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Historically the witchcraft label has been applied to practices people believe influence the mind, body, or property of others against their will—or practices that the person doing the labeling believes undermine social or religious order.Some modern commentators believe the malefic nature of witchcraft is a Christian projection.Not only were physicians and surgeons the principal professional arbiters for determining natural versus preternatural signs and symptoms of disease, they occupied key legislative, judicial, and ministerial roles relating to witchcraft proceedings.Forty six male physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries are named in court transcripts or other contemporary source materials relating to New England witchcraft.Suspicion of modern medicine due to beliefs about illness being due to witchcraft also continues in many countries to this day, with tragic healthcare consequences.
"It is argued here that the medical arts played a significant and sometimes pivotal role in the witchcraft controversies of seventeenth century New England.
It posits a theosophical conflict between good and evil, where witchcraft was generally evil and often associated with the Devil and Devil worship.
This culminated in deaths, torture and scapegoating (casting blame for human misfortune), and many years of large scale witch-trials and witch hunts, especially in Protestant Europe, before largely ceasing during the European Age of Enlightenment.
Beliefs related to witchcraft and magic in these cultures were at times influenced by the prevailing Western concepts.
Witch hunts, scapegoating, and killing or shunning of suspected witches still occurs in the modern era, with killings both of victims for their supposedly magical body parts, and of suspected witchcraft practitioners.