Students Afraid of This Subject.--Our interest in preparing this account is merely to "clear the atmosphere." A discourse dealing with the subject of witchcraft in Pennsylvania has been wanting for years.
We find ourselves in a pathetic sort of state, being associated with mature men and women who are actually afraid to delve into a subject as important as this is, because of a personal fear that something might "happen" to them! Conversation with many persons has borne out this conviction.
An interesting phase of this business of witchcraft, so far as it pertains to Pennsylvania, is just a lot of talk. In view of what has been said thus far, it might be good policy to illustrate what is meant when we say that witches and a belief in them will be hard to suppress.
First--There is no law against a belief in witches, or a practice of witchcraft--religious or civil;
Second--If there was a law, it would at once acknowledge that which many seek to deny really exists--witches--whether in the flesh, in spirit, or merely in mind.
Our Witches and Those of the Voodoo.--We should not confound the "witches" which our forefathers brought to America, with those under control of the witch-doctors and voodoos in the half-civilized areas as, in Africa, or the islands of the Caribbean, or South Seas; i. e., not too direct.
Our witches definitely have come to us through an association with emotions of good and bad, as we know them, through affiliates of the Christian church of all denominations--Protestant, Catholic (Roman and Greek, or Eastern), and the Jews--or even the non-christian whose philosophies, in part, are like unto the Mosaic, in origin, viz: pagan. Perhaps, then, we have just bettered our very early ideas, and justified them for want of courage to change them! Is it reasonably safe to look at the customs, folklore, and superstitions of the African, and say to ourselves: "Well, that's about the way our folks looked at life not so very many generations ago!"
And yet, with all of this in mind, the witches of our time, and of the past, and those of the half-civilized native of Africa, Asia, and the islands, must have come from the same early pagan source--therefore we think it so strange that the Christian religion (of all religions) has given them any place at all--if there are no witches! All this despite the effort to destroy all books pertaining to the subject, as they tried to, at Ephesus.
The half-civilized, as well as the civilized, have a knowledge of, and emotions, which may be expressed by a reaction to favors received from good spirits, or bad spirits.
Do we have witches in Pennsylvania only among the Germanic people; not the English, Italian, Irish, Slav, Welsh, Hungarian, and the other races? How about the races in the forty-seven other states? Yes, how about them? And of more than two billion religious people in the world, not including the nonreligious? You say there are no witches today!!!
"Lord's Prayer" Says "Deliver Us From Evil."--Catholics and Protestants alike, in saying the Lord's Prayer, recognize something closely akin to everything in the catalog of the evil-spirit-world, no matter what name one may be pleased to call it--for do we not pray: "Deliver us from EVIL" . . .
This petition from the heart and mind of a Christian applies to the evils he or she concedes to be of any or every sort which might conceivably cause harm. Neither priest, preacher or scholar can explain this meaning "away" if the layman wants to believe it has a personal power for him!