Witchcraft in History

Witchcraft in History

The word “witch” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “Wicca,” which comes from the word  “wicce,” meaning “wise.”

The origin of the word dates back to thousands of years when people widely worshiped Mother Earth or Nature as goddesses.

They also revered women as they were the creators of new life.

Witchcraft was the practice of witches.

It was widely practiced primarily by women because they stayed at home while the men went out to work.

But of course, there were male witches as well, but they were not very common.

Witchcraft to heal

Witchcraft not only included performing magick, but also creating home medicines like potions, herbs, stones, and oils.

Since witches provided vital health and family services, they were considered wise and were highly respected.

Witches performed hypnosis to help ease the pain of childbirth and other health conditions.

The mothers and grandmothers would teach witchcraft to their daughters and grand daughters because witchcraft involved healing oneself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

At that time, witches were not feared, but revered and valued. Because they healed the sick. They also attended to those who were suffering. They healed both human beings and animals.

Witchcraft was a religious practice

Witches used telepathy, clairvoyance, intuition, dowsing, crystal gazing, trance, communication with spirits and similar other occult practices.

Religion and magick were inseparable from each other.

The Catholic Church

When the people flocked to witches with their problems, the Catholic Church felt threatened.

They believed the magickal powers of the witches were owed tothe Devil.

Since the Church and the monarchy in Europe were united, they colluded in persecuting the witches.

They filed cases against them in the court and sent them to jail or even sentenced them to death.

The Scottish Witchcraft Act of 1563 went so far as to punish the people who consulted the witches for medical problems.

The young people refrained from practicing witchcraft for the fear of persecution. Those who continued became ostracized and deprived as the time passed.

This is the reason why the witches have been portrayed as old, mean and fearful.

Wicca belief

Witches love and worship nature in all its manifestations. They deeply revere the earth, sun, moon, stars, planets, trees, animals, forests, clouds, rains, oceans, rivers and lakes.

They believe the changing phases of the moon and the passing of the seasons as harbingers of change.

Witchcraft is very close to the pagan practice.

Witches have a deep knowledge of the benefits of trees, plants and herbs. They praise the different trees since they are not only life-giving, they are also wise.

Witchcraft from Europeans

Witchcraft was brought to North America by the Europeans. Some early settlers practiced it secretly, to protect themselves from the attacks of the Native Americans.

New Age Witchcraft

Witchcraft has regained its old respect and is being widely practiced by people from all walks of life.

It has survived the many years of prosecution and those who practice it are no more violent or aggressive.

It is the true religion of peace.

Witchcraft: a democratic religion

Witchcraft is the most democratic religion in the world as it gives you the freedom to practice your own religious beliefs without referring them to any established religious regime.

It’s also a religion that does not disrespect other religions or prevent any other religious practitioners to practice what they believe in.

The Very First Witch Burned At The Stake

The very first person accused of witchcraft would be Alice Kyteler and her servant. Dame Alice de Kyteler or Kettle was born in Kilkenny at Kyteler's Inn in 1280.

She was the only child of a prominent Hiberno-Norman family. Kettle was a noblewoman; and together with her servant Petronella, were victims of the world's earliest recorded witch trial.

Dame de Kyteler was married four times. And she outlived all her four husbands. The last of the husbands, John le Poer became sick in 1324.

When he realized he was dying, he changed his will to make sure his wife would be well-compensated after his death. Le Poer’s children from his previous marriage lost their inheritance at the rewriting of the will.

His children were enraged, and together with their mothers and their husbands, accused Dame de Kyteler of poisoning their father and casting evil spells on them. They also accused her of running a brothel and dismembering animals.

They all brought their complaints to the Bishop of Ossory. Richard de Ledrede convened a Court of Inquisition to review the facts of the case.

But bishop de Ledrede had an ulterior motive. He believed that the wealthy city of Kilkenny were becoming increasingly secularised. He wished to reinstate the church's power in the city.

You can guess the outcome of the evaluation. The inquisition concluded that there was a coven of witches or sorcerers operating in the city headed by Dame de Kyteler.

The bishop had the Dame arrested and the bishop himself was also arrested eventually and imprisoned for 17 days. This only made de Ledrede angry and set out to pursue the Dame and her followers.

He had many of her servants jailed and made them confess to sorcery. On learning of these alleged confessions, Dame Kettler left. There were no records of her after 1324.

The bishop and his inquisition searched her house and publicly burned items they claimed to find there like ointments, powders, the fat of murdered infants, dead animals, men’s fingernails, and various tools for witchcraft.

Petronella was tortured under false accusations of heresy and she eventually confessed to witchcraft. Acting on her confession, the bishop had her flogged and burned at the stake.

Petronella was one of the first people to be charged with witchcraft in Europe. She was also the first person in Ireland to be burned at the stake.

The Very First Witch Hanged in Salem

Bridget Bishop was the first person executed in the Salem witch trials of 1692.

The reason

Bridget Bishop was accused in the 1692 Salem witch-hunt because her second husband's children wanted property that she had possession of as an inheritance from Oliver.

Her behavior also made her an easy target of accusations since she was often disagreeable and did not obey so easily. She also associated with what the community called “the wrong people,” and stayed out late, drank, gambled. Bridget liked to have a good time.

