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This free online lecture discusses the transformation of the ‘white witch’ into a malevolent female figure from ancient times onward.
Throughout the Bible we find attestations of women who were engaged in divinatory and magical practices. Most of these female figures could be popularly described as ‘white witches’, who used magic for healing, divining and other benign purposes, but they are cast in a negative light in the Bible itself or in its reception history afterwards.
The same phenomenon occurs elsewhere in the Ancient Near East, for instance in Mesopotamian literature, where the figure of the ‘white witch’ was side-lined and subsequently dehumanized and demonized.
History tends to repeat itself because a similar development took place many centuries later in Europe during the early modern witch-hunts, when mostly female practitioners of beneficial magic were accused of performing malefic witchcraft, with devastating consequences.
In this talk we will look at this recurring literary and historical phenomenon in more detail and discuss its continuous impact.
With a special guest appearance by Wicca Meier-Spring, director of the Museum of Witchcraft Switzerland, who will discuss the Swiss persecution of the ‘white witch’. A Q&A will be held at the end of the lecture.
This is a live lecture hosted on Zoom. All you need to take part is a computer with a webcam and microphone.
Download the Zoom app in advance and set up your Zoom account here: https://zoom.us/signup
Join the Zoom Meeting via the link contained within your order confirmation email. Remember to check your spam folder if you don’t receive this confirmation email in your main inbox.
Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. We hope you enjoy the lecture!
Dr Alinda Damsma is a Lecturer in Biblical Hebrew in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London (UCL). She received her Bachelor and Master of Divinity from the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam (2003) and her PhD from the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, UCL (2008).
Dr Damsma is currently working on two monographs: (i) an Aramaic grammar of the Zohar, Judaism's most important kabbalistic work, and (ii) a study on the perception of magic, divination, and witchcraft in the English Bible translations, particularly the King James Version and its predecessors, and their impact on the early modern witch-hunts. Her research interests are the Hebrew Bible, Bible translations, Semitics, Egyptology, Jewish mysticism, and magic and witchcraft in biblical & post-biblical times.
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