Customer Reviews: Ancient Mysteries - Witches
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This 1996 Ancient Mysteries production basically provides viewers with an overview of the shifting cultural images of witchcraft over the past several millennia, with special emphasis on The Burning Years, which saw tens of thousands of women (as well as men and children) condemned, tortured, and executed for witchcraft. In historical terms, it is a well-made documentary, but it never really answered some of the questions I had expected it to take on - namely, the origins of so many common myths about witches (e.g., the broomstick, the black conical hat, the witch's familiar).

The roots of witchcraft reach down to the origins of human communities themselves, and the presentation makes the point quite well that the most ancient of witches were seen in a most positive light. In their earliest incarnation, they were wise women who could call upon their acquired knowledge of nature to heal the sick, banish evil spirits from homes, etc. The question then becomes: what happened to transform the witch into the most evil, dangerous of creatures? There is no clear-cut answer to this, but we do know that the Israelites laid down the law against witchcraft after settling in Canaan. Clearly, though, the final straw that sealed witches' fate to be looked upon as evil monsters and consorts of Satan was the Black Plague. When one out of every three individuals sickens and dies, it's all too easy to become hysterical and look for scapegoats. No one may ever expect the Spanish Inquisition, but the inquisitors certainly suspected witches of evildoing, eventually killing tens of thousands of individuals over the course of two whole centuries. They were helped along mightily by the publication of a book in 1487 called the Malleus Maleficarum; this was nothing less than a detailed guidebook for identifying and defeating witches, and it cemented witchcraft firmly with Satanism in the minds of inquisitors. The documentary makes clear just how barbaric and murderous a time this was in human history, with Inquisitors basically torturing a confession out of anyone even accused of the evils of witchcraft - indeed, new implements of torture were designed for this very purpose. As accused witches began being burned at the stake in droves (particularly in France and Germany), the image of the witch became inherently evil.

This murderous paranoia eventually spread to the New World, culminating in the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. The documentary offers its take on the origins of this infamous chapter in American history and offers theories on a possible political agenda behind it all. In the last segment, the presentation looks at the rebirth of witchcraft in the past century, offering some ideas as to why the practice of this ancient way of life emerged from the ashes of history so strongly in recent years.

It's all very interesting, but more in a historical than a psychological/sociological sense. The 45-minute format to the program doesn't allow for a lot of detail, but the overview itself is excellent and quite informative.
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on March 14, 2015
...As bad or worse then the Nazis
The perils of deferring to and not questioning authority: An experiment was conducted in which randomly selected people were chosen to sit in front of an electrical panel and told to give electrical shocks for the sake of beneficial research of up to 1500 volts to an unseen person on the other side. Almost all participants gave the maximum voltage when told to continue even when the person being shocked pleaded for them to stop (…although acting).
I’ve witnessed similar behavior when people are given unbridled control over others. Historical there’re many examples such as the God sanctioned Old Testament genocides (including women and children), Nazi purges, and religious inquisitions in which entire cities de-populated and millions tortured horrendously, yet I often hear those of prejudicial or limited fundalmentalistic religious belief advocating and actively enabling narrow views to become incorporate as principles in government - Despite such icons as Jesus exemplifying and advising to the contrary.
We must always maintain vigilance and separation of state and national politics from religion, narrow-mindedness and bigotry …or be at peril from the self-righteous mob or what may seem like our normal or pious neighbors who may haplessly concede personal responsibility and commit atrocity.
Seek and yea shall find, not accept and you will find. It takes an open mind and sincere effort to find truth.
Having studied the commonality of ideals of capitalistic democracy, communism and religion worldwide it’s disconcerting to find throughout the ages the majority of resources serving extravagance, hierarchy and consolidation of power often achieved and maintained through the exploitation, depredation and ignorance of the common man - Not to mention the persecutions and ravages caused by related warfare.
Such social entities go great lengths to create the perception of order from chaos, then fill in the discontinuities with canned patriotism, the requirement of faith to obtain eternal life, or worse avoid eternal hell.
It seems many people need structure, ritual, definition iconic supernatural entity to embellish, plead their cares to, worship …And integral reward system to derived security from being destined for eternal life.
Although within all creeds and religions there are exceptional individuals with characteristics and values worthy of emulation, it’s common to project lesser human qualities unto the character of the divine and worship, cater too and regulate others accordingly while depending on divine intervention instead of taking personal responsibility to create a sustainable world and purifying one’s motives while realistically aspire to whatever brings about the greatest possible harmony for all things.
Must we subscribe to exclusive assumptions without reservation and continually seed the beds of worldwide ecological disaster, convolution, divisiveness and strife?
... And why not goodness for its own sake? What could be simpler, more purifying, self-affirming, divine in character ...and to the point!

Religions with by far with the greatest following are those having integral reward systems i.e. those that promise eternal bliss and other incentives for adhering to an assumed supreme doctrine. Though there are those of religious orientation with admirable motives, many delude themselves of having genuine love/devotion, the real fascination and motivation deriving primarily from celebrity like status and power of religious figures and promise of an eternally blissful after-life. Take away the embellishments: …Business-as-usual insurance policy.

