1st Degree

Lesson 3a

A little History about the Craft

Witchcraft is not only an interesting subject and spiritually fulfilling, but filled with history dating back before Christianity. It was a time where people lived in harmony with all around them. When nature, family and friends were the important things in life, because, they were life itself. People worked, lived and celebrated together. The turning of the seasons was a time of celebration and thanks for which they had worked hard. They prayed to their Deities for good harvests, fertile land and a bountiful hunting season. Each person, no matter what the age, had a job to perform. They learned at the earliest of ages to participate and enjoy the fruits of their harvests. It was their way and life was good.

Each form of nature was known as a separate spirit and had its own name. That Deity or spirit would be called upon as needed. They prayed for their planting to become a plentiful harvest, then gave them offerings to insure that their gathered herbs would dry properly and provide them with the medicines that they might need at another time.

The earliest types of magick are called sympathetic. Like does attract like and if they performed it, then it would happen. For the fertility of the animals, ritual sex may have been performed between couples of the tribe and/or clay images be made of the animals mating. Some wore animal skins while acting out a play and dancing before a big hunt; this portrayed the hunt and the kill insuring they had a bountiful hunt. The animals hunted would be used for food, clothing, tools, etc… Nothing was wasted, as it should be. They also thanked the animal for giving up its life to sustain theirs. How often do you think that this is done today?

With this growth they all needed someone of great knowledge and wisdom they could turn to in times of need. They called them the Witan, the Wise Ones, Wica, Wita, Shaman, Medicine man, Council of the Wise, etc.... Even a wise King would never make a decision without consulting one of the Wise. They held positions of prestige and power. Most were knowledgeable in herbs, legal matter, magick, and/or divination.

Each culture had its own Deities because they didn’t have the lines of communication we have today. If you are on a search of Deities you may feel bombarded. Try looking at a culture that you feel drawn to and comfortable with.

Women were the givers of life and the healers. The men were the providers of life and the protectors. Today, many archeologists find female statues in the villages and male statues surrounding the villages.

The last of the Merovingian Kings - whose name was Clovis (c. 465-511) - was very confident that he could unify the Frankish Kingdom. He knew that he could conquer them and, introduced them to Christianity, and obtained the help of the Pope. The people of the Franks were Catholic, so this was a very smart change on his behalf. Now if he could gain their trust and it worked, they would welcome him as a religious liberator. Several hundred years later Charlemagne, a very powerful Carolingian King, made a pact with another Pope. He let the Pope crown him as King in the name of Jesus Christ, which gave the Pope a very important political position and the King a little extra power because of the backing of the Church.

Christianity was now the official religion of the Franks. Over a period of time the old religion got pushed away and the Roman Catholics took over. Slowly what the Witan were saying got turned around and used against them. Rumors and gossip began.

More and more men came into power because of their physical strength. By the time Catholicism came into play, men where really feeling their oats: they had power and wanted to use it. Women were being seen as the weaker of the sexes because most didn’t have the same physical strength as men. The men let the power go to their heads -- this still happens today, with both genders. Some things always seem to stay the same.

When Christianity came, it did not just come in and take over. This occurred over a period of almost 1,500 years. In order for people to accept Catholicism, there were many things adapted from the pagan religions. This was a good way for people to feel comfortable with the changes that were being made. It was a choice for people to accept the One God, everyone believing the same thing and in the same ways. No more conflict, or so it was said.

Catholicism was also a way to bring men into more power. They were the Popes and Kings. They had the power and wanted more. Things were purposely taken out of context and then it leaked out some of what was taking place behind the castle walls. Now there was doubt among the people. It is also said that they needed to attach an evil intent to the old religion, because people starting going back to the old ways and the Kings and Popes were losing power, so they sent out troops to find something that would give them their power back.

