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Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Friday, 29 October 2010 16:18 UK
The changing face of Manx witchcraft over the centuries
At one point in time the Isle of Man was regarded as a centre for witchcraft

Manx attitudes towards witchcraft have changed dramatically over the centuries and locally witches have been both persecuted and revered.

The island is drenched in both legend and tradition, so our association with magic is not difficult to understand.

Ronald Hutton Professor of History at Bristol University is fascinated by the changing face of Manx witchcraft.

He said: "At one point the Isle of Man was regarded by everybody else in the British Isles as a hotbed of sorcery."

"In recent years witchcraft has combined with modern paganism and it's become an extremely viable, and in many ways, attractive religion but it wasn't always like that.

It is claimed that some 200,000 people were burned for witchcraft in Europe in 16th and 17th centuries

"Three hundred years ago witchcraft was something people practised on neighbours if they hated each other or something they did if they wanted to get rich or married at the expense of someone else- this all happened in a nation which killed people legally for being witches."

At one point in time, according to Professor Hutton, the Isle of Man was regarded by everybody in the British Isles as a centre for witchcraft- if you happened to be Manx, people would be afraid of you.

The official definition of witchcraft in old-fashioned English means working magic to hurt somebody else.

Originally there was no such thing as 'good' witchcraft- the idea that people could be white witches, says Professor Hutton is a 19th century invention.

"Witchcraft is only really effective if you believe in it and, of course, that also makes you vulnerable to it.

"There is no doubt that people can die of being bewitched in traditional societies, because of the effect on their nervous system. If people actually believe they are being witched to death they can suffer greatly".

Witchcraft is only really effective if you believe in it
Professor Ronald Hutton

On 31 October we now expect to see people dressed up in the traditional witches costume, maybe stirring her cauldron.

This image probably hails from pre historic times when the cooking pot was the centre of a household.

In those times, all sorts of magic was thought to come from the cooking pot -it wasn't just witches who stirred them, it was anybody who dealt with magic.

But although we remain fascinated by the magic of ancient witchcraft, contemporary witches have a very different brief says Professor Hutton.

"Nowadays witchcraft prioritises feminism, love of the planet and freedom to develop your own personality providing you don't hurt other people. It works extremely well in practice".

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