Examining Other Belief Systems Part 2 Are witches really like the ones in the Movies?
Witchcraft in the Beginning.
We can all name several movies with witches in them: Hocus Pocus, The Craft, the Covenant, and 5 girls are just a few. How close are any of these portrayals to actual witchcraft? Well, so far the Craft, which displays witchcraft as a non-demon worshiping natural based religion.
This is another one of those religions that has the roots that can be dated back 20,000 years in many different areas of the world. The witch has held many forms over time and to discuss the modern day Wiccan I feel it is important to review the paths, the perils, and the journey of the witch. In ancients times the first Witches were deities and goddesses.
Three ancient looks at examples of high up witches are: in ancient Scandinavia, the witch was the Goddess Freya who was the goddess of prophecies, in Greece it was Circe literally called the witch-goddess, and the Hebrews had Lilith (one of my favorite banned from the Bible stories.) I'll get to Lilith when we study Christianity. A brief bit about Lilith, Lilith was a witch who was said to sneak into homes at night to steal the semen from men in their sleep and harm infants.
There were also Goddesses of creation who also got demoted to witches. In Egypt it was Iris, in Canaan it was Uzza, and in ancient Mesopotamia they called her Innana. Mortal witches are thought to have stemmed from ancient Goddess worshiping cults. These worshipers were thought to have been able to heal, and increase fertility and were able to help with birthing. In many cultures these women, which are known as a group of priestesses which were called the wise women. Many cultures used similar priestesses as advisors.
So why the turn for the worst?
A group of war-minded In-do-Eurpeans started moving through these Goddess worshiping lands bring with them their Male Gods and Male Gods of war, slowly demoting the goddesses. When the Hebrews settle in Canaan in 1300 BC they wrote of their One God and it is thought among some scholars that in the Books of Genesis, Eve is symbolic of Uzza, the snake and the apple which were symbols associated with the goddess were then written in an evil light. During this time Hebrews obey their creed and ban witchcraft from Canaan. Later in the Bible in Samuel 28:7 King Saul calls upon a witch to have call upon the Prophet Samuel, his spirit more so, for guidance during a war. The woman did as the king had asked but to be honest it did him no good, he didn't get reaffirming news.This story leaves scholars and many people alike asking why is this story in a Bible condemning spirits? I have no clue.
Being banned from practicing is nothing compared to what faced witches and women in years to come.
In 1348 AD, a plaque breaks out across Europe. This plaque known as the black death causes people to panic, (instead of looking at hygiene, living conditions, or the way food was prepared...) the people convinced themselves that the Devil himself had brought this on them. The people then tried to find anyone who had "worked" with the Devil. This welcomes us to the Inquisition a lovely time in history were people were killed because they were old, a widow, could cook, understood herbal medicines, or a had mole on their bodies, please note the word lovely was used in a sarcastic manner. They were seeking them out to kill them as the Bible said to not suffer a witch to live among you...and the way people twist things from the Bible I am think that this where they get the popular belief that witches sell their souls to the Devil for power.
By 1486 two monks publish a book called the Mallevs Maleficarvm as a guide to witch hunting. These men state that women are the easiest of pray for the devil. They also describe women as lust filled creatures. People describe the weekly meetings of witches as the Sabbath and spread rumors of naked dancing, orgies, and intercourse with the devil himself occurring during the meetings (which by the way they flied to, some of the doctors had the time called these drug based illusions as a side affect of annotations.)
During the Inquisition, the Mallevs Maleficarvm instructed people to identify the which and strip search her for the mark, often a mole or birthmark. Once the mark was found they were to lock up the witch until they were able to get a confession. Obtaining a confession was easy as long as you tortured the victim until the convinced hoping to end the torture. They only needed three degrees of torture to get their confession and often during the third degree the torture itself would kill the victim. After confessing the victim was to be burned to ashes. At no point during this process should you ever look a witch in the eyes, she might but a "spell" on you- simply meaning that you might feel compassion for her and stop the process.
For a period of 200 years they killed women, men, and children thought to be witches in Europe. In Salem Massachusetts during 1692 they started witch trials. Within months they had jailed 200 people and executed 27 of them. In Europe they believe that increases in scientific knowledge help to bring the Burning Times to an end, here in American it was possibly the fact that they accused the Governor of Massachusetts wife of witchcraft. Soon the leadership of the state put the non-sense to an end.
The form of witchcraft practiced by nearly 200,000 people in both Europe and America is known as Wicca. The word Wicca is an Anglo-saxon meaning the craft of the wise. This religion is not based off of the Devil worshiping culture based forms of witchcraft but on the practices of the Priestesses of the Wise Women. In fact, Wiccans don't believe in demons nor the devil, to them the Devil is just part of the Christian religion. They feel that their spells and rituals are just like sending a powerful prayer into the world and allowing the energy of the world to answer it. They believe that there is a higher power, they believe in not harming anyone, and their religion is a faith-based religion that promotes peace. They still use the ancient tools that their ancestors used during their rituals to practice their craft today.