"Merry Meet and Blessed Be!"

"Bide the Wiccan law ye must,
In perfect love and perfect trust..."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Witchcraft: A History

Before the Christian church was fully formed and opinions on witches was tainted by Exodus 22:18, witches and mystics were revered by people.

Many people often turned to mystics, witches, and healers for advice on many different aspects of their lives.  The likes of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and many other great rulers turned to the advice of mystics before battles. The Egyptian pharaohs depended heavily on their help for everything from tactical advice to healing. The belief in magic was one of the common factors of early man's history. The belief that one person could see into the future and be able to advise on which battle strategies to take was hugely desired for many generals who had personal mystic advisers.

In early times no general would go to war without first consulting The Oracle at Delphi. According to Greek Mythology Delphi was the center of the universe. Apollo is said to have slain a great serpent and thrown his remains into a cavern deep in the earth, where a young shepherd found the vapors of his spirit rising from the ground. When he looked into the void and inhaled these vapors he was thrown into fits and could see the future. Apollo brought a priestess to guard the cavern, in honor of the serpent she was called Pythia, and a temple was built over it. Each year, on February 7, the Pythia would allow visitors to the temple and would provide them with prophesies. But not everyone was allowed to visit because of the huge turn out to hear the Pythia's prophesies.

Egyptian history shows a strong belief in mystics and sorcery as a way of life for everyone from nobility to slaves. The polytheistic beliefs and belief in an after-life were a large part of their culture. They believed in covering their homes and tombs with spells and incantations to protect themselves from evil and those wishing them harm. The Egyptian books of the dead was a means of obtaining the after-life and scripts from it were engraved in their tombs to prevent grave robbers. These were written for each individual and family to tailor it to their needs. When one became sick they often went to a mystic who treated their ails with herbal remedies and spells.

Most prehistoric religions were polytheistic with a strong belief that one could obtain divinity through the use of magic and becoming attuned with nature and other paranormal parts of the world. Most modern witchcraft has a basis in these early pagan religions, especially Norse and Celtic beliefs. During the early medieval times many people turned to mystics for advice on life and early medicine was obtained through herbalists. Those herbalist and those practicing other forms of holistic medicines were  later labeled witches by the church. The church often labeled them such because they wanted people to believe that healing was only granted by the grace of their God through prayer and that any other form of healing knowledge was given by the devil himself. Most times women were labeled witches because they were the midwives who attended to laboring women and provided them with potions to ease their suffering, and they cared for the sick and dying by easing their suffering with remedies and hypnosis . Christians began to say that a woman's suffering was a punishment from their God for the "original sin" of man and that to ease it was evil and going against God's will. They also believed that the suffering of the sick was a punishment from God for some wrong the person had done.

As the church became stronger they began to put more emphasis on conversion to Christianity and more and more things became banned as witchcraft practices. Anyone being found guilty of going against the church was put to death for witchcraft. Anyone caught going to those people or associated with them (including family and friends) were also found just as guilty of witchcraft. This fear of death caused many of the witches of the time to go under ground. Practicing in small groups in secret places with the aid of the full moon to light their works. Any workings or tools were kept well hidden often times blending in with everyday needs. The Laws of Old were written during this time as a means to provide a basis of knowledge for self protection. There were laws to protect oneself against persecution if another was discovered.

During the Puritan era in America things were so scary that anyone could be declared a witch for something as simple as doll making. Witches went even deeper into hiding and it became more reasonable to be solitary instead of practicing in large groups. Meetings were held less frequently and tools became a part of everyday kitchen utensils, herbs were incorporated into regular gardens. Not until the 1900's did many witches become more open about their practices, it was not until the 1980's that it became a legally recognized religion in the United States.

There are still countries where the practice of witchcraft is punishable by death, mostly in the middle east. In these countries an individual can also be put to death for being Christian as well. Even though the United States now legally accepts Pagan religions, many are still persecuted on a more personal level by neighbors and even those closest to them. They are made fun of or even worse some have even been personally attacked and harmed for their beliefs. This attitude has caused many witches and covens to still practice in secret with fear of being discovered. Our children are also subject to attacks as a way of attacking us. It's sad to say that in all the modern advance we have religious persecution is still a major prevailing ignorance.

How would you take a stand against religious attacks and still put forth a dignified front? How could you defend your own beliefs without attacking the beliefs of others in retaliation? How do you command respect from those around you without becoming offensive towards their beliefs? How can you foster acceptance?
These are all questions one must ask themselves when demanding the acceptance and respect of those around you.

Blessed be,
Lady Alice