The true beginnings of Witchcraft and Wicca are not well documented. However, worshipping nature based goddesses and gods, and the performance of rituals can be traced back to our hunter gatherer ancestors.
Witches were once revered members of communities. They provided insight, wisdom and healing to their villages. It was the birth of Christianity that led to witches being scorned, cast out and burned at the stake. I won’t spend a lot of time discussing the tragedies our ancestors endured but it’s important to know what happened because we need to pay our respects and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
In 1486 two German Dominicans published Malleus Maleficarum. Which was a guide on how to identify, hunt and interrogate witches. The book labeled witchcraft as heresy and for over a century more copies of it were sold than any other book in Europe except for the Bible.
It is thought that up to 80,000 suspected witches were put to death in Europe between 1500 and 1660.
Salem Witch Trials
The Salem witch trials took place in 1692. They began when two young girls claimed to be witches and accused their neighbours of also being witches. 150 people were accused and 18 were put to death.
The birth of modern witchcraft and Wicca is largely attributed to Gerald Garnder. In the 1950s he published two tell all ‘fictional’ books about witchcraft and went on to publish his own book of shadows. Followers of his traditions are known as Gardnerian Wiccans.
The Alexandrian tradition of Wicca was established by Alex Saunders when he split from his Gardnerian coven rather publicly and controversially. There are other Wiccan ‘paths’ that witches choose to follow including:
- Web of Life
It’s important to recognise that not all witches are Wiccans. Wicca is the religion based around witchcraft. You can subscribe to either as a solo practitioner, covens usually adhere to Wiccan traditions.
Want to know more about the herstory of Witchcraft? Our Introduction to Witchcraft and Wicca Course launches in January and will include a whole chapter on the topic. Click here to register your interest.