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Because the origins of European descendants in America are well-known, as are the origins of Europeans throughout the European continent; it is possible to dispense with that history and to go to the point of the analysis of this essay and examine European witchcraft.
In European studies, the understanding of witchcraft begins with a understanding of language (Clark, Stuart, 1999:3). That is, the "terms in which they were expressed, and the general systems of meaning they presupposed (Stuart, 1999:3), and in what ways the language lends itself to the belief set in overall terms (Stuart, 1999:3).
In consequence, it has been possible to account for witchcraft beliefs (like any others) in only two ways. First, they have been submitted, if only implicitly, to empirical verification to see whether they correspond to the real activities of real people. With important exceptions, the answer has been 'no.' The entity 'witchcraft' has turned out to be a non-entity, because for the most part it had no referents in the real world (Stuart, 1999:3)."
In other words, the art of European witchcraft deals with entities, powers, or persons that are not of or on this plane.
In European history, witchcraft and paganism share their roots, and it is the monotheistic Christian tradition that caused paganism to give way to Christianity, and those who continued to practice the rituals, prayers, and worship pagan gods were not just heretics, but often identified as witches (Stuart, 1999).
The Similarities and Differences Between Navajo and European Witchcraft
This essay is too brief to go into the detail needed to completely exemplify the similarities and differences between Navajo and European witchcraft. However, it is in the history of both peoples where the similarities are found, and, likewise, where the differences arise.
First, the Navajo by way of their Asian traditions from an ancient time, pursued stories of creation and the end of life, and compensated for those things which they did not understand or which mystified them with stories, prayers, and rituals. To the extent that they could not fully understand or explain something, they turned to shamans, or holy men, to explain those things for them; or, by way of ritual and prayer, to protect the People from them unknowns which might harm or adversely impact their lives. This is found to be much the same in the European tradition, as Europeans, like the Navajo, have traditions and rituals that were rooted in pagan eras and addressed those things about the world and universe that could not be explained or understood by the majority of the people.
The noticeable difference between the Navajo and European notions of witchcraft begins with the Christian tradition. The Navajo, unlike the Europeans, did not practice monotheism, but continued to divide their gratitude and place the blame for those environmental and social conditions that impacted their lives amongst their various deities. The Europeans, like the Navajos, relied upon holy men to pray and perform rituals for their protection, and to exorcise them from the demons that possessed their spirits and brought chaos into their lives and world.
European and Navajo witchcraft are deeply mired in psychological conditions that lend themselves to the belief of that mysticism (Towner, Ronald H., 1996:231) (Stevens, Phillip, 1997:49). This psychological precondition of susceptibility seems to be the most significant prevailing factor that link the two belief sets.
Clark, Stuart. Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. Questia. 10 Nov. 2007 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=62216044.
Coolidge, Dane, and Mary Roberts Coolidge. The Navajo Indians. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1930. Questia. 10 Nov. 2007 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=72398121.
Gill, Sam D. Sacred Words: A Study of Navajo Religion and Prayer. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981. Questia. 10 Nov. 2007 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=24370860.
Stevens, Phillips. "Children, Witches Demons, and Cultural Reality." Free Inquiry Spring 1997: 49+. Questia. 10 Nov. 2007 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001517377.
Towner, Ronald H., ed. The Archaeology of Navajo Origins. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1996. Questia. 10 Nov. 2007 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=9684050.[continue]
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