Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Witchcraft in the Arab World

Personally, I think a good case can be made for a literal interpretation of Exodus 22:18, at least if we read it literally from the Septuagint, where the literal meaning of "witch" becomes most clear. The word is pharmakon, which is the root of our word "pharmacy." It means someone who concocted potions for sale as "magic spells" to influence the behavior of third parties. The primitive witches operated by a mix of common sense and guesswork. Some of their healing potions were in fact healthy vegetables that would have relieved nutrient deficiency diseases, and some of their love potions were harmless perfumes, but other potions were narcotics and hallucinogens that could have disabled or killed people. I think it makes sense to treat poisoners just like other murderers.

However, the "sorceries" for which some of these Muslim heretics were punished don't seem to have been dangerous...