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Some practitioners are simply mentioned in passing." There has also existed in popular belief the concept of white witches and white witchcraft, which is strictly benevolent.

Many neopagan witches strongly identify with this concept, and profess ethical codes that prevent them from performing magic on a person without their request.

Witch hunts, scapegoating, and killing or shunning of suspected witches still occurs in the modern era, with killings both of victims for their supposedly magical body parts, and of suspected witchcraft practitioners.

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From the mid-20th century, witchcraft – sometimes called contemporary witchcraft to clearly distinguish it from older beliefs – became the name of a branch of modern paganism.It is most notably practiced in the Wiccan and modern witchcraft traditions, and no longer practices in secrecy.Witchcraft is a broad term that varies culturally and societally, and thus can be difficult to define with precision, The concept of witchcraft and the belief in its existence have persisted throughout recorded history.They have been present or central at various times and in many diverse forms among cultures and religions worldwide, including both "primitive" and "highly advanced" cultures, Scientifically, the existence of magical powers and witchcraft are generally believed to lack credence and to be unsupported by high quality experimental testing, although individual witchcraft practices and effects may be open to scientific explanation or explained via mentalism and psychology.During the Age of Colonialism, many cultures across the globe were exposed to the modern Western world via colonialism, usually accompanied and often preceded by intensive Christian missionary activity (see "Christianization").

Beliefs related to witchcraft and magic in these cultures were at times influenced by the prevailing Western concepts.

Where belief in malicious magic practices exists, such practitioners are typically forbidden by law as well as hated and feared by the general populace, while beneficial magic is tolerated or even accepted wholesale by the people – even if the orthodox establishment opposes it.

Probably the most widely known characteristic of a witch was the ability to cast a spell, "spell" being the word used to signify the means employed to carry out a magical action.

Witchcraft of a more benign and socially acceptable sort may then be employed to turn the malevolence aside, or identify the supposed evil-doer so that punishment may be carried out.

The folk magic used to identify or protect against malicious magic users is often indistinguishable from that used by the witches themselves.

Some modern commentators believe the malefic nature of witchcraft is a Christian projection.