Cathy posted an interesting article; The Witch-Hunts are Not Over
This made me wonder …
The word witch is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word wicca (masculine – wizard) and wicce (feminine – witch). The Middle English word Wicche refers to both sexes. These were probably reduced from Old High German words – witega, witiga, and witga – seer, allied to witan, to know. The word wikken – to make evil, lead to the word wicked, which in turn was also derived from the Anglo-Saxon word wicca.
The etymology of the words witch and wicked reveals so much to me. Firstly it gives a clue to the origins of the “bad press” of witches. Somewhere down the line the word wicca became synonymous with causing evil. Once simply an indication of “knowing”. I would venture to say – one who knows. And ‘one who knows’ has power. Wicca is of course a western form of shamanism. Forms of Shamanism are found the world over. However, through the usual tactics of politics (whatever changes) the invading imperialistic religions, made Shamanism synonymous with evil. Devil’s worship etc. I find the following extract most insightful as to the more gentle methods of persuasion used by missionaries in converting indigenous people from the Old Faith to the Christianity.
“Had they not often told me that their own people were able to do such things until a few years ago, when they abjured their familiar spirits on learning from the missionary of the existence of heaven and hell, and of the fact that no one can attain salvation who employs spirits to do his bidding? It was too bad that salvation and the practice of magic were incompatible; not that such trivial things as the recovery of lost articles were of moment, but in the cure of sickness and the control of weather prayers seemed so much less efficient than the old charms. Still of course, they did not really regret the loss of the old knowledge and power, for did they not have the inestimable prospect of salvation, which had been denied their forefathers through the unfortunate lateness of the coming of the missionaries? It was more the short sightedness to regret having renounced the miraculous ability to cure disease, for God knows best when we should die, and to him who prays faithfully and never works on a Sunday, death is but the entrance to a happier life.” “My Life with the Eskimos” – Vilhjalmur Stefansson
As you will find among any group of human beings there are always some that will abuse their power and give an opportunity for the rest to be labelled bad and mad as well. In Africa there is a saying: “Born a witch, die a witch.” These words are not taken lightly, for here people still get killed for being condemned as a witch. In Africa the word witch has a negative connotation, “Someone who uses so called supernatural energies to cause harm.” In this regard I can tell you stories that will make your hair rise. Believe it or not, it does not matter; there are many that believe it so strongly that they will take the life of another because of it. There is a deep fear for the power of “witches
If you call a sangoma or injanga a witchdoctor, they would be most offended.” “We are healers not out to cause harm.” ” A shaman is a healer of relationships: between mind and body, between people, between people and circumstances, between humans and Nature, and between matter and spirit.” Serge Kahili King Here in Africa, shamans call themselves traditional healers.
Most Africans still prefers to see their traditional healers first before consulting a western trained medical specialist. But as in any profession there are many charlatans. To root out this a strong association of traditional healers has been formed. Now it is possible to get Medical aid cover for using accredited traditional healers. In recent years a lot of attention has been given to the herbal cures used for centuries by traditional healers. Even matters such as copy right has surfaced with an ancient San remedy for times of hunger; Hoodii, was found to be the ideal slimming aid.
As with most ancient religions there is an esoteric (inner) and exoteric (outer) side of the same belief. The esoteric essence of shamanism can best be reduced to the following: To work in the forge of your own heart in order to create a life of passion and purpose, based on beauty and dignity; one must work with the air of your mind, the water of your heart, the earth of your instinct and the fire of your spiritual passion. When mental discipline are applied to the life energies, transformation can occur. (At the basis of most ritual are the four elements.)