Witchcraft has a very long history that shaped many of the traditions that we have today. Because modern day witchcraft came from ancient paganism, many of the mainstream holidays like Christmas came from witchcraft. Also, many religious stories that are part of the main world religion are based on pagan ideas. So even if you do not identify as a witch I suggest you read this because you will probably learn something.
It is impossible to pinpoint the origin of witchcraft because it is old as religion itself. It is believed to have been around since the stone age because we have burial evidence of religion starting in this time period. There is also evidence of belief in a creator because of sacrifices and burial evidence. There is also evidence of religious rituals and shamanism from this time. Animism was a very evident religion at this time because before science, it appeared that nature had a mind of it’s own. A good example of this is that most cultures had a sun god. They also looked at nature as omens of good or bad luck and had gods for the functions of their daily lives. For example, they often had a hunting god because their lives depended on the hunt. All of this evidence points to an old religion of animism and magick.
Bible scholars speculate that the idea of witches have been around since the beginning of time. In the middle east, ancient civilizations often worshipped powerful female goddesses and women practiced the holiest rituals. These priestesses were known as wise women and they are the early form of the modern day witch. These women made house calls as healers and advisors, even for kings. They were seen as benevolent members of society.
They started to become the malevolent figure that we hear about today because when the ancient civilizations started moving west the religions became more masculine. This is because we moved from being hunter-gatherers to warriors. This warrior culture caused women to be looked at as inferior and most of the gods that they worshipped were male.
Then in 1300 bc the Hebrews started following the old testament which condemned witches. It called witchcraft dangerous and prohibited it. The bible also had a more male centric and monotheistic view of creation.
Centuries later, witch hysteria begins in Europe. When the plague hit, it brought a great fear and many people blamed the devil and his followers for their problems. The Catholic church had also established itself at this time and they seeked to condemn anything non Catholic. These people believed that witches practiced deep in the woods at night doing ungodly things like having orgies and eating babies. Then at the climax of the ceremony the devil would show up and participate in the orgy. It was the church’s mission to tame these nasty women (who probably barely existed honestly). Soon the book, Malleus Maleficarum was published and it became the second most popular book, second only to the bible. This book was a guide on hunting and punishing witches and it mainly condemned women because we are “sexually vulnerable” and “easy prey for the devil.”
By the end of the 1600’s witch hunts in Europe spread like wildfire. Literally because they were often burned at the stake. It was so bad that whole towns could be accused and hundreds of women would be killed. Germany was the worst place and there were some towns with no women left. Even if you just had a mole you could be burned because it could be a devil’s mark. The only way to be executed though was to confess, so these women were often tortured until they finally confessed. When the witch hunts finally ended in the beginning of the 1800’s over 60,000 had been executed for witchcraft.
In the new world there were many witch hunts but none as extreme as in Europe. The worst one was the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. It all started with a reverend’s daughters playing with a crystal ball and then having convulsions. Soon nine other young girls were having convulsions. When put under pressure, the girls named three women to be responsible for their ailments. These women were social pariahs which made them expendable targets. After Salem, witch hysteria spread to 24 other villages. In the end there were 200 accused witches, 27 found guilty, and 19 were killed. The funny part was the witch trials finally ended when victims started pointing fingers at people in power. When the governor of Massachusetts was accused the trials were demanded to end.
Skip a couple hundred years and the media begins to feature witches. This causes the stigma to begin to fade and eventually a new spiritual movement begins. In 1921 the book, The Witch Cult in Western Europe was published and this sparked a new curiosity in witchcraft that the world hadn’t seen in hundreds of years. This eventually spawned the religion, Wicca. Wicca was a new religion based on old traditional witchcraft with the motto “harm none.” Wicca really got its start when the book, Witchcraft today was published in 1954 and it became an official religion in 1986.
Now, we are in a time of awakening. We are on the cusp of a new astrological age based on truth and justice. We are also transitioning into a higher vibration. All of this energy combined leads to a mass spiritual awakening period. You can see this with the new age movement gaining popularity and many celebrities are using spiritual practices such as meditation and crystals. Right now is a very exciting time to be a witch.