They discovered a Pagan Greek God, which had horns on his head and the bottom half of a goat. They brought this image back and identified him with Satan. They cast him as the Devil that was worshipped for pleasure. Orgies and sex magick were used in order to get what these people wanted. Some of the women had sex with this God and were filled with his sperm in order to received magickal abilities. With this power they were said to corrupt others and cast spells upon those that they did not like. Now, I haven’t seen in writing how the red came into effect, but I can picture it in my minds eye. Red is for fiery passions, anger and lust. Because fire is red and no one wants to burn - especially for eternity - what better color to use than red. It only took about 400 years in some places, but it became mandatory to be Christian. No longer was there a choice for the people, but a decision made for the people, on whom to worship and how to live. The charges started out as treason, later on became heresy and then witchcraft.

They took pagan traditions and adapted them. The Green Man was burned, made up of branches and twigs, and then tied together in the shape of a man, for a blessing for fertility for the land. This was turned into bigger wicker cages, built and filled with criminals and animals to cleanse the lands of evil. Fire is also for cleansing and what better way to get rid of the bad elements of man than to burn him/her to death.

Churches were built on pagan ritual sites so they couldn’t practice on their sacred land, and the Gods and Goddesses turned into Saints or demons. Only those who went to school to be doctors could practice healing and midwifery, and women were not allowed to go to school because they were evil and their evil might get inflicted upon the men. If caught practicing, they were labeled as heretics and traitors. Later on this heresy was labeled as witchcraft and it was ‘Let the burnings begin.’

Women were viewed as sexual creatures that would put hexes on you, so no longer were they allowed to have any enjoyment. Sex became a job to do for the husband, and the men were allowed to take from their wife what they wanted. The church also told the men to beat their wives so they could keep them in line.

In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII wrote a letter called a Papal Bull asking for papers to be drawn up regarding the witches. A couple years later two German Monks named Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger came up with the Malleus Maleficarum: known as the Witches Hammer. This piece of work, helped to create the hysteria of the witch burnings, torture and hangings. Their work gave explicit directions of what witches did, how to hunt, torture and/or kill them. Not thinking all of this through, they brought upon themselves death and destruction.

If you wanted to get rid of someone who you didn't like, then turn him or her in as a witch. The witch hunters would come into a town and get the witches. The witches would have to pay for the trip to the court, have to pay for the executioners, for all the court costs, their meals, all of it. This money would get turned into the witch hunters for their services and the town leaders would of course get their cut if they helped turn in witches. Not all were witches, but then everyone knew that. You had to be very careful of what you said and did. Don't get the wrong person mad at you or else you are off to the gallows. The sad thing is that the ones who turned in witches often got executed as well (they were known as warlocks (traitors of witches)).

Anything that was unexplainable, a lie, out of the ordinary or anyone that you wanted to be removed was listed as a witch. In order to cleanse a witch they were to be hanged or drowned. If you survived then you was a witch. If you died then you were in God’s hands, and isn’t that where you want to be anyway? Some just burned the witches because there were too many bodies, especially in the bigger villages. It was known as the only true way to cleanse a witch’s soul.

When building the pyres, they were made of bundles of wood called fags. Any men that were known to be with other men were put onto the pyres to help keep the fires burning extremely hot, as were the witch’s familiars, of which were mostly cats. Not thinking all of this through, they brought the bubonic plague onto themselves. Because most of the cats were killed, they were not there to kill the rats, and the rats became over-ridden with fleas, which carried the plague. What comes around go around; but of course all of it was the witch’s fault or so say those in charge.

When the witches were charged, the accused had to pay for everything. They paid for their jail cell, lawyer, torture, torturer, court, food, everything. Oh, and don’t forget to strip them because they could be hiding something, and shave their heads because they could have a hex braid -- then we can also add on barber charges so we can get all of their monies. What a scam!!!

