A Brief History of Witchcraft
A brief history of witchcraft spans across cultures, continents, and centuries, encompassing diverse practices, beliefs, and perceptions.
Witchcraft has ancient roots in various cultures. In societies like ancient Egypt, Greece, Sumer, and Rome, Ireland, and other areas of Europe practitioners often engaged in folk magic, divination, and rituals. Some historical records suggest that individuals were accused of practicing harmful magic, leading to fear and persecution.
The medieval era saw a growing association between witchcraft and the devil. The Christian Church's influence contributed to the idea that witches made pacts with the devil to gain supernatural powers. The "Malleus Maleficarum" (The Hammer of Witches), first published in the late 1486 became a guide for identifying, prosecuting, and executing witches. Its profound impact on Europe spread quickly and deathly as thousands of people started being executed. This marked the beginning of the infamous witch hunts that lasted for two and a half centuries.
This tiktok user actually has an old copy of the Malleus Maleficarum shown here!!
@moonsrarebooks on TikTok
Witch Hunts and Trials
The late 16th and 17th centuries saw a peak in witch hunts and trials across Europe and, to a lesser extent, in colonial America. Thousands of people, primarily women, were accused, tortured, and executed for alleged witchcraft. Many of these accusations were fueled by social, religious, and political factors.
Enlightenment and Decline
As the Enlightenment era emerged, rational thinking and scientific progress led to a decline in widespread belief in witchcraft. Laws against witchcraft were gradually repealed, and the witch hunts subsided by the 18th century.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a revival of interest in magic, mysticism, and the occult. Figures like Aleister Crowley known as the father of Satanism and occult practice and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn played significant roles in this revival. Aleister was actually kicked out of the Golden Dawn due to his evil tactics which the group did not like. Funny enough, the group actually was somewhat in a race to put out their own tarot decks too. The decks Rider Waite, Hermetic, and inherently Thoth all come from the group the Golden Dawn. Modern witchcraft, often referred to as Wicca, emerged in the mid-20th century, popularized by figures like Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente. Wicca emphasized nature worship, rituals, and a reverence for the divine feminine.
Today, witchcraft is diverse and inclusive, encompassing various practices, paths, and beliefs. Neo-paganism, Wicca, and other nature-based spiritual practices have gained followers around the world. Many modern witches emphasize personal empowerment, nature reverence, and the use of rituals and magic for personal growth, healing, and transformation.
It's important to note that the history of witchcraft is complex, influenced by cultural biases, religious shifts, and social dynamics. The understanding of witchcraft has evolved over time, and contemporary practitioners often reclaim the term "witch" as a symbol of empowerment and spirituality rather than one associated solely with fear and persecution.