WKU special topics class examines witches through the ages

Bailey Reed, SGA reporter

A group of WKU students is delving into the wide world of witches this fall thanks to a special history course.

HIST 490 is an upper level special topics course focused on the history of witchcraft. It is taught by Robert Dietle, history department head and associate professor. Dietle has taught the course four times. 

Dietle said it is important to study witches from all around the globe as cultures present and view witches in vastly different ways.

The class touches on the history and belief systems of witchcraft, why witches have been persecuted and global views on witchcraft in the present day.

According to Dietle, the last known killing of a witch in Europe happened within the last ten years.

“For me, what’s exciting is since I’ve not taught the class for a while, I have to go back and do a lot of reading and more recent scholarship to bring myself up to date in order to discuss it with the students,” Dietle said. “For me, as a lifelong student as well as a teacher, now I have an exciting reason to dive back into all those books and articles I’ve been needing to read.” 

Claire Coleman, a history major enrolled in the course, is interested in learning how witchcraft slots into modern culture and society.

“I’m curious to see how this course sets up a true understanding of what witchcraft is and how it fits in and changes when introduced into popular culture,” Coleman said.

Around 25 students are enrolled in the course this year. While Dietle is thrilled to teach the class, he has issued a warning to students who love the “Harry Potter” series and are expecting to learn about the fictional and whimsical side of witchcraft.

“I have to warn the students that nobody can write about Harry Potter,” Dietle said. “Those are fine books, I’ve read them all, but they are entirely different witchcraft.”

SGA reporter Bailey Reed can be reached at [email protected].