There was lots of money to be made.  At first it was not the nobles, but after a while, greed took over, mixed with a lack of people. It took about 200 years to turn paganism into heresy and witches into Satanists. What a waste of time. Wars were fought constantly, sometimes over the same thing. The Holy Office of the Inquisition around mid-1500’s stopped hunting witches and started using more peaceful mean to keep faith in the churches. In 1563, Queen Elizabeth I did allow persecution of witches, but it was no longer lawful as heresy and so it was listed as sorcery: if you murdered by witchcraft, it was punishable by death.

In the West, Galileo and Newton were working with revolutionary scientific ideas, which under minded the idea of witchcraft. The idea of witchcraft and sorcery went back and forth.

In 1604, King James I passed the Witchcraft Act, but it was overturned in 1736. It was then said that there was no such thing as witchcraft. If you pretended to have psychic abilities, you could be charged with fraud and taken to jail. So now the hiding started all over again. You had to pretend you were something that you were not in order to keep your faith -- portraying yourself as a Christian and worshiping God. And only Their God was acceptable. You had to keep your true thoughts, ideals and opinions to yourself.

During these times all magickal tools were made of things that were easily disposed of (like clay, because it was easy to break) and the Book of Shadows was called that because that is where it was kept, in the shadows where no one could find it. Most of the time, it was passed down verbally through the generations, so much of it was lost.

It was not until 1921 that Witchcraft came back into the open a little because of Margaret Murray, an anthropologist. Murray remains a controversial figure, yet much of what she uncovered, from the records of the early Witchcraft trials, was valid. One of the things she wrote of was the trial of Bessie Dunlop, in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1567. This included the first mention of a coven, with Bessie speaking of there being five men and eight women in her group. However, she didn’t actually use the word "coven"; that was not used until the trial of Isobel Gowdie, in Auldearne in 1662. At that trial, the specific number of thirteen for the group was given. Murray claimed that "the number in a coven never varied, there were always thirteen," but some say she made the figures up to fit her theories.

In 1951 in England, the last of the laws about witchcraft were repealed, which gave way for a few witches to start coming out of the closet; and so they did.

One of these witches was Gerald Gardner who lived in England. He wrote several books and started using the term Wicca for his modernized religion around 1949. The word is based upon the term Wica or the Witan. He rewrote things that he had learned from a coven in England, of which he said he was a member, and they gave him permission to write fictional stories. He was the first to speak up in 1954 with one of his books and say that he was a witch. He talked about covens and other witches. He wrote about what their beliefs were, and how they worshipped.

He wrote several more books, which have spread across the globe. In 1962, Raymond Buckland moved to America and brought with him Gardnerian Wicca -- the term Wicca being used to steer people away from the word witchcraft. With this came a long line of people who started coming out of the closet to help set the record straight, telling everyone that there is no Devil in the craft, that it is an earth-based religion. We each worship differently and there is no wrong way as long as you hurt no one including yourself. “An’ it harm none” is the motto.


We are still suffering today because of the mislearnings of others, misused knowledge that has been accepted without the learning. Do the research and learn where we come from. See a new future where everyone can be free once again to believe what he or she wants, instead of being told. Make up your own mind about what is right for you. If you are Christian and that is what feels right for you, then by all means hold your faith to you. Everyone should have something to believe in which feels right for them. We all see things in different ways. No two people can describe the same thing the same way. Is one wrong? No, they are both correct. Is any one religion better than another? No, and to say otherwise would be closed-minded. Make up your own mind, listen to your intuition, and be true to yourself.

We each have our own special gifts and talents, and it is not wrong to use them. If you have a gift, there is a reason for it. Harness the energy. Learn from it. Help others to become aware, but don't push your beliefs on them. If it is for them, then they will come to you. Others will see the light that beams from you and want to share in it. Life itself is a gift and so are the people that come into our lives.

Wicca and Witchcraft is an earth-based religion. We celebrate the seasons, planting and harvesting. We give thanks and rejoice. We are happy and in tune with nature. If there is a field and a witch shucks off her shoes and runs across the field, don't be surprised. Take a walk in the woods and hug a tree. You will find that it is most beneficial. You can be upset and go outside, sit down by a tree and feel your energies drain and then pull them back up and be renewed. Mother Earth will take the negative and turn it back into a positive.

