armor, Paul said that we are to be in constant prayer. Prayer expresses our dependence on God. We can fight against Satan only “in the [strength of] the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). In the power of Christ and with the armor of the Spirit, we will be victors. Back To Article

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How Powerful Is the Devil?

Even though the Scriptures tell us little about Satan’s origin, they tell us that he is a fallen angel of considerable power. One of the most familiar passages is Ephesians 6:12 :

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Jesus called Satan the “ruler of this world” ( John 12:31 ), and Jude tells us that he is so powerful that even Michael the archangel lacked the power to rebuke him ( Jude 1:9 ). Paul called him the “god of this age” in 2 Corinthians 4:4 . He also portrayed him ( Ephesians 6:12 ) as the head of a great, highly organized “army” of evil spirit beings. He is a cunning liar, capable of seducing Adam and Eve, and disguising himself as an “angel of light” ( 2 Corinthians 11:14 ).

While Satan is portrayed in the Bible as powerful, dangerous, and an adversary to be respected, he shouldn’t be considered in any way equal to God. He is a creature, with creaturely limitations. His power is nothing in comparison with that of the sovereign God. And according to James 4:7 , because of the power God gives to His children, if we resist the devil he will flee from us. Although subtle and cunning, the devil is a defeated foe who continues to resist God furiously until the time that he will be sealed in hell forever.

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What Does the Bible Say About Witchcraft?

The Scriptures condemn all sorcery as opposed to a proper sense of dependence upon God. In Galatians 5:20, witchcraft is listed as being one of the acts of the sinful nature. The book of Revelation contains several passages that condemn sorcery in the strongest terms ( Revelation 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15 ).

The Bible asserts that only God has the right to understand the realm of the supernatural ( Genesis 40:8 ). Under Old Testament law, intrusion into the realm of the occult made one worthy of death ( Exodus 22:18 ). 1

Interestingly, several Greek words in the New Testament that are translated “witchcraft” and “sorcery” have the root pharm, from which our words pharmacy and pharmaceuticals are derived. This root refers to “drugs, potions, and poisons.” Those who are familiar with the practice of sorcery, both among primitive tribespeople and modern occultists, know that psychoactive drugs are often used by shamans and sorcerers 2 to induce dramatically altered states of consciousness that provide supernatural knowledge or contact with spirits.

1. Also see Leviticus 19:31 ; 2 Kings 21:6; 23:24 ; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 ; Isaiah 8:19; 19:3 . Back To Article


2. Although the use of drugs as “potions” is common in sorcery and witchcraft, not all modern witches advocate the magical use of drugs. Ritual, meditation, and other magical techniques are often used in their place to produce similar effects. Back To Article

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What Is Witchcraft?

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines witchcraft as:

The human exercise of alleged supernatural powers for antisocial, evil purposes (so-called black magic). A female held to have such powers may be called a witch or sorceress, the male counterpart being named wizard, sorcerer, or warlock. Belief in witchcraft survives in modern technologically developed cultures and remains a potent factor in most nonliterate societies.

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines witchcraft in the following way:

a. an act or instance of employing sorcery especially with malevolent intent: a magical rite or technique; b. the exercise of supernatural powers: alleged intercourse with the devil or with a familiar.

and the Colliers Encyclopedia states:

Witchcraft may be defined for general purposes as the use of supposed supernatural power for antisocial ends. In primitive societies where magic is an accepted part of religious ritual, the witch is the unauthorized, and especially the malevolent, practitioner.

Notice that these works refer to witchcraft as the use of sorcery and supernatural power for malevolent intent. Witchcraft of this type exists in nearly every cultural setting. This judgment isn’t merely the conclusion of “Christian culture.” Historian Jeffrey B. Russell, who is not at all hostile toward modern Neopaganism, states:

Folk tales, like dreams, express the concerns of the unconscious in symbols; the meaning of the figure of the witch, like the meaning of any symbol, varies with the story. Usually, however, she represents an elemental natural force possessing enormous and unexpected powers against which a natural person is unable to prepare or defend himself, a force not necessarily evil, but so alien and remote from the world of mankind as to constitute a threat to the social ethical, and even physical order of the cosmos. This manner of portraying the witch is very ancient and probably archetypal. This witch is neither a simple sorceress, nor a demonolater, nor a pagan. She is a hostile presence from another world. The gut terror inspired by this archetypal witch helps to explain the excesses of hatred and fear that welled up during the witch craze.

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