A witch is a woman who has magic powers, especially one who can make bad things happen to people, such as an illness or accident.
The stereotype of a witch is a very ugly old woman wearing a long black dress and a tall, pointed hat. She usually has a black cat and rides through the air on a broomstick
Between the 14th and 17th centuries, people were very frightened of witches and many people were killed because they were thought to be witches, especially in the town of Salem in the US.
In a witch hunt people looked for witches or evidence that witchcraft was done. In earlier times, people could be blamed for witchcraft; they were then taken to court, charged with it and punished for it. In the Catholic Church, punishment for witchcraft was death.
Today, most countries no longer allow a person to be blamed for witchcraft; there are no more witch hunts in the strict sense.
When there still were, witch hunts often involved moral panic, mass hysteria and mob lynching. That way, priests would often make a bad feeling in the crowd; those who were a little different might then be seen as witches.
The time when the witch hunts were most common in Europe is during the Early Modern period from about 1480 to 1700. This is the time when there was the Protestant Reformation and the Thirty Years' War. During this time, tens of thousands of people were executed as witches.
Most cultures have reacted to witchcraft in one of two ways:
1. There is superstition, fear and awe: Those who practise witchcraft are dangerous, and must be executed.
2. Those who practice Witchcraft want to make other people believe something so they can profit: they are fraudsters.
Today, witch hunts still occur in many communities where religious values are strong, and where these values condemn whichcraft and other occult practices.
Today, the term "witch hunt" is mostly used to refer to similar practices, where worried people look for wrong-doers, who are of course not witches. The best known example is probably the McCarthyist search for communists during the Cold War, which was discredited partly through being compared to the Salem witch trials
Witchcraft is the performing of magic to make especially bad things happen.
A witchdoctor is, in some non-Western societies, a man who is believed to have magical powers and be able to cure people; a medicine man or shaman.
Witches’ Sabbath is a midnight meeting of witches, believed in the past to be attended by the Devil and to involve a lot of immoral sexual behaviour.
The witching hour is an important moment, especially at night, when something special is to happen.