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Antonia wrote:

Hi, guys —

The word sorcery in the Old Testament is translated from the word pharmakaia, or something like that, which is the exact origin of the word pharmacy. That said, there's really no difference between some witch putting together a potion from natural substances to effect health and other human affairs, and a professional business man putting together a potion from natural substances to effect health and other human affairs (like anti-depressants or aphrodisiacs).

  • So why did the Church persecute tons of witches but let pharmacies and doctors get away with their drug making and usage?
  • Was the Church simply going through a very corrupt period of time and, out of greed, supported the doctors because they made money out of their healings and biological (and|or) natural manipulations, while witches gained no such worldly reward and thus couldn't financially profit the Church?
  • Is it not a fact that the Crusades and witch hunts occurred?

I keenly await your replies for I find this particularly interesting.

Thank you for your time!


  { Why did the Church persecute witches but let pharmacies and doctors get away with drug making? }

Mary Ann replied:


Pharmakaia was the word used to describe what people who made potions did. Many of them were witches.

Doctors also used herbs and diet but physicians were sworn not to give herbs for abortion, so people went to witches for abortion-inducing herbs and for herbs that would prevent pregnancy. Along with the herbs came words and tokens, because that was the magic that the witches dealt in, so the word, pharmakaia, became also identified with what witches did, which we call sorcery.

Divination and magic
2117  All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.

The Church did not persecute tons of witches and there were no Church witch hunts. Read some good history. There was some witch hysteria by Puritans in Massachusetts, and the governments in Europe punished some witches, but the myth of thousands of witches being burned is a myth.

The Church still believes that witchcraft is evil. It is a sin against the First Commandment.
It opens one to demonic influence. Many witches are indeed knowingly servants of satan. So-called white witchcraft is a modern invention that attempts to return to a mythical pagan matriarchal nature religion.

The Crusades were not bad things, though the inter-Christian sacking of Constantinople was deplorable. You have been greatly misled by elements of the Black Legend: myths invented after the Reformation. Check out this article from the EWTN web site:

There are also a couple resources from Catholic Answers that will help:

. . . and finally check out this posting from our knowledge base:

Mary Ann

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