05 June 2009

"Early modern England did not belong to the same world we now inhabit"

An intact "witch bottle" has been excavated from a site in Greenwich, England. It was buried sometime in the 1600s to ward off witchcraft, and contained iron nails, sulfur, brass pins, "a piece of heart-shaped leather pierced by a bent nail," and human urine, hair, nail clippings, and possibly bellybutton lint. It was sealed with a cork and buried upside-down. Unlike previous witch bottles that have been found, though, the seal on this one held, providing a rare insight to the mindset of Anglo-Saxons about the time of the Salem witch trials:
Archaeologist Mike Pitts, the editor of British Archaeology, told Discovery News, "The discovery of something so apparently bizarre, indicating a clear belief in witchcraft and forces that have nothing at all to do with conventional, approved religion, remind us that early modern England did not belong to the same world we now inhabit."
And yet this is a huge source of modern American common law. It makes one shudder.


Anonymous said...

What's the substantive difference between believing in something than evolution and the world-view thinking that underlies this kind of superstition?

Glomarization said...

Isn't it the lack of critical thinking? It's almost a prerequisite, for someone who believes in evolution, to already have a tendency to skepticism, or a habit of not taking things for granted, or not always taking everything at face value.

What I mean to say, is that someone who buys evolution may very well also think that a witch bottle will work. But if it doesn't work after a while, they'll try to put something else in it, then try something else, and then likely conclude that there was something wrong with the underlying hypothesis that the witch-bottle would solve their problem.