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Which witch is which ?

BRAMI Éléna Tlea

Te here

A witch is "someone who causes harm to others by mystical means" (according to Rodney Needham, anthrpologist of religion in 1978)

How to define a witch ?


The origins of witches

The myth of Circe:

Circe is a goddess from the Greek and Roman mythology known for practicing metamorphosis by using drugs or poisons. She is also one of the first witches/enchantress mentioned in history.

According to Greek mythology, she turned 22 Ulysses's companions into pigs.

Here is an extract of a contemporary fiction work by Madeline Miller, an American writer, who revisits Circe's story in 2018:

"Witchcraft is nothing but such drudgery. Each herb must be found in its den, harvested at its time, grubbed up from the dirt, culled and stripped, washed and prepared. It must be handled this way, then that, to find out where its power lies. Day upon patient day, you must throw out your errors and begin again. So why did I not mind? Why did none of us mind? [...] At first, of course, all I brewed were mistakes. Draughts that did nothing, pastes that crumbled and lay dead on the table. I thought that if some rue was good, more was better, that ten herbs mixed were superior to five, that I could let my mind wander and the spell would not wander with it, that I could begin making one draught and halfway through decide to make another. I did not know even the simplest herb-lore that any mortal would learn at her mother’s knee: that wort plants boiled made a sort of soap, that yew burnt in the hearth sent up a choking smog, that poppies had sleep in their veins and hellebore death, and yarrow could close over wounds. All these things had to be worked and learned through errors and trials, burnt fingers and fetid clouds that sent me running outside to cough in the garden. At least, I thought in those early days, once I cast a spell, I would not have to learn it again. But even that was not true. However often I had used an herb before, each cutting had its own character. One rose would give up its secrets if it were ground, another must be pressed, a third steeped. Each spell was a mountain to be climbed anew. All I could carry with me from last time was the knowledge that it could be done."

Modes of preparation of draughts (potion):

With a cauldron: boiled, burned, mixed, brewed/infused

- crumbled


Abracadabra...cast a spell !!

The witch trials of Valais

These trials reflects the campaign of witch hunting in Valais (Switzerland) from 1428 during the Inquisition (a catholic juridiction fighting heresia and people who doesn't respect dogma). Here is the name of some people accused of witchcraft during these areas and burned: Pierre Jote, Martin Bertod. After 1430, more than 200 people are burned after their trials.



the witch hunt continues...especially in the town of Salem (Massachussets, USA)

Witch hunt trial

The author, Arthur Miller:

He was born the 17th October 1915 and died the 10th February 2005. A.Miller was an author, a playwright, known for his theater play The Crucible (1953). He also wrote Death of a Salesman in 1949.

His characters are realist and more important than the story or the action. Thus, they are very detailed (expressions, clothes ...)

The story of the Crucible:

This theater play takes place during events around witchcraft in Salem in 1692.

Its protagonists (Tituba, Elisabeth Proctor...) were accused to practicing witchcraft for no real reasons by puritans (like the reverend Parris). This allows the author to denounce indirectly the McCarthyism because some of his friends were censured and accused to support communism without any evidence.

In the last diapo, the term "McCarthyism" is used. But what is McCarthyism ?

McCarthyism (a word taken from Joseph McCarthy, a republican senator, famous for his accusations of communism launched against his opponents) is a period during the Cold War qualified as "Witch hunt" by the hatred of communists and the will to remove all traces of communism.

In 1950, Joseph McCarthy launchs an anticommunist crusade for his re-election and targets in a fake list 205 names suspected to be communists infiltrated into the government. He then manages to touch opinion.

However, his fake accusations are denounced by the democratic Party, even though most of the Republicans support him because he allows the election of a republican president, Eisenhower in 1952.

McCarthy continues his accusations and investigates the US Army and civils. In 1954, he is accused for wanting to obtain information about Army for his deputy. Then, he is opposed to the Army in public trails from March to June 1954. He refuses to answer the questions and loses popularity and his influence. He is condamned by the Democratic Party which come to power by elections in 1954.

He died in 1957.

A brutal repression:

Communists were hunted like witches were in the 17th century, without necessarily real proof. Thus, 13.5 millions of people accused of communism or engaged against the using of nuclear bombs, were judged. Some of them (like actors, actresses, screenwriters) were blacklisted and tausends of professors and researchers are censured. A part of them were fired (9 000 people), jailed, and forced to do low-salary jobs if they want to survive. This unbearable pression can lead them to suicide.

Although, communists in the USA were a minority (around 10 000 people), so we can consider the fact that the th HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) was excessive.

The context:

McCarthyism emerged at the end of World War 2 (1945). Then, 2 powers influenced the whole world : the USA (United States of America) and the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). USSR spreads communism, a doctrin opposite of USA. In 1947, the president of the USA, Truman announce the containment politic in order to counter the spread and advance of communism: the Cold War begins.

In the USA, paranoia grows with the fear of communism, also called "Red Scare". Medias and politics are the most important actors in the development of mistrust and hatred against communists, these are even the sources of McCarthyism.

The Hollywood Ten

This expression concerns 10 cinema screenwriters, producers or scenarists called in 1947 in front of the HUAC and who refused to answer questions about their belonging (or not) in the communist party:

Alvah Bessie, Dalton Trumbo, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr, John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz and Adrian Scott.

Then, they are blacklisted and jailed for "contempt of Congress".

Who is he ?

A spy ring ?

This man is Albert Maltz, an american playwright, fiction writer and screenwriter, born the 28th October 1908 and died the 26th April 1985. Maltz is famous for his films (This Gun for life in 1942, The Cross and the Arrow in 1944, and the Broken Arrow, which was uncredited in 1950), but also for his novels (Merry Go Round in 1932, Afternoon in the Jungle in 1971).

In 1947, he refused to testify in front of the US Congress that he was involved with the Communist Party USA, so he was jailed 3 years later (in 1950) and the president of the Motion Picture Association of America blacklisted him.

The FBI (Federation Bureau of Investigation) affirms that there is a sovietic spy ring in the USA, and that these spys infiltrated the government, schools, press and cinema. Then, FBI establishs a list of 26 000 people (syndicalists, journalists, lawyers, teachers, scientists) to arrest in case of emergency.

In 1938, the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee ) is created in order to denounce publicly "communists" or people supporting them. In 1947, the HUAC targets especially the cinema sector, with actors like Charlie Chaplin or Bertold Brecht.

Modern Witches hunts

And...nowadays ?

Here is a cover of the film I am not a witch (2017), which tells the story of a nine years old girl, Shula, who was accused of witchcraft of her village in Zambia and forced to join witches camps in the desert. Nowadays, witches camps are widespread in some african countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia). According to the UNICEF, more than 15 000 children through Africa are targeted for supposedly practicing witchcraft.

the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=telx5Pfe2-I

In Poland, queer people or those who protest for human rights are considered like heretics by authorities and are hunted. Some towns boast of being "lgbt free zone" and ban gay pride.

Thank you for watching !