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The folk magical traditions that colonists brought with them from England assumed that men and women could manipulate supernatural forces for their own ends. Cunning folk used a variety of fortune-telling techniques that they learned from manuals that circulated on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet neither magical beliefs nor magical practices were gender-specific: men as well as women resorted to and functioned as cunning folk. As English colonists turned to magic in hopes of divining the future, curing ailments, and protecting themselves or their loved ones from harm, their options were not limited to English techniques and English cunning folk. Although witchcraft prosecutions occurred throughout the British colonies in North America, the powerful influence of religious culture in New England produced a disproportionate number of cases and thus a disproportionate amount of information about magical beliefs and techniques. The assumption underlying folk magic contrasted sharply with the teachings of Puritan theology, which placed supernatural power firmly in God's hands.
This chapter approaches magic in the early church from two angles. In first, it examines the ways in which different groups of people performing rituals were depicted as practitioners of magic. In second, the discussion of Late Antique practices deemed to be magical focuses on the competition for spiritual authority between ritual experts. In the eyes of Graeco-Roman outsiders, Christian practices resembled widespread stereotypes of magic. Origen was a Christian apologist who addressed allegations of magic against Christians by reframing the terms. Celsus had accused Christians of attaining their powers by using the names of demons in their incantations. Christian writers connected magic with demons and designated Graeco-Roman cult practices as magic and asserted that they dealt with evil spirits. The association of magic with paganism and heresy in imperial legislation shows how the imperial government aimed at harnessing magic for various social, political and religious goals.
Magical practices, such as various forms of divination, amulets or the use of incantations, were part and parcel of that concept of paganism, and they helped Christianity set up clear-cut boundaries by defining what is permitted from a Christian point of view and what is not. The late seventh and early eighth centuries marked an important turning point in the references made to magic and paganism in Western Europe. When considering the nature of magic and magical practices in the early medieval West, one has to keep in mind that magic was closely intertwined with the Christianised world-view of the post-Roman Barbarian world. No doubt people in the early medieval West possessed amulets and phylacteries, turned to witch doctors in times of illness and distress and attempted to intervene in the course of nature by swallowing potions or reciting incantations. These acts were interpreted by various Christian authors as magical and, more often than not, as pagan and diabolical.
This chapter describes an investigation conducted in 1928 and 1929 following the murder of three slaves accused of witchcraft in northwest Mauritania. Many old people and a few younger ones shed new light on the remembered events and on beliefs about the remote vampirism of which the three slaves were accused. The three slaves were two brothers (Hamadi and Souélim) and a sister (Zénabou), owned by Cheikh Ould Abd El Aziz, a notable of the religious qabila of the Ahel Barikallah. The chapter explains Bizhan beliefs about magic, particularly the remote vampirism that led to the death of the three slaves. Although Bizhan society harbors many magical practices and belief in witches' evil spells, several indications suggest that the specific belief in sell is imported. A link has been made between vampirism and shortages of meat, an essential food source for nomadic herders.
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