Bridget also fought with her present husband and previous husband publicly. She also wore a scarlet bodice, which was a pretty scandalous color choice back then.

Bridget Bishop was accused of witchcraft after her second husband's death. She angrily denied the accusations, at one point saying "I am innocent to a Witch. I know not what a Witch is."

More serious charges

A more serious charge against Bishop came when two men she'd hired to work on her cellar testified that they had found rag dolls with pins in them on her walls.

The men also testified that Bridget had visited them in spectral form while they were lying in bed at night.

Arrest, Trial, and Conviction

On April 18, Bridget Bishop was arrested with others accused of witchcraft and taken to Ingersoll's Tavern.

The following day, magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin examined Bridget Bishop.

On June 8, Bridget Bishop was tried before the Court of Oyer and Terminer and was convicted of the charges, and sentenced to death.  

Bridget Bishop was the was the first to be tried in that court, the first to be sentenced, and the first todie.

She was executed by hanging on Gallows Hill on June 10.

The end of the witchcraft trials

In October 1692, Governor William Phipps of Massachusetts ordered the Court of Oyer and Terminer dissolved and replaced with the Superior Court of Judicature.

The Superior Court of Judicature forbade the type of sensational testimony allowed in the earlier trials.

The executions stopped. Those incarcerated and awaiting trial were eventually released; those sentenced to death were pardoned.

The Salem witch trials, which led to the executions of 19 innocent women and men, had officially ended.


A 1957 act of the Massachusetts legislature exonerated Bridget Bishop of her conviction.

4 Notable Witches In History

Laurie Cabot

Laurie Cabot was one of the people who popularized witchcraft in the United States.

Her interest in the magical arts led her to New England (she’s from California).

After years of studying the craft, she set up shop in Salem, Massachusetts.

She was careful not to declare herself a witch. Even though the year was 1970, the word “witch” was still not accepted in Salem.

When Laurie came out of the broom closet (due to her cat familiar), she became a national celebrity.

She set up a coven and a witchcraft shop, both became very well-known and popular.  The shop even became a tourist destination.

Laurie Cabot rapidly became one of the most high-profile witches in the world and she is also participates in community activities.

The governor of Massachusetts himself, Michael Dukakis, declared her the official “Witch of Salem” thanks to her influence and good work in the community.

Laurie never performs dark magick because she believes that any curse will come back to haunt you.

According to her, witchcraft is magic, astrology, and environmentalism combined in a scientific manner. She is the author of many books on her practice.

And although Laurie Cabot is hailed as the High Priestess of Wicca, she says she does not actually practice Wicca…

...because she was already doing it long before Gerald Gardner Introduced Wicca to the world.

Raymond Buckland

Raymond Buckland is regarded as “The Father of American Wicca.”

Buckland’s family immigrated to the United States and settled in Brentwood, Long Island, New York.  

His interest in the occult was strong but he was still without a religion and felt there was something missing in his life.

Shortly after his arrival in the States two books came into his possession: The Witch-Cult In Western Europe by Margaret A. Murray and Witchcraft Today by Gerald B. Gardner.

He was deeply influenced by Gerald Gardner’s book. So much so that he took Gerald Gardner’s teachings and created his own variation called Seax-Wicca.

Buckland’s Long Island Coven would become one of the great incubators of American Paganism.

The “The Long Island Line” of Gardnerian Witchcraft would evolve from it.

Most well-known witches of the 20th and 21st century are Long Island Line Witches who can all be traced back to Buckland.

He is a Wiccan priest and a revered expert in all things neo-pagan. He spent decades as the most recognizable spokesman and the foremost expert of the craft.

Dion Fortune

Dion Fortune was a British occultist and author who wrote prolifically about the occult and used her magickal prowess to help people during the Second World War.

In 1924, she founded the Fraternity of the Inner Light, a magickal society dealing with religious philosophy and alternative realities.

During the Second World War she organized her own contribution to the war effort on a magical level.

With her meditation group, she operated in the midst of the Blitz despite a bomb bringing down the roof of her headquarters in 1940.

This period was well covered by a series of weekly publications and letters. They were later published as Dion Fortune's Magical Battle of Britain.

She died of leukemia in 1946, leaving behind her magical society, which has survived to this day.

In the book, “The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft,” Dion is  considered as “the foremost female figure” of early 1900s British occultism.

Gerald Gardner

Gerald Gardner is called “father of witchcraft” for he founded modern Wicca.

He has helped with the growth and development of the different traditions in modern Wicca throughout the world.

Gerald Gardner was a man who had a vision. He was not afraid to try out anything and he went against the grain.

When Gardner met Aleister Crowley, he was initiated into Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis. 

Gardner eventually became well-versed in matters of Folklore, Witchcraft, and Magic.

Gardner wanted to write about his learnings and pass on the knowledge.

After the Witchcraft laws had been repealed, he published his writings, and his writings became the basis for what would become “Gardnerian Wicca.”

It was very important for Gerald Gardner to ensure that Wicca survived and people could learn about the religion and practice.

So many had suffered in the past but still… Wicca has continued to flourish. Its followers, none the more violent and vengeful.

It is amazing really, how much spiritual and transcendental Wicca is.

Blessed be, brothers and sisters!

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