History of Witchcraft:
Middle Eastern Witchcraft
Belief in magical practices can be found in several cultures of the ancient Middle East. They used magical power to heal sickness and other acts of white witchcraft or sorcery are ascribed to gods, heroes and men in the literature of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and Canaan.
References to sorcery can be found in the Hebrew Bible, and there is some evidence that these commandments of magic use were enforced under the Hebrew kings. However, verses such as “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” provided scriptural justification for the Christian witch hunts in the Early Modern Period, are based on the translation in the King James Bible, whereas the original Hebrew was closer to “sorcerer” or “one who uses magic to harm others.” Biblical references to witches have more to do with mediums and necromancers applying certain practices of Divination, like King Solomon and the so-called Witch of Endor employed by King Saul.
Kabbalah is a mystical school within Judaism, which provides a set of esoteric teachings to define the inner meaning of both the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and the traditional Rabbinic literature. The Jewish Kabbalah was a major influence on later Hermeticism and Qabalah. Traditional Judaism forbids the practice of magic mainly on the basis that it involves the worship of other gods. However, it also makes clear that witchcraft can be performed by Gentiles outside of the holy land Israel. Jewish Neopaganism or Jewitchery is a modern religious movement that seeks to create an earth-based religion for the Jewish people, mixing the principles of Judaism, NeoPaganism and the Kabbalah.
Across the Middle East
Divination and sorcery in Islam encompass a wide range of practices and traditions, such as black magic, warding off the evil eye, using tools such as amulets, conjuring, astrology and physiognomy. Such magic or sorcery is forbidden by Islam, and many Muslims believe that the devil taught sorcery to humans. Students of the history of religion have linked many magical practices in Islam with pre-Islamic Turkish and East African customs, such as the Zar Ceremony.
The Hamas is a Middle Eastern symbol dating back to prehistoric times that shows up in both Jewish and Muslim cultures. It is used to protect against the evil eye (bad luck resulting from the attention or jealousy of others). It usually consists of a hand, often with fingers pointed downward and often appearing to have two thumbs, with an eye (generally blue in color) in the middle. It is sometimes referred to as the “Hand of Fatima” in Muslim culture, of the “Hand of Miriam” in Jewish culture. The Nazar (or “blue eye stone”) is a Turkish equivalent, used as an amulet to protect against the evil eye, and is typically composed of concentric circles, dark blue than light blue, then white and then dark blue in the center.
In 2006, Fawza Muhammad Ali, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, was condemned to death for practicing witchcraft. For several years, human rights groups appealed against her execution claiming that the accusation relied on a coerced confession and was based on the unreliable statements of witnesses who claimed she had “bewitched” them. She died in jail in 2010 after “choking on food”. And in 2011, a Sudanese man was publicly decapitated in Median in Saudi Arabia for crimes of witchcraft. In December of that same year, another Saudi woman was beheaded for “witchcraft and sorcery” despite the fact that such a crime is not defined in the country’s criminal code. Similar to Africa, Middle Eastern witchcraft is viewed in a poor light and many people are condemned for witchcraft based on cultural action, not legal