Witches

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

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

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

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

During the Middle Ages, dragons more often figured in accounts about the lives of saints and religious figures than stories of heists and adventures.

Why Dragons Dominated the Landscape of Medieval Monsters

The mythical beasts were often cast as agents of the devil or demons in disguise

A plaster cast of a "ghost turnip" carving from Donegal, Ireland

When People Carved Turnips Instead of Pumpkins for Halloween

Revelers in Ireland transformed the root vegetables into lanterns designed to ward off dark spirits

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

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

Three women dressed in period garb as alewives. The tall hats became a part of witch iconography.

Why Did Women Stop Dominating the Beer Industry?

Strict gender norms pushed them out of a centuries-long tradition

This month's book picks include A Demon-Haunted Land, South to Freedom and The Light Ages.

Books of the Month

The Heiress Who Stole a Vermeer, Witchcraft in Post-WWII Germany and Other New Books to Read

These five November releases may have been lost in the news cycle

Albrecht Dürer, Heksen (Witches), 1497 (left) and Albrecht Dürer, De fire hekse (The Four Witches), 1497 (right)

The Little-Known Story of 16th- to 18th-Century Nordic Witch Trials

An art exhibition in Copenhagen and a museum in Ribe revisit witchcraft's legacy in Denmark and neighboring countries

A probable witches' mark found at the site of the abandoned St. Mary's church in Buckinghamshire, England

Cool Finds

Eerie Witches' Marks Found Among Ruins of Medieval English Church

Archaeologists in Stoke Mandeville found carvings probably designed to ward off evil spirits

This circular witches' mark was thought to ward off evil.

Virtual Travel

Virtually Explore a Forest Filled With Witches' Marks and Other Tree Etchings

A publicly sourced portal spotlights centuries of graffiti left in England's New Forest

Witch bottles, or talismans designed to ward off evil spirits, were more commonly employed across the pond in the United Kingdom.

Cool Finds

Suspected 'Witch Bottle' Full of Nails Found in Virginia

Archaeologists unearthed the blue glass bottle near the hearth of a small fort used during the Civil War

The Pompeiian sorceress' kit contained about 100 different objects.

Cool Finds

Twelve Fascinating Finds Revealed in 2019

The list includes a sorceress' kit, a forgotten settlement, a Renaissance masterpiece and a 1,700-year-old egg

The markings range from letters to shapes, patterns and symbols.

You Can Now Explore a 3-D Model of Cave Covered in Creepy 'Witches' Marks'

Visitors spotted hundreds of etchings designed to ward off evil while exploring a cave in England's Creswell Crags

Contractors found a witch bottle similar to the one pictured here while demolishing a former inn's chimney.

Cool Finds

'Witch Bottle' Filled With Teeth, Pins and Mysterious Liquid Discovered in English Chimney

The charms were designed to ward off witches, but new research suggests they had medical uses as well

The map shows locations including accused witches' places of residence, sites of trial, detention and execution

This Map Shows the Scale of 16th- and 17th-Century Scottish Witch Hunts

The interactive tool tells the stories of 3,141 men and women accused of practicing witchcraft

loading icon