So What Is Witchcraft?
So what is witchcraft? Hollywood offers an unrealistic idea of just what the Craft is. It is one of the oldest practices on the planet. According to Wikipedia, witchcraft is “the practice of what the practitioner (“witch”) believes to be supernatural skills and abilities, such as the casting of spells and the performance of magical rituals.” Simple enough. However witchcraft is even simpler than that.
Witchcraft is an umbrella term that covers many traditions. It is the practice of sorcery and the supernatural to achieve a desired goal. However, it is at it’s foundation, magick. The term witch brings to mind age old stereotypes. Old green faced hags with warts living in the woods and making pacts with the devil come to mind. Although we have come a long way from that cliché, the term witchcraft is still not readily understood.
History of the Craft
Witchcraft has existed since the dawn of time. Long ago before witchcraft even had a name it was practiced by people everywhere. It was simply the act of living off the land and being in tune with nature and nature’s spirits. This was a time before people began to gather in cities and towns to form local governments. Organized religion had not yet developed. So humankind was free to develop their own kind of spirituality and harmony with nature.
As the years rolled on and humankind began to form in small groups creating communities, religion was born. With the advent of religion, persecution of all non religious folk began. People who chose to stay outside of the cities and live their own separate lives were vilified as being backwards. These mysterious folks took on more and more stigmas from the surrounding communities as time progressed. The old lady who lived out in the woods collecting herbs and communing with nature just as her ancestors had done was now being called wicked, vile, dangerous, etc.
The people who lived outside of the circle of the towns were being called “pagan” The term pagan is from the Latin “pāgānus” meaning “country dweller” and “unlearned”. The term pagan became synonymous with anyone who chose to live outside of the city limits and shunned organized religion. The term pagan was used interchangeably with the word “heathen” Although heathen has the religious ramifications of sinner and evil doer, the word comes to us from old Europe. People who lived on the outskirts in the country of Scotland dwelled in the countryside where the wild heather grew. They were known as people of the heath and would later become known as heathens.
These “heathens” and others like them across the planet continued to live outside the city. They practiced their own brand of nature based spirituality. Even when forced to dwell in the towns and villages, these “cunning folk” another name for witch, still kept their traditions and practiced them in secret . This how the Craft survived.
Witches and witchcraft were hunted down and put on trial between the 14th and 18th centuries. They were put to death in places such as Europe and America. This was known as the burning times in history. Many witches were burned at the stake. In America, during the Salem witch trials those that practiced witchcraft were hanged for their supposed crimes. This occurred in places like Massachusetts and Connecticut. Still, the practice of the craft persisted.
Modern Day Witchcraft
The witchcraft of today, although it bears a striking resemblance to Craft practiced long ago, the biggest difference is that it is no longer a hidden practice. Witchcraft is openly practiced in the Americas and Europe. Some places around the globe especially on the African continent, witchcraft is still frowned upon.
Witchcraft underwent a resurgence in the 1960’s in America thanks to big names like Raymond Buckland and Scott Cunningham. Their take on witchcraft evolved into modern day Wicca. There are differences in Wicca and witchcraft. While all Wiccans do practice witchcraft, all witches are not Wiccan.
- Spell casting
- Wort Cunning