As any witch will be quick to inform you, witchcraft is not a subject that has been well received throughout history, especially with the development and rise of monotheism across the world. Indeed, witchcraft was actively persecuted and stigmatized in various chapters of history, sometimes, by a society which had previously relied upon witchcraft to achieve certain objectives.
Take the ancient Romans for example. Before Christianity became such an influential force within Roman society, witchcraft was as common as any other domestic item or service and so wise women and the clergy alike would offer witchcraft services to those who were willing to pay.
Indeed, the grand pervert and sexual deviant himself, Caligula was said to have a particular fascination with witchcraft as a whole and would often seek out the services of witchcraft practitioners in an attempt to further harm his enemies both real and actual. Such was the influence of witchcraft over this sordid man that there was a number of high-ranking and highly influential posts created specifically designed to protect him from ill effects of witchcraft.
Both followers and practitioners of witchcraft were demonized and scapegoated in medieval society as the ruling elite, the noble people and aristocracy who lived in a life of luxury and decadence whilst the remaining majority of society lived in abject poverty sought to distract the masses from their anger.
The Darkest Times in the History of Witchcraft
Without a shadow of doubt or exaggeration, the darkest chapter in history was in the medieval times when witchcraft was actively cracked down upon by the Inquisition. People who were either proven to be involved with witchcraft or who were merely accused of being so involved would face torture and a slow, agonizing death.
The punishments exacted for witchcraft were as varied as they were barbaric and there was a high degree of sexual violence and humiliation involved. Women involved in witchcraft for example would be tortured by having a metallic “pear” inserted into their vagina which would be turned by means of a crank which would open the device up and cause horrific scars to the vaginal area.
The cats claw was another especially vicious method of punishment for witchcraft, were the breasts of females involved with witchcraft would be swiped at with metal claws until they were left shredded and ruined beyond repair.
But the cruelest fate of all for witchcraft was the dreaded wheeling. Commonly employed in Spain and France, this method of execution involved the victim having each of their limbs broken with a hammer or heavy iron bar and the broken limbs then woven through the spokes of a wheel.
Unable to move their now destroyed limbs without abject agony, with no means of supporting their own weight, those accused of witchcraft would face a cruel, miserable, humiliating death as they were left to die from exposure to the elements, to the mercy of animals and carrions.
Oftentimes the wounds of the victims would become infected and the dreadful smell emitting from the wounds would attract flies who would then lay larvae in such a ripe food source.
The Pre-Historic Times
The history of witchcraft is a long one – it probably originated in prehistoric times but it was long known to be practiced in old African areas, especially in ancient Egypt. It was created out of the fear of the unknown and the need to have control over what existed in nature. The sun, the moon and the stars were mysterious things and the witchcraft was born when people saw the need to draw from the mysticism of nature. Historically speaking, it was practiced by old women but men practiced it as well.
Witchcraft in Ancient Times
In ancient times, it was the witches that mediated between people and the unknown properties of nature as well as with spirits, angels and other deities. Whenever a witch was successful in casting a spell or in participating in a ritual that helped a person, it was deemed to be witchcraft and the person was held to have magical powers. Witchcraft defied logic and was found to be of spiritual origin. It came from many years of practice over what worked and what didn’t when dealing with spells, rituals, potions, talismans and amulets. The process of doing these magical things was called magic in history, as well as witchcraft.
It spread rapidly from culture to culture and is practiced differently in different cultures. For example Western African Voodoo is powerful but it differs from witchcraft practiced in Middle America or in Central American countries. They all have the same origin in Ancient Egypt, however, local traditions and beliefs have a lot to do with what the magic of these areas is all about.
Witchcraft in Archeological Discoveries
The History of Witchcraft is found to date back to 40,000 years ago, when Paleolithic man existed. In archeological discoveries, it has been found that a god of hunting was in existence and a goddess of fertility was in existence. This was discovered in paintings that existed approximately 30,000 years ago. Rituals of fertility and hunting were depicted on cave paintings, which are interpreted as being related to witchcraft of the era. There was no writing from that time but the paintings are staggering. When it comes to Wiccan practices of honoring gods and goddesses, it is believed that it predates the beliefs of Christianity by several thousand years.
Before witchcraft was persecuted and believed to be evil, it was called the “craft of the wise”. It was only wise people who practiced witchcraft and participated in highly complex rituals and spells. Such people were considered the Shamans of the village and were believed to be healers and to help people in the village with their problems. They were considered superior to others and were worshipped like gods in the community. Shamans believed that man was a part of the earth and could therefore commune with the earth and with nature. They believed in the practice of becoming one with nature and using nature to help the people.
Christianity and Witchcraft
Christianity changed the face of witchcraft when it began to persecute witches as evil and as agents of the devil. This was especially true in the witch hunts of Germanic Europe and in the pre-colonial times of the modern-day USA. Witches were hanged, burned or drowned for their beliefs and practices of witchcraft became a very secretive thing. In today’s time, there is much less secretiveness around the practice of Wicca or witchcraft. People are not openly persecuted and many are understanding it to be a practice of a natural religion. People are seeing Wicca as an alternative lifestyle that is often understood and generally accepted.