That is a good question because, of all the people living today, there is one idea with an unbroken history in the British Isles and that is the notion of witchcraft. We did our very best during the sixteenth century to dispel the idea, but it was too late. By 1700, people in England, France, Scandinavia and elsewhere had a common belief that witches, or those who are possessed by Satan, had been the cause of many misfortunes. Witchcraft was linked to every kind of misfortune from the death of a child to the loss of a limb to the theft of crops or the death of a lover. The phrase ‘witch’ itself came to mean ‘wicked’ in the mid-18th century, and it had become accepted by all except a small minority of individuals. Then in 1820 The Magdalene Laundries opened to provide women from the upper and lower classes with clean clothes. This helped spread the idea of witchcraft, but only for the upper classes and that was the end of the witch craze.
Witches, in other words, were still a thing in modern Britain, and one of our earliest recorded references of a witch is as “the person whose house is dark in a morn.” But not all witches were as bad as they are supposed to be.
The most famous witch of the day was Marianne “Sister Mary” O’Hara, who supposedly cast an evil spell that made an oak tree grow in the middle of her home and caused several other trees around her to be sawn in two. She was hanged by a mob in Lidl and a plaque commemorating her now sits in her garden.
The church where she was supposedly executed was destroyed later, but her spirit is still being seen in various parts of Ireland today.
As for Satan? The word Satan literally means “bearer of a dreadful disease” and was used as a term of abuse in a religious context in the 16th century. But it didn’t mean what people in the 16th century thought it meant!
The word Satan itself comes from the Latin word sperma, which means “to suckle” – we’ve got two examples in our text so far, from our very own Thomas Paine (1728) who wrote that Satan was born from the sin of carnal pleasure and the desire to “take to himself a wife”.
Later, the word Satan would be used to refer to Satan’s worsh
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