It is a diverse religion that knows no central authority. Consequently practitioners do not all have the same views, beliefs and practices.
Sadly, as many of the items in our Witchcraft news tracker show, throughout much of the world both practitioners and non-practitioners of witchcraft are subject to persecution based on superstitious beliefs.
Some recent examples include the following items, the first one from Mexico:
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Prosecutors in western Mexico say a 78-year-old man has been arrested and charged with homicide for allegedly killing a woman he claimed cast a spell on him.
In July 2008, a woman was arrested in central Mexico for allegedly killing a woman she thought has bewitched her.
And this report from a newspaper in Uganda:
Residents of Kijjomanyi village in Kalungu sub-county, Masaka district, on Tuesday attacked a man they accused him of practicing witchcraft.
The residents also accused Felix Ssali of killing his enemies just by pointing at them.
“If he pointed at you saying he would ‘light you up’, you would not take two weeks before you are dead,” Kasanje LC2 chairman George William Sembatya said.
Sembatya said Ssali was suspected to have killed about 15 people from the neighbouring villages.
He cited a resident, Annet Namwanje and her brother, saying: “Namwanje was bitten by a snake, which no one else could see. Her brother was knocked dead by a car. Both reportedly had a quarrel with Ssali over a piece of land.”
From Balasore, India:
A man and his wife of Sunakhania village under Rasagobindapur police limits in Mayurbhanj district have been arrested on charges of branding their grandmother with a hot sickle, accusing her of practising witchcraft.
The Digar couple took the extreme step after Huki Dehuri, sister-in-law of Japani, suffered from fever and did not get well even after medical treatment. ‘’The relatives of Huki suspected their grandmother Rasamati of practising witchcraft on Huki and beat her up mercilessly. Later they attacked her with a hot sickle,’’ he said.
In India witchcraft is being put on the curriculum for primary schoolchildren in an effort to debunk superstitions that are behind scores of gruesome murders every year.
At times those who practise witchcraft actually do cause harm, as in this report:
A couple are standing trial in the Samoa Supreme Court on charges of witchcraft, actual bodily harm, and manslaughter after the death of a 44-year old woman in January this year.
The couple, both traditional Taulasea healers, performed a witchcraft treatment on the woman in which they instructed her to sit in a plastic container partly filled with boiling hot water.
In the first day of the trial, the mother-in law of the deceased said she was told by the couple the treatment would chase away demons from the dead woman’s family.
The woman was rushed to the hospital the day after the treatment where she was pronounced dead just minutes on arrival.