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Ancient Mysteries - Witches
Ancient Mysteries - Witches
Genres: Television, Documentary, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2006     0hr 50min

The witch, sorceress, enchantress, the devil's consort--she has haunted the human consciousness and captured our imagination for thousands of years. The fear of the witch is woven deep within our psyche, but, surprisingly,...  more »


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Movie Details

Genres: Television, Documentary, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: A&E Home Video
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 09/26/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/1996
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1996
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 0hr 50min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A most informative look at the history of witchcraft
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 12/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"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."
Entertaining and Educational
Cara M. Lane | St. Louis, MO | 09/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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."
Not worth it
Jeremy Tyson | 05/21/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"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."