Eric Nelson, an assistant professor of history at Missouri State, said that magic and witchcraft have played prominent roles in Western society Wednesday at an SAC sponsored lecture.

"We pride ourselves on the scientific revolution," Nelson said. "But magic was there first."

He said the scientific revolution replaced magic.

"We quit studying magic; we kept studying science," Nelson said. "But magic did have an effect in the West."

Nelson also said that Isaac Newton had even practiced magic in the form of alchemy, where scientists often attempted to turn less valuable metals into gold, before he became a prominent figure in the development of modern science.

Nelson said modern conceptions about magic developed in Europe.

There are characteristics that people normally associate with witches, like pointed black hats, crooked noses and brooms, Nelson said. These were "the basic ideas of the 21st century witch.

"Pop culture is mostly where we get our ideas from," Nelson said. He also said these ideas started with the way magic was portrayed by society's elites.

Nelson said magic traditionally had four sources, churchmen, healers, sorcerers and witches.

"A witch was someone who made a pact with the devil and drew their powers from that pact," Nelson said.

He also said the beginning of witch persecutions corresponded with the first persecutions of heretics in Western Europe.

"Things get more complex when Christianity arrives in Western Europe," Nelson said.

He said early theologians identified divine magic and demonic magic. Nelson said the important thing to realize was that these theologians discovered a way to fit magic into their religious structure.

He also said that the 14th century was the most significant period in the development of conventions about magic in Europe.

"This century was especially destabilizing," Nelson said. "There was famine, plague and war."

About 50 people attended Nelson's presentation.

The lecture was part of the last lecture series that the Student Activities Council introduced this year.

Missouri State anthropology professor Margaret Buckner said the series was inspired by a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who decided to give a last lecture after he found out he was dying of pancreatic cancer.

Buckner gave a lecture on April 9 that was based on John Lennon's song "Imagine."

She said the most important message of her lecture was to treat non-U.S. citizens like U.S. citizens. Buckner also said it seems unfair to treat people differently based on which side of a political line they were born on.

Missouri State English professor Tita Baumlin is scheduled to give the last lecture in this year's series on April 23.

Baumlin, who teaches Shakespeare courses at Missouri State, said Tuesday in an e-mail interview that she chose this date for her lecture because April 23 is celebrated as Shakespeare's birthday and the day of his death.

She said she has considered talking about Shakespeare or baseball. She also said she has not completely decided on a topic.

"My lecture may be titled 'Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From Baseball' or 'Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From Shakespeare,'" Baumlin said. "Or maybe both."

SAC holds its last lecture series Wednesdays in the first floor atrium of the Plaster Student Union.

Lectures begin at 7 p.m. Free cookies and Kaldi's coffee are available to those who attend.