Witches get a pretty bad rap. They've been portrayed as warty-nosed, cackling hags in fairy tales and demonized by religions and governments throughout the world. But far from devouring children, à la Hansel and Gretel, or scratching God’s eye out, like Badjelly: the modern witch celebrates the divine in a way all her own.
Witchcraft, or witchery, is the use of magical faculties for religious, medicinal or divinatory purpose. The belief in and practice of magic has been present since the earliest of human cultures, and continues to have an important religious role in many cultures today.
A Short History of Witchery
Witchcraft is a deeply earth-based religion, and was practiced in almost all societies and cultures in one form or another and each practicing witch or coven takes on a slightly different form of practice. Witchery is a belief system whose origin predates many popular religions, going back as far as 40,000 years ago.
In early modern Europe, witches were usually women. European pagan beliefs in witchcraft were associated with Diana, the goddess of the hunt, the moon and birthing, associated with wild animals and the woodland, and who possessed the power to talk to and control animals. Dianic Wicca, a largely feminist form of the practice, was named for her.
Roman paganism held methods concerned with gods, amulets and the earth, which were adopted by early Christian clergy in the 14th and 15th centuries. As Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe, its concern with magic and divinatory sciences waned.
The Protestant Church examined witchcraft as a diabolical and dark art: involving the intervention of spirits of evil. Witches and wizards were alleged to reject Jesus and instead were thought to pay divine honor to the “Prince of Darkness” and receive his preternatural powers.
However, those who practiced witchcraft saw the art entirely differently. Witches acted as intermediaries between humans and the mysterious powers of spirits and angels.
The Goddess Diana image Courtesy of Tylwyth Tyg
Modern day Witchcraft
Following the repeal of the UK's Witchcraft Act in 1951, Witches were able to practice openly without fear of persecution; this paved the way for a revival of witchcraft.
Modern witchcraft is largely a branch of what is known as greater Paganism. Its practice involves varying degrees of magic, shamanism, folk medicine, and spiritual healing by calling on spirits and elementals, the veneration of deities and being in tune with natural forces: the most popular of these, but not limited to, the practice of Wicca.
Wicca draws upon a set of ancient pagan religious for its structuring and was developed in England in the early 20th century, before it became popular practice in the 1950s-60s. A traditionally duotheistic religion centered on the worship of the Moon Goddess and the Horned God: the divine feminine and the divine masculine. Similar to the Taoist Yin and Yang, the god and goddess are seen as lovers and as equals, who co-create the cosmos and the natural world.
Modern fiction has also been kinder in the portrayal of Witchcraft
Interested? Give it a try for yourself!
We’ve all experienced having too many days left before our next paycheck – this is a simple spell, which is intended to promote prosperity and ease difficulty with finances. Best known as Glory Water, this spell is to be sprinkled throughout your home or business to attract prosperity and to overcome difficulty.
1. Place small chunks of frankincense inside bottle
2. Cover them with orange blossom water
3. Add a few drops of bergamot essential oil (available from aromatherapy suppliers)
4. Sprinkle the Glory Water or use a spray bottle around your home, it’s as easy as that!
When you think about witchcraft, what comes to mind? What do you know, and what would you want to find out more of?