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date: 20 June 2021

p. 1118. Culturelocked

p. 1118. Culturelocked

  • Malcolm Gaskill


Witches are archetypes, stored inside individuals but originating in shared cultural sources and activated by similar experiences and emotions. The stereotype of the historic and folkloric witch has perpetual appeal, entertaining and frightening equally. Halloween, now light-hearted and commercialized, is rooted in Samhain, a Celtic festival marking the start of winter. Sympathy with nature, rejection of organized religion, ritual magic and observance of seasonal festivals are fundamental to neo-pagan witchcraft, known as ‘Wicca’. ‘Culture’ assures us that, today, the history of witchcraft is sophisticated. Embracing disciplines as diverse as psychology, iconography, and archaeology, academic writing is no longer triumphantly rationalist, soppily heroic or mock romantic, but bracingly realistic.

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