Tuesday, December 15, 2009

By Laila Pascoli

History has not been kind to witchcraft. But through the past generations, we have come to respect scientific study. But it has become obvious that yesterday's magic is today's science. Could it be that witchcraft is considered scary, while science is taught in respected universities? I hate to bring this up, but it is possible that the fact that women practiced witchcraft that scared the common folk.

Even though we can argue that the biblical injunction against witches, really meant bad witches, and not good ones like Glenda, the term raises eyebrows in any organized, conservative religion. Famous biblical figures did consult with witches, though it was obvious they really were not supposed to be the prohibitions of their time. But the actual women who practiced these arts, like the Witch of Endor, are presented in a sympathetic light.

But look at the new book and video, The Secret. It has come out to rave reviews and been endorsed by TV personalities. The idea behind all of this media attention is hardly new. It went by the name, Creative Visualization, a few decades ago. Before that, maybe it was called casting a spell.

Modern witches will admit that their arts are mental, and the better they become at flexing their mental muscles, the more powerful their spells become. Think about gurus who teach positive thinking and scientists who study the effect of placebos.

Herbs are the basis for modern medicine too. Salicylic acid is found in the bark of some trees like the willow. Our modern term for this is aspirin. But if an herbalist brewed a tea from tree bark to help a sick person, would she be a witch? In the old days, that might have been a real concern.

Fragrant oil are also used in spells. Aromatherapy has been studied, and even scientists agree there is substance to this use. While rosemary may make us more lively, mint may tend to relax us. Is this witchcraft? Maybe, but it is also using natural plants to affect our moods and bodies. This is hardly different than drinking a cup of coffee to wake up or a warm glass of milk to fall asleep.

Scientists have barely begun to study our minds. We really do not understand our own brains. That should be obvious. But we do realize that our outlook and attitude affect the way our lives turn out.

Yesterday and today it might be witchcraft, but tomorrow it might be science!

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