Infused with mystery, fear, unbelievable and grim facts and records, Witchcraft History can be traced back to centuries.
The word ‘Witchcraft’ has been derived from the word ‘Wicce’ which means ‘the wise one’. Witchcraft has been seen as a magical phenomenon, a pagan worship or religion, sorcery, and others, at different periods in Witchcraft History.
The earliest records of the concept and practice of witchcraft can be traced to the early days of humankind when witchcraft was seen as magical a phenomenon that was invoked for magical rites which ensured good luck, protection against diseases, and other reasons.
However, it was not until 1000 AD that the practice of Witchcraft and witches invoked the wrath of priests, Christianity, and members of the society. Witchcraft, seen as a religion of the ancient and traditional pagan religion which worships the feminine, earthly, and masculine aspects of God, was considered as anti-Christian and a heresy.
Held to be against the declarations and beliefs of the Church, witches were considered as evil, making pacts and connections with the Devil. It was even believed that witches engaged in practices such as flying, invisibility, killing, taming black wolves and cats to spy on people, and others.
The belief in the existence of witches was strengthened particularly after Pope Innocent VIII issued a declaration in the 1498 confirming their existence in society, and inquisition increased, although in 1200, killing of witches had already become authorised by Pope Gregory IX.
The Inquisition thus began after 1200 on orders of the Church to discover the witches or heretics who were believed to be evil and against the Church. Full-fledged killing of witches was, however, recorded in the 1500s and 1600s.
The first crusade against witches was held in 1022 AD when a witch was burned to death. Witchcraft History echoes the terrible campaign against Witchcraft in Salem in 1692 in which 150 people were tried as suspects of practicing witchcraft.
People suspected as witches were usually burned at stakes, and those pleading their innocence were either stoned to death or even sometimes thrown in water to prove their innocence. Witches usually faced severe and painful deaths or punishments.
Origin of Witchcraft
Witchcraft originated with the human civilization itself. The fear of the unknown and its imagined role in making our day to day life easy or difficult, created witches and their craft. Even though witchcraft as such was practiced mainly by experienced and old women, men also practiced it. Witches were the mediators between the human beings and the mysterious super powers such as spirits and angels. When a witch succeeded in resolving the apparently mysterious problem of someone, the performance was termed as magic, a process that could not be easily explained away through any logical analysis. The witches prayed to the higher powers or the spirits for help and guidance in resolving the problem by performing certain rituals and the whole process was called witchcraft.
Witchcraft, an earth based religion, was practiced in almost all the societies and cultures across the world according to local beliefs and traditions.
According to scholars of witchcraft, it was a belief system whose origin predates the majority of well known religions on this earth. It dates 40,000 years back to Paleolithic period. It has been evolving since then and its present form is quite different from what it was a thousand or five thousand years back. It did not probably have this name as well. Even different covens perform the witchcraft differently.
Archeological discoveries have revealed that people worshipped hunter god and fertility goddess during the Paleolithic period. This has been proved by the discovery of cave paintings which are estimated to be 30,000 years old. There is a painting that depicts a man with the head of a stag. In yet another painting, there is a pregnant woman standing in a circle with eleven other people. These relics go to prove that witchcraft is one of the oldest religions in the world. Wiccan view of God and Goddess aspect of the supreme creative force predates thousands of years before Christianity.
A Craft of the Wise
In the ancient times, Witchcraft was known as ‘craft of the wise’ as the wise persons were those who followed the path of nature and were in tune with its forces, had the knowledge of herbs and medicines, gave wise counsel and were held in high esteem as Shamanic healers and leaders in the village and community. They understood that nature was superior to human beings and that human beings were simply one of the many parts of nature, both seen and unseen that combine to form one whole. As Chief Seattle said, “We do not own the earth; we are a part of it.” They understood that what we take from nature or use, we must return in kind to maintain the balance and equilibrium. The modern man has, however, forgotten this and has paid the price in form of many ecological and environmental disasters.
Modern day Witchcraft
Unfortunately for the past several hundred years the image of the witch has been associated with the evil, heathenism and unrighteousness due to prejudices created by the Christian church. Of late people have started understanding and practicing witchcraft as the true religion of God and Nature. There is renewed interest in witchcraft and witches profess to believe and practice the witchcraft with a sense of pride and confidence. The believers in New Age movement have understood witchcraft in its true perspective, Gerald Gardeners WICCANS..
Modern witchcraft attracts believers from all walks of life and positions in society all over the world. They come together to understand the life, nature, evolution and mysteries of the universe through witchcraft. Witchcraft is the most democratic religion in the world. There is no rigid dogma and no hard-line regime except for a simple premise that we should not sow the seeds of evil if we want to reap the evil fruit multifold and secondly that we should not misuse the munificence of nature by disturbing its balance. Who would disagree?
In routine usage, a witch is a feminine noun for wizard or sorcerer, but the former has different functional connotations from its masculine counterpart. While a wizard or a sorcerer may have some element of manipulativeness in their craft, a witch, though a practitioner of witchcraft, is far from being a crafty person. A witch is essentially a very noble and deeply spiritual person whose purity of heart combined with spiritual and meditation practices bestow them with a deeply mysterious aura. A witch does not act with any ulterior motives, not to mention any machinations in any pursuits. A witch is a very compassionate person, gifted with supernatural powers and works for the alleviation of pain and suffering of fellow human beings and brings them the much needed solace and succor.
A highly misunderstood, deeply suspected, much maligned and doggedly hounded person especially during the middle ages, a witch has regained lost ground and has acquired a respectable position in the society. Colloquially, the term witch, applied most often to a female, also includes male practitioners of witchcraft, especially Wicca. Witches believe in certain ethical codes and strictly adhere to them.
A witch engaged in witchcraft practices spells developed by worshiping many deities primarily the supreme Goddess and sometimes her consort the Horned God. The craft or workings of a witch are used for healing of acute problems. For curing these problems, she uses the personal powers in combination with energies within candles, stones, herbs and other natural items. Witch practices witchcraft to help better the world and mankind. A witch certainly is not ugly, nefarious, dreadful hag who worships the devil or hurts the people as the stereotype image presents him or her to be, just look at me !!.
A witch derives his or her strength from Paganism, which is influenced by ancient, primarily pre-Christian and sometimes pre-Judaic religion. A witch has deep faith in the elements of Nature such as earth, fire, nature, air, and water. Fire cleanses and has an aura that transports her into the astral world and enables her to view this world with psychic clarity. Water purifies.connects with the Goddess herself. The air is an all-enveloping blanket of gods. It wraps around the witch and lifts them to the divine immenseness and freedom of the skies. The spirit of the witch gets united with the air and floats freely in the sky. The witch achieves this uplifted state through meditation, perseverance and sometimes is blissfully born with these talents.
A witch is just as ordinary looking person as any one in your neighborhood. They can be a husband or housewife with kids doing daily domestic chores. they function more at a macro level than at personal. So if they are feeling sad, the sadness is not just due to some personal vested interest, but it is born out of the suffering of the world around them. Another difference between a witch and an ordinary person is that a witch can commune with the goddess.
A witch performs the craft using many rituals such as worshiping alone or in covens in the alter room. lights candles, incense, chants incantations and worships deities or goddesses. They meditates while staring into the candle flames and in the course of meditation, they will feel their spirit leaving their body and enter into trance. A witch gets lost in the awesome power of the Fire with their minds dancing with the flames of the candles. Insightful images deluge in their head and will become a permanent part of their psyche.
Some witches may also practice necromancy and summon spirits of the dead to gain knowledge of future events from them. These spirits are called Operative Spirits or the Spirits of divination.