For when all is said and done, we are in the end absolutely dependent on the universe; and into sacrifices and surrenders of some sort, deliberately looked at and accepted, we are drawn and pressed as into our only permanent positions of repose … In the religious life… surrender and sacrifice are positively espoused: even unnecessary giving -up are added in order that the happiness may increase. Religion thus makes easy and felicitous what in any case is necessary; and if it be the only agency that can accomplish this result, its vital importance as a human faculty stands vindicated beyond dispute. It becomes an essential organ of our life, performing a function which no other portion of our nature can so successfully fulfill. From the merely biological point of view, so to call it, this is a conclusion to which … we shall inevitably be led, and led moreover by following the purely empirical method of demonstration …. Of the farther office of religion as a metaphysical revelation I will say nothing now.

William James[1]

[This is Phil, blog philosopher, and I’m here to discuss the spells, curses, etc., worked against President Trump last week and what, if anything, we should do about them. If you want to see spell-casting in action, there are lots of videos available on You Tube. For my current favorite, check out the one at: [2]  Who threw this bag of whatever into the internet? Well, the video is supposed to be from “white witches,” i.e. from Wiccans who reject any connection with dark or evil forces. Other videos come from out-and-out Satanists, totally committed to the left-hand path.[3] The dramaturgy varies but their mutual objectives are pretty much the same. The Wiccans want to “bind” Trump and his people, so they basically can’t do anything, including feed themselves. The Satanists will settle for destroying him. This is not to say that Wiccans and Satanists are unified on all Trump issues. I don’t know many of them, or their issues, so I really can’t say].

But there was a time, before this country was founded, when witchcraft was highly illegal, and punishable by death. Exodus 22:18[4] said, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” and once upon a time folks took that as gospel; well, maybe not gospel, since it’s Old Testament, but they took it seriously. So seriously that they had teams hunting down witches in Europe, and a procedures manual to boot. That book, in case you haven’t read our earlier blogs, was called The Hammer of Witches.[5]

Witches, or sorcerers were formidable, or so it was thought. They could entice new converts; require a ‘sacrilegious avowal’ of loyalty; move people through the air; subordinate themselves to incubus demons [i.e., have sex with them]; prevent men from having sex with women; impede procreation in humans and animals; take away the male member; change humans into the shape of wild beasts; cause demons to inhabit human bodies; inflict “every kind” of illness on people; kill babies, or offer them to demons with a curse; inflict harm on domestic animals; and stir up hailstorms, rain and lightning.” [6] No wonder ordinary people were afraid!

And apparently the witch hunters were really effective, because they got lots of convictions. By one account many thousands of witches were burned in Europe, and around four thousand were hanged in England.[7] This is extraordinary, because even today we can’t do some of the things the accused back then routinely confessed to. So why were the ancient gumshoes so successful in getting witches to confess to these things? Did the free use of torture have something to do with it? The Hammer authorized and encouraged that. Would tortured people admit to just about anything just to make the torture stop? Or were those ancient witches telling the truth about secret knowledge we no longer possess?

It’s perfectly clear that the early settlers on this side of the Atlantic also took their Bible seriously. The Salem witch trials[8] of 1692 – 1693 pretty much proved that. Twenty people were executed before the trials were over, and five others died in prison.  The intelligentsia in and around Boston were fully on board with the result. Cotton Mather, for one, celebrated it: “If in the midst of the many Dissatisfaction among us, the publication of these Trials may promote such a pious Thankfulness unto God, for Justice being so far executed among us, I shall Rejoyce that God is Glorified…”[9]

But attitudes gradually changed over here, until by the mid-18th Century Benjamin Franklin openly mocked the idea of witch trials[10], and Thomas Jefferson wanted to change the laws of Virginia to prosecute witches for fraud. “All attempts to delude the people,” he proposed, “or to abuse their understanding by exercise of the pretended arts of witchcraft, conjuration, enchantment or sorcery, or by pretended prophecies, [should] be punished by ducking and whipping, at the discretion of a jury, not exceeding fifteen stripes.”[11]

Of course Jefferson’s proposal was made before our nation had a Constitution, or a Bill of Rights. Today people might object to punishing witches [or Satanists] simply because of their beliefs. After all, the First Amendment[12] says our Government must be religion-neutral. It says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

 And that brings us around to William James, the psychologist from the turn of the last century who opened this piece. Professor James was of the opinion that an experience is “religious” only insofar as it draws us into “surrender and sacrifice,” and acceptance of the world as it is, rather than as we want it to be. Of course that was his opinion [or my interpretation of it]; but if he and I are correct, then Wicca and Satanism most definitely are not religions! You can tell that simply from the videos. Those people aren’t resigning themselves to anything. They’re reaching out and trying to manipulate events from a distance, to punish their enemies! They’re trying to work magic, not to pray and meditate on God’s plan.

Of course none of this is important if you agree with Thomas Jefferson that witchcraft, etc. is a fraud. But what if instead the witch hunters of yesterday were right? What if the witches really are powerful? What should the Government do? Think of it this way. Suppose there was a church in your neighborhood whose members were known radicals, and you knew they were storing small arms and other weapons in the church basement. Wouldn’t you want the Government at least to keep an eye on the situation? If witches are accumulating real powers, why exempt them from the same kind of scrutiny.

And what do I think? I’m not losing any sleep over the problem.  Jefferson was right. This witchcraft business is all claptrap. But if you think otherwise[13], you might want to take precautions.





[1] See James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, A Study in Human Nature (Longmans, Greene & C.) (11the Impression, 1905) at p. 51-52, available from Google [for free] at

[2] There’s a related one flacking a new song at

[3] See Knights Templar International, Satanists and witches launch ‘spirit war’ against Trump! So it WASN’T ‘fake news’ about Hillary and the Forces of Darkness! (March 1, 2017)   available at Or perhaps Satanists are just totally committed to science. Sometimes I just don’t understand these things. See LA Weekly, Swan, Is a Trump Presidency the Satanic Temple’s Chance to Go Mainstream? (February 27, 2017), available at .

[4] Want to look it up? There are lots of online sources, among them King James Version Online, Exodus 22.18, available at .

[5] The original book was written in Latin. Our Latin’s not all that good here at Elemental Zoo Two, so we use a modern translation.  See Christopher S. Mackay, The Hammer of Witches, A Complete Translation of the Malleus Maleficarum (Cambridge 2006, 2009) [hereafter cited as Hammer at p. __].

[6] See generally, Hammer, Part Two at p. 93A –147A (p. 275 -386 of the text.)

[7] See Sargant, Battle for the Mind (Doubleday, 1957) at p. 198 – 199.

[8] Want to know more about them? It’s not a pretty story. For openers check out the Wikipedia write-up on Salem witch trials at . It’s a well covered subject, so there’s plenty to follow-up, if you want to.

[9] The quote appears in the Wikipedia entry on Cotton Mather, at

[10] See Franklin, Silence Dogood, The Busy-Body and Early Writings (LOA 1987, 2002) at A Witch Trial at Mount Holly, p. 155 – 157.

[11] See Jefferson, Writings (LOA, 1984), at A Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments, p. 362

[12] We use the National Archives as our source for the wording of the Constitution, its Amendments, etc. It’s accurate and free. You can find the 1st Amendment there, at  The full quote is: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

[13] I’m not one who thinks that the people who disagree with Thomas Jefferson on this are necessarily irrational. For some respectable opinion on the other side, take a look at: the Wikipedia piece on Gabriele Amorth, the [now deceased] Vatican Exorcist, at ; and the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Demonology, available at