Witchcraft and medicine
The origins of medicine are closely linked to the supernatural. The primitiveview of medicine had more to do with magic than with what is considered medicine today. Witchcraft, or the practice of magic, could be used to inflict illness or to take it away. Hippocrates and later physicians tried to separatemedicine from magical thinking, but the two remained connected until at leastthe 17th century. Until this time, physicians themselves might be just as likely to explain illness as due to supernatural influences as the common man.Their use of astrology is a case in point. In some cultures, the link betweenmagic and medicine persists to today, and people throughout the world use divination, astrology, and other practices to diagnose and treat illness.
The practice of witchcraft is tied to the supposed ability of the witch to manipulate nature to his or her own ends. Those ends might be good or evil. Alongside the belief in magical causes and cures of disease existed a more practical side of the so-called witchcraft. Healers both in the past and present use traditional medicines which often include effective herbal and other remedies. The rituals that accompany the remedies can be supportive by providing emotional and psychological comfort to an ill person and those around him.
The modern perception that witches are associated with evil began in Europe during the medieval period (13th century). Most of the so-called witches werelikely well-meaning healers such as midwives. Such people were said to practice white magic. However, there were others who used, or at least had the reputation for using, magic with bad intentions. These people were accused of practicing black magic. Although most so-called witches were harmless, their knowledge and activities drew on the primitive, pagan roots of medicine. Churchauthorities were suspicious. Authorities believed that witches manipulated natural events with the aid of demons. Soon, they virtually ceased to distinguish between black magic and white magic, and witch hunts claimed the lives oftens of thousands of people over the following centuries.
Witches today mostly fall into two classes: those in native cultures and people who practice a neopagan religion called Wicca. Wicca centers on a reverence for nature and the desire to harm no one; it is far removed from the medieval concept of witchcraft. The medieval concept persists to some extent through modern satanism, or the worship of evil, but it is uncommon.