The earliest evidence of witchcraft is found in paleolithic cave drawings dating from 30,000 BC and ranges from the Soviet Union to Spain. Witchcraft practised in Western Christendom may have been a survival of indigenous pagan religion. There are references to witchcraft in the Bible, and in Greek and Roman literature. Belief in witchcraft became widespread in the Middle Ages and resulted in the trial, torture, confessions and burning alive of many women. In Western culture witches have traditionally been women; while in other cultures they may be either women or men, the latter being referred to as warlocks. Sorcerers in Western cultures were traditionally men and were also burnt alive. Witchcraft and sorcery were often alleged against rivals.
It was in the 14th century that the Catholic Church turned its full inquisitorial fury against the pagan witches, who were branded as being in league with the devil and therefore heretical and therefore punishable by burning to death. Accusation of witchcraft, then defined as "harm doing" (maleficum), was enough to initiate the process of extraction of confession by torture and confiscation of property by church and civic authorities. Estimates of the number of witches killed range from 2 to 9 million of which the vast majority were women. The process continued for 3 centuries. The last official burnings took place in the early 18th century.
In South Africa in 1990, it was reported that large sums of money had been offered to black nannies looking after white children to hand them over to witchdoctors to be used in the production of a potion to end the civil war amongst the blacks in Natal. In 1990 in Nigeria it was reported that male genitalia were being spirited away by witchcraft and were being sold, notably to politicians as a way of enhancing their powers. The phenomenon was reportedly taken sufficiently seriously to prevent people from shaking hands (physical contact being one of the means through which the disappearance was effected). In industrialized societies there are still scattered claims. In the 1960s cases of black magic were reported in England; a village milkmaid in the former Soviet Union was accused of witchcraft; and beliefs and practices among peasants in Lower Saxony gave rise to a government investigation. In the 1950s, two alleged practitioners of witchcraft were lynched in Queretar, Mexico; in Guatemala, the wife of a political rival of the anticommunist colonel Carlos Castillo Armas was accused of practising witchcraft against the colonel. Witchcult religion survives in France and Italy with witches sabbaths; and in the USA, where California and New York covens celebrate the rites of bell, book and candle. A considerable number of modern books advocating witchcraft have recently appeared in America and western Europe.
2. In developing countries, especially in Africa, traditional healers have much to offer regions deprived of modern medical facilities, especially since there are many more of them and they tend to live in the villages (whereas most doctors and nurses prefer the conveniences of larger towns). In addition, whereas modern doctors are respected for relieving symptoms, many Africans believe that diseases have spiritual roots and that a thorough cure requires a healer in touch with such dimensions. They are therefore often as useful in the treatment of psychosomatic ills as modern therapists. Traditional herbal remedies often anticipate developments in pharmacology. Some African governments therefore work with traditional healers rather than by enforcing laws against them.