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They have been present or central at various times and in many diverse forms among cultures and religions worldwide, including both "primitive" and "highly advanced" cultures, Scientifically, the existence of magical powers and witchcraft are generally believed to lack credence and to be unsupported by high quality experimental testing, although individual witchcraft practices and effects may be open to scientific explanation or explained via mentalism and psychology.Historically, the predominant concept of witchcraft in the Western world derives from Old Testament laws against witchcraft, and entered the mainstream when belief in witchcraft gained Church approval in the Early Modern Period.The folk magic used to identify or protect against malicious magic users is often indistinguishable from that used by the witches themselves."It is argued here that the medical arts played a significant and sometimes pivotal role in the witchcraft controversies of seventeenth century New England.Historically the witchcraft label has been applied to practices people believe influence the mind, body, or property of others against their will—or practices that the person doing the labeling believes undermine social or religious order.

Where belief in malicious magic practices exists, such practitioners are typically forbidden by law as well as hated and feared by the general populace, while beneficial magic is tolerated or even accepted wholesale by the people – even if the orthodox establishment opposes it.Malicious magic users can become a credible cause for disease, sickness in animals, bad luck, sudden death, impotence and other such misfortunes.Witchcraft of a more benign and socially acceptable sort may then be employed to turn the malevolence aside, or identify the supposed evil-doer so that punishment may be carried out.The concept of a magic-worker influencing another person's body or property against their will was clearly present in many cultures, as traditions in both folk magic and religious magic have the purpose of countering malicious magic or identifying malicious magic users.Many examples appear in early texts, such as those from ancient Egypt and Babylonia.

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