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Pages (PDF): 34
Publication Date: 1942
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This is a small book that explains some of the myths, persecutions, theories and history of this ancient and controversial practice. Chapters include, What Makes A Man Superstitious; His Religion, Or A Lack Of It?, Witchcraft And Beliefs In Evil Spirits Came To America Long Ago, Puritans Raised Hell With Witches In Early Days, Strange Evolution For Getting Rid Of Evil Spirits, Charms And Trinkets Are Revered By Many Of Our People, Some Of The "Famous" Witch Trials In Pennsylvania, and, And So They Celebrate Pagan Days In Our Public Schools.
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"THERE'S WITCHCRAFT IN PENNSYLVANIA AND WHEREVER ELSE YOU WANT TO FIND IT--IN AMERICA!" "Preposterous;" "I don't believe it;" "Impossible;" "Nothing to it;" "Well, I know where;" "They say it's true;" "She's an old Witch," or, "He's a Devil"--sayings like these may be heard on all sides when a subject such as this is brought up.
"There may have been 'witchcraft' of a sort a few generations ago, but is this still practiced among the Pennsylvania Germans?" is not an uncommon query when strangers come into the Keystone State.
Quite often, yes, more frequently than not, you will get an affirmative reply from those who profess to know something about such matters. Furthermore, there is considerable basis in fact for the general belief that "witchcraft" still prevails in one of the most enlightened states and sections of the country.
But why does it "hang on?"
Why?--Persistency in any form of witchcraft as it prevails in the minds of men and women today, is that they haven't taken steps to inquire into the subject--as to whether there is really any such thing as a "witch," and, what it might be.
Let us carefully examine what we can learn about them, as defined in the "Century Dictionary:"
Witch, n. A man or woman. 1. A person (of either sex) given to the black art; a sorcerer; a conjuror; a wizard; later and more particularly, a woman supposed to have formed a compact with the devil or with evil spirits, and to be able by their aid to operate supernaturally; one who practises sorcery or enchantment; a sorceress.
2. An old, ugly, and crabbed or malignant woman; a hag; a crone: a term of abuse.
3. A fascinating woman; a woman, especially a young woman or a girl, possessed of peculiar attractions, whether of beauty or of manners; a bewitching or charming young woman or girl. 4. A charm or spell.
The reader will note, and it may be generally recognized that not only an ugly woman, but a young, attractive one, too, can bewitch, or be bewitching; i. e., "do things to you!"
This is a radical departure from the general belief that only old women, or sometimes old men, can "bewitch."
These refer to witches in the flesh; then there are those which cannot be seen, but according to some people, can be felt; i. e., can do bodily harm, though they are only of the "spirit."
The "Century Dictionary" says still further, regarding an Apparition, n. An appearance, epiphany, also attendants. 1. The act of appearing or coming into sight; appearance; the state of being visible; visibility. 2. That which appears or becomes visible; an appearance, especially of a remarkable or phenomenal kind. Specifically--3. A ghostly appearance; a specter or phantom: now the usual sense of the word.
It will serve to keep the record straight to review briefly the meaning of Superstition, n. An ignorant or irrational fear of that which is unknown or mysterious; especially, such fear of some invisible existence or existences; specifically, religious belief or practice, or both, founded on irrational fear or credulity; excessive or unreasonable religious scruples produced by credulous fears.
"Where there is any religion, the devil will plant superstition," says Burton, in "Anatomy of Melancholy."
Lowell says, in "Among My Books," first series, (p. 92): "A superstition, as it's name imports, is something that has been left over, like unfinished business, from one session of the world's witenagemot to the next."
One cannot be sure at all as to how many sessions of the world's "witenagemot" we have already had, but, whatever the number, we still have the fears of men and women, scarcely alleviated in all the history of the world. After life, death--then what? We have assurances of all kinds, to be sure, but, as individuals we have yet to test these assurances! The philosophy of many centuries that instilled both hope and fear into the heart of man, left him with the two well known spirits to swing and sway his thoughts, as we see the swaying of leaves on the trees.