Mother Earth will take care of you. She will provide, just as Father Sky is there for you. He will give you light, valuable rays, and help you re-energize. They are both there, the Male and Female, for a perfect balance just as nature is balanced. Without one, all of the rest will suffer. We all have male and female aspects. This is, as it should be, a balance within the circle of life.

We have birth, death and rebirth. Remember that death is not the end but the beginning to a new period in life. It works with Karma. But I regress: The soul is part of the Ultimate Deity, which I call Deithea. We will return Deithea and once again become whole with it, but in order to do this our soul must experience all of life that we are tasked to experience. This is necessary to evolve. It is part of the balance of life.

Deithea (the ultimate Deity) knows all but has not experienced all, so that is our task while we are here. As we complete our goal(s), then we will become one again with Deithea, and will know all and will have experienced all.

We don't remember what all happened in other lifetimes, but sometimes parts do carry over. We have memories from the past that are not ‘of this time’, or knowledge of people we have never met and places that we have never been.

I believe that we choose to come into the life we are living in. We have chosen this time in order to experience a set of values and/or goals that are needed for our karmic balance. But while here, we still have the choice whether or not to participate. We may indeed choose to go another path. It is our decision. We create our own reality. If asked, we can help others along the way, but remember to let them do their own work. If someone asks you to help them learn, and you do all of the research and they do none, what are you teaching them? To let you do all of the work. Why should they do anything, if you are going to do it for them? We are responsible for ourselves. You are not responsible for others’ spirituality. We can guide, but each has to think and learn for themselves.

Sometimes when our souls have evolved, we may choose to come back to help others. Watch over those who may need a little guidance or a spiritual push from time to time. Others may choose the hard road and come back for reasons that we may not understand at the time. If a child decides to come to earth with a particular family and only stay for a little while, is it wrong? At the time it may seem so. But what was gained with that child coming into this life? Feelings of love, feelings of endearment, a time for realization, a time to bring together family and friends, support and love. What if you had a child and it was only here for a couple of weeks? You grieve. You have lost a most precious little person. This was someone that you had planned on having in your life, for the rest of time. Then you meet someone at a support group. She is pregnant and has been told that this child might have a muscle disease but it will live. She doesn't think that she can do it. What can you do to help? What would you have done if your child would have lived but would have had a disease? Would you have been willing to raise it? Maybe you can help with hers. It is up to you to decide. Would it be better for you to fall apart? For your family to fall apart? Should you alienate yourself? What did you learn? How can it help you and others? Why did this lesson and person come to you? How can you grow from this? How much stronger are you now? Ask the Lady and Lord for guidance. They will help. They love you with every part of their being, because you are a part of them. Don't choose to let life’s lessons just pass you by.

One of the most important things in the craft is intent. Without this there is nothing. You can do magick with nothing as long as you have intent. If you are in an open field and don’t know which way is east, don’t have any of your magickal tools but feel the need to worship, cast or do a ritual then go right ahead. These things are there for us to use, and are important, but we don’t have to have them. These give us something for our left brain to focus on, while your right brain is busy with your imagination. This can make our magick stronger.

Also, if you have decided that you want to run out and buy all of your tools remember that you don’t need to do this. Some things are all pretty and shiny and very cool to look at, but this is not what they are for. If you make your tools yourself, this will give them great strength. Your will, essence, and energies are in them. This is very important. The more positive energies you put in there, the better. While making anything, think positive. Think about what you want this item to be used for. What is its purpose? This doesn’t just go for making your tools. This is for spells, rituals and anything else that you want to lend your energies to.

One suggestion for a timeline of the burning times: http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/witch/witchlist.html#summis


Find out something new about the History of Witchcraft that is not listed above.

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