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Is there an academic or scientific word to describe social or humanities studies focusing on witches and witchcraft? I expect it to be some something-o-logy? Compare with cryptozoology.

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  • "Witchcraft" is the theory and practice of black magic, casting spells and invocation of spirits. Agreed, an academic study of the same as distinct from the belief in and practice of, could be a different 'ology,' though.
    – Kris
    Dec 29, 2014 at 7:14
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    Hypernyms, study of paranormal phenomena, metascience.
    – Kris
    Dec 29, 2014 at 7:17
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    @WS2 Yes this is what I'm looking for. I am talking about the study of the study of witches as an academic science distinct from the belief and practice in witches, as Kris mentioned. Dec 29, 2014 at 10:53
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    A lot of the people studied in the history of witches may well not have considered themselves witches, and many will have fought hard to protest they were not such. Eccentric and isolated people were often accused of being witches, where in Britain at least, the penalty was death. You can study the transcripts of some of these trials, and pretty harrowing reading it makes. But this is quite different to studying 'witchcraft'. I am not aware of any major university that has such department. you will find the below Wiki entryquite informative.
    – WS2
    Dec 29, 2014 at 16:05
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    I suppose it would be a branch of anthropology or theology. May 7, 2017 at 3:51

3 Answers 3

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"Witchcraft Studies"

See for example "A Neglected Aspect of Witchcraft Studies", "Witchcraft studies in Austria, Germany and Switzerland" and "Witchcraft Studies from the Perspective of Women’s and Gender History: A Report on Recent Research".

The term has been used for the study of modern practices of witchcraft like Wicca, Feri, 1734, etc. for the study of earlier practices these have sometimes claimed to descend from (including a range of positions as to whether that is the case) for the beliefs of those who claimed that witches were attacking society (from the witch crazes of the early modern period and earlier through to the "Satanic Panic" of the 1980s and beyond) and to other practices of magic that have been given the label "witchcraft". It has also been used for historical, sociological, political and other analyses of witchcraft.

As such it fits your question very well.

It's wide enough that you may wish to be narrower as with something like "history of witchcraft" etc.

It also overlaps with "pagan studies", in that something covering modern pagan witchcraft like Hutton's Triumph of the Moon or Joanne Pearson's Wicca and the Christian Heritage would definitely be in the overlap, something like Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon would be more "pagan studies" than "witchcraft studies" as while it is certainly significant in the latter it covers much in the wider scope, and something like Levack's The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe would be "witchcraft studies" but not directly concerned with "pagan studies" as it doesn't look at modern witchcraft practices at all and as such is only relevant to actual witchcraft practices and (by extension) paganism in so far as the period it studies has a cultural significance among modern witches.

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  • Thanks for the plethora of links and book recommendations. I have a realated question ... The exact same question but for a different era or epoch or time period: Witches during the Sumerian/Babylonian/Old Testament period. Any idea what that might be called as an "-ology" or "studies"? Old Testament studies is too vague. Aug 18, 2019 at 19:09
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English-speaking academics in the humanities don't use -ology or -ics constructions much to distinguish what they do from what their colleagues in the same field or 'neighbouring' fields do: those suffixes designate disciplines rather than topics.

Topics are usually designated with the word studies, either following the name of the topic, if that is short—Shakespeare studies, Carolingian studies, textual studies—or followed by in + topic name if that is longer—studies in mediaeval pilgrimage, studies in 17th-century verse. I'd go with

Witchcraft studies ... or, if you need a book or seminar title,
Studies in Witchcraft, Benjamin, Spring semester 2015.

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  • The "Studies in…" form always strikes me as rather self-important. Which may explain (or conversely the impression may come from) its popularity in such contexts.
    – Jon Hanna
    Dec 29, 2014 at 20:19
  • @JonHanna I suppose you could publish "Papers on Witchcraft" and lead a "Witchcraft seminar". But they all seem considerably less inflated to me than, say Mageiology or Veneficistics. Dec 29, 2014 at 20:48
  • Even though it may be so that witchcraft studies is the actual word, rather than a -ology construction, the premise is rather invalid. See N-grams as a reference and compare sociology with social studies, indology with Indian studies, sinology with Chinese studies etc. Some, like Indian studies, do not even come up in stats. books.google.com/ngrams/… Dec 30, 2014 at 19:53
  • @Benjamin though "witchcraft studies" have only recently attained even a little academic respectability collectively (Luhrman studying witchcraft as sociology, Hutton studying it as modern history, etc. was controversial enough, but the idea that one might cover both as the same interdisciplinary topic, more so), and I suspect -ology coinages are less common recently than once. Also, the Greek or Latin root to use would raise controversy itself (mageilogy? too broad, malifcology? too biased, strigology? too narrow).
    – Jon Hanna
    Dec 30, 2014 at 20:44
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I nominate a neologism: wikkology

wikkology — The study of witches; the study of the practicing of witchcraft. cf. demonology

It is reasonably derived from some of the etymological sources for witch: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/witch

It fills the need for a concise -ology form, and should not be controversial in any way.

This question has bothered me for many years, and is exacerbated each time I peruse a favorite book of mine, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft & Demonology by Rossell Hope Robbins. In fact, I came here to pose this question, and discovered that a discussion was already underway. I formulated the neologism several months ago in a fit of determination but haven't been afforded an opportunity to use it. Since it seems there is no consensus about the existence of an accepted term, I offer wikkology to the world, and time will tell if it gains any traction.

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  • I make a motion that we, the community of witchcraft studiers, accept the term #wikkology. It makes sense and doesn't have any negative hashtag memes associated with it yet ... give it 30 years or so though ... but, for now it's perfect. Aug 18, 2019 at 19:22

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