Good Witch Hunting

In Western culture, witches are seen as mythical fairy tales, with few claiming witchcraft as anything more than an interesting idea to read about. Harry Potter shows us witches like Cho Chang and Hermione, who are human and relatable, alongside their wizard counterparts. Historically, we look back on the Salem Witch Trials and think of how silly people were to be so scared of something with no substantial evidence, other than circumstantial happenings. What we don’t think about is how scared those people must have been. In South Africa, people are feeling that fear. The idea of witchcraft is so real, because things have happened to people that are unheard of. Witchcraft is a reasonable answer in their cultural context. In a society recovering from the immeasurable loss and oppression of apartheid, the blame shifted from the white man, to a woman with the power to bewitch and take over that power. Women are used as the scapegoat for the aspects of this new society that were failing, turning them into “social outcasts in a region where superstition still reigns supreme” (175). Understanding the shift in this cultural mindset is crucial to understanding why these killings are happening hundreds of years after Salem, in a different cultural setting.

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