Secure in being raptured and eternity bound beliefs based on faith rather than proven fact manifest into serious threats from a third of the world not sharing fully responsibility for critical issues such as over-population, environmental degradation and general long-term planetary sustainability.

Personally I find the conventional Christian concept of salvation and crucification baffling. Was Christ’s sacrifice originally divine or necessary …could such a love for humanity been demonstrated inspiringly yet in a less harsh, debt laden manner?

Unlike Christ with decisive foreknowledge of knowing where he came from and going I’m didn’t submit being born into a world of contradiction, confusion, injustice and chaos. I just want the opportunity to be accepted as an imperfect work in progress and live modestly in peace and harmony - Which should be an inherent birth-right for all things is there a logical reason to be beholding or saved?

If there be a divine entity “he” would not have the petty traits, egotism, subjugations, and inflexible technical judgments projected onto “him” by people, but qualities of compassionate commonality.

Regardless of orientation it would seem cultivating an open heart, mind, progressive nature and aspirational focus on whatever brings about the greatest possible harmony to all things without further expectation of reward the more essential integral qualifying, comprehensive, and purifying essence of spirituality and human potential.

Devastating Perfection: Many find reason to question the existence of an all-powerful God with so much suffering having occurred to the innocent throughout the ages. Was Jesus wondrously delusional in a beautiful way? Did his disciples pass on biases or exaggerate to have a personal sense of power, security and everlasting future or many thereafter delete, distort embellish to feel special, superior, exploit otherwise? Bearing in mind faith is just that; faith …not fact, leaves one with the premise that if there is some kind of divine order then life’s primary purpose is to learn and evolve to interact harmoniously. Though there can be no doubt for those of progressive inclination living is a great character building, many experiences seem pointless and even cruel …still there is hope: For just as it’s unreasonable to assume the existence of the divine, it’s also to conclude its non-existence, for as myself, many people around the world regardless of religion or otherwise have had similar miraculous experiences with a common thread with no other possible explanation other than being of divine origin (i.e. see Having exhausted logical explanations, could inexplicable chaos and confusion serve a greater purpose …of purification of motive and goodness for its own sake …in other words regardless of what the future may hold aspiring to whatever manifests the greatest harmony for all things …and therefore our greater and truer “salvation” as a planet, race and individual?

Antidote for what may be a godless world: If we find transcendent beauty and compassion in ourselves and examples elsewhere then surely in the vastness of the universe are evolved worlds, dimensions and beings of empathy that have manifested such benevolent harmonious qualities sustainably.

Such certainty assures great possibilities here and beyond for beings throughout the cosmos of progressive inclination.
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on September 15, 2015
I used this DVD along with the other DVD "Witchcraft Myths and Legends"....together they make an incredible review of witchcraft.....great for followers, or anyone doing research on the subject. I showed the two the night I gave a class for students...they loved it. Will always keep both DVDs in my library for future references. Highly recommended to students and teachers alike. Carlo B.
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on March 19, 2015
I've seen this show on A&E a year or so ago. I have a friend who is a fan of Halloween anything, so I bought it for him. I haven't given it to him yet. I know he'll love it. I used to have it DVR'd! Glad I found it on DVD.
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on September 29, 2007
I felt this video was chalked full of interesting and insightful information regarding the evolution of attitudes pertaining to witchcraft. The DVD does a great job tempering interviews with experts with artwork and clips from a variety of sources. I have watched this episode of Ancient Mysteries every year to prepare for teaching a unit in my literature classes over the Salem witchcraft trials.
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on October 9, 2011
I purchased this DVD because I had remembered seeing it on A&E several years ago and wanted it in my collection. This is a must-see for everyone, regardless of religious affiliation. I felt Leonard Nimoy was the perfect narrator for this piece and the information was intriguing.
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on May 20, 2009
The material covered here is topical at best and is somewhat onesided on the true history of witchcraft. A good one time watch but not something I would deem necessary for my library.
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on June 4, 2012
this is hosted by leonard nimoy this alone is worth getting it, i think this is very inspiring for witches tells of witches that were originally called healers, dont know about anyone else but i cant pause the witches dvd, the pause button will not work i love the old silent film in this showing demons dancing
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I guess I was born in the wrong time. After watching this A&E presentation I see how dull my life is.
The presentation is mostly narrative but occasionally we get a statement from:

Elisabeth Say, Associate Professor of religious Studies, California State University, Northridge.
Carole Fontaine Professor of Old Testament, Andover Newton Theological School.
Joseph Klaits Director for the Institute for Peace, Washington D.C.
Barbara Amadea MacGraw. Lecturer & Religion Scalar, University of Southern California.
Bran P. Levack, Professor of History, University of Texas, Austin.
Marie Guerriero, High Priestess, Temple of the Nine Wells.
Janet Farrar, Author "The Witch's Way."

We see some famous paintings of people that you would have to stretch a bit to change them from goddesses to witches. We get film clips of old black and whit movies.
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on December 2, 2015
Very informative and well laid out. Would recommend
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