The existence of real magic has been disputed for thousands of years. There’s an abundance of anecdotes, myths, and legends. In the modern era, there are blurry images, shaky videos that are out of focus, and even more anecdotes that claim to support the existence of magic and the paranormal. But a skeptical review of this evidence yields nothing of scientific value. Critical discovery shines a light on hoaxes, hustlers, and fraudsters – revealing their tricks of the trade as cons or illusions.
But just because things like witchcraft, voodoo, hoodoo, and magic haven’t been proven using the scientific method doesn’t mean they aren’t interesting and of cultural or historical significance.
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An extract from a study that provides definitions and explanations on witchcraft says that “People in many historic cultures blamed witchcraft for events they could not explain or predict.” In other words, whenever a phenomenon that was outside of their area of knowledge occurred it was brushed off as ‘wizardly’ in lack of better explanation.
During the witch-hunt craze in the Medieval Ages, a multitude of people (mostly women) were killed over accusations of witchcraft. During that period, they were forbidden from practicing medicine and, when it was discovered that they were, they had fingers pointed at them with accusation of being witches. Many women lost their lives because they were practicing medicine.
What could have prompted this irrational fear of witches? William Minkowsli suggests the following:
The 1322 case of Jacqueline Felicie, one of many healers charged with illegally practicing medicine, raises serious questions about the motives of male physicians in discrediting these women as incompetent and dangerous. The second development was the campaign–promoted by the church and supported by both clerical and civil authorities–to brand women healers as witches. Perhaps the church perceived these women, with their special, often esoteric, healing skills, as a threat to its supremacy in the lives of its parishioners. The result was the brutal persecution of unknown numbers of mostly peasant women. (Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1694293/pdf/amjph00539-0138.pdf)
Why then, today, there are hardly any mentions about witchcraft? The answer is simple. Science has evolved enough for people to be better informed and, given how many phenomena now have a natural (rational) explanations, there is no need to blame what we don’t understand on magic. We tend to find other things to blame instead…
Voodoo and Hoodoo
Voodoo is not an evil, occult practice with dolls. It’s a religion that originates in Africa and has been demonized during the slavery period as a means to make the African-American people seem less human.
Voodoo is about celebrating human experiences and about inspiring and guiding people on the right path. Voodooists believe in the existence of a visible and an invisible realm, which can be accessed through death. Needless to say, its spiritual and balanced nature is the complete opposite of its media counterpart.
In fact, what we see in the media is often hoodoo, which is renamed to voodoo in pop-culture. The only one out of the two that is even remotely linked to magic is the former, which is a type of folk “witchcraft” that’s centered on personal magic that can heal people. Like in the case of witchcraft, though, the belief that hoodoo is magical simply has roots in the fact that its adepts use unusual means to achieve the same results as traditional medicine. But if hoodoo is truly a magical healing method, then why hasn’t it been implemented and adopted by modern medicine?
Magic tricks are just what they say they are – tricks. Scientific studies are aware of a phenomenon known as “change blindness,” which plays a pivotal part in the way these illusions of magic affect us. The gist of it is that magicians use the effect to their advantage, by having us not pay attention to the “card hidden in their sleeve.”
And last but not least, this whole debate can be quickly rendered short by a tale which provided a single question:
If magicians and people with paranormal powers truly exist, then why has no one has managed to win the one million dollar prize, which is offered to any one who is be able to prove genuine magical abilities?