Magic

Dancers perform in the plaza of Sant Feliu Sasserra during the town’s annual Witches Fair, or Fira de les Bruixes, on October 31, 2017.

Spain’s Centuries-Long Witch Hunt Killed 700 Women

In recent years, local officials have broken the spell and apologized for what happened generations ago

Magic was just another tool in a medieval animal healer's toolbox.

The Veterinary Magic of the Middle Ages

Medieval healers treated animals' ailments with a mix of faith, tradition and science

The Salem Witch Memorial in Salem, Massachusetts

Last Convicted Salem 'Witch' Is Finally Cleared

Elizabeth Johnson Jr. has been officially exonerated—thanks to a dogged band of middle schoolers

Vassily Maximov, A Sorcerer Comes to a Peasant Wedding, circa 1875

In Early Modern Russia, the Majority of Accused 'Witches' Were Men

Orthodox Russians deployed magic for practical purposes, like inflicting illness, harming business competitors and attracting lovers

Alexander Skarsgård stars as Amleth, a Viking prince who seeks to avenge the murder of his father.

Based on a True Story

The History Behind Robert Eggers' 'The Northman'

The revenge saga blends traditional accounts with the supernatural to convey the lived experience of the Viking age

In 51 B.C.E., Julius Caesar noted that people in Britain did not eat hares due to their religious significance.

The Ancient Origins of the Easter Bunny

A scholar traces the folk figure's history from the Neolithic era to today

A 14th-century illustration depicts accused witches being burned at the stake. More than 2,500 witches were executed under Scotland's 1563 Witchcraft Act.

Scotland Issues Formal Apology to Thousands Accused of Witchcraft

An estimated 2,500 Scots were executed as witches between the 16th and 18th centuries

Detail from Tolkien's Conversation With Smaug, 1937

Rarely Seen Paintings by J.R.R. Tolkien Portray a Lush 'Lord of the Rings' Landscape

The Tolkien Estate recently published a trove of rare, unpublished art by the famed fantasy author on its website

The bowls were probably created in what is now Iraq between the fourth and eighth centuries C.E.

1,500-Year-Old 'Magic Bowls' Seized in Jerusalem Raid

Ancient Mesopotamians used the vessels, which were inscribed with incantations, to ward off demons, disease and other misfortune

An illustration from Newes From Scotland (1591), a pamphlet that publicized ongoing witch trials in North Berwick, Scotland, across Europe. Groups of accused women are depicted brewing spells to thwart James VI's ship (upper left), and a local schoolmaster is shown taking notes from the devil. 

Scotland Considers Pardon for Thousands of Accused 'Witches'

Advocates are calling on leaders to exonerate the thousands of women and men targeted in witch hunts during the 16th through 18th centuries

Finds unveiled in 2021 included a wooden falcon that originally belonged to doomed queen Anne Boleyn, an intact ancient chicken egg and a dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.

Cool Finds

Ninety-Nine Fascinating Finds Revealed in 2021

The year's most exciting discoveries include a Viking "piggy bank," a lost Native American settlement and a secret passageway hidden behind a bookshelf

Houdini exposed fake Spiritualist practices by having himself photographed with the "ghost" of Abraham Lincoln.

For Harry Houdini, Séances and Spiritualism Were Just an Illusion

The magician spent years campaigning against fraudulent psychics, even lobbying Congress to ban fortune-telling in D.C.

Tompkins Harrison Matteson, Examination of a Witch, 1853

History of Now

Reckoning With—and Reclaiming—the Salem Witch Trials

A new exhibition unites 17th-century artifacts with contemporary artists' responses to the mass hysteria event

The tablet depicts a male ghost being led back to the afterlife, curator Irving Finkel says.

Cool Finds

3,500-Year-Old Babylonian Tablet May Contain Earliest Known Depiction of a Ghost

A curator at the British Museum details the spooky find in a new book

Dee may have bought the mirror in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) in the 1580s.

Obsidian 'Spirit Mirror' Used by Elizabeth I's Court Astrologer Has Aztec Origins

Tudor polymath John Dee used the artifact in his attempts to communicate with angels and apparitions

The pages were disposed of as scrap and pasted into an unrelated book.

 

Cool Finds

Rediscovered Medieval Manuscript Offers New Twist on Arthurian Legend

The 13th-century pages, found by chance at a British library, show a different side of Merlin, the magician who advised Camelot's king

Johnson is the only convicted Salem "witch" who has not yet received an official pardon.

History of Now

This Eighth-Grade Class Wants to Clear the Name of an Accused Salem 'Witch'

Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was sentenced to death in 1693 but escaped execution after receiving a reprieve from Massachusetts' governor

The study's authors argue that the individual may have been highly regarded due to their nonbinary status or “because they already had a distinctive or secured position in the community for other reasons; for example, by belonging to a relatively wealthy and well-connected family.”

New Research

Mysterious Iron Age Burial May Hold Remains of Elite Nonbinary Person

The Finnish grave's occupant likely had Klinefelter syndrome, meaning they were born with an extra copy of the X chromosome

A new analysis of a ceramic jar discovered in Athens suggest its owners placed the curse ahead of a lawsuit.

Ancient Athenians Used a Jar Filled With Chicken Bones to Curse Their Enemies

The object's owners inscribed the names of at least 55 intended victims on its surface

An engraving from German zoologist Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen Der Natur, a 1904 book that celebrated the symmetry of nature

From Books Bound in Human Skin to Occult Texts, These Are Literature's Most Macabre, Surprising and Curious Creations

A new tome takes readers into collector Edward Brooke-Hitching's "madman's library"

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