In the modern world witchcraft is a form of nature religion that emphasizes
the healing arts. The term is also applied to various kinds of MAGIC practiced
in Asian, African, and Latin American communities. Little is known about the
history of witchcraft in Europe, and what is known comes from hostile sources. In traditional European society witchcraft was believed to be a kind of harmful sorcery associated with the worship of SATAN, or the devil (a spirit hostile to God). The European doctrine of witchcraft was formulated in the late Middle Ages. Just how many of the beliefs about witches were based on reality and how many on delusion will never be known. The punishment of supposed witches by the death penalty did not become common until the 15th century. The first major witch-hunt occurred in Switzerland in 1427, and the first important book on the subject, the Malleus maleficarum (Hammer of Sorceresses), appeared in Germany in 1486. The persecution of witches reached its height between 1580 and 1660, when witch trials became almost universal throughout western Europe.

Geographically, the center of witch-burning lay in Germany, Austria, and
Switzerland, but few areas were left untouched by it. No one knows the total
number of victims. In southwestern Germany alone, however, more than 3,000 witches were executed between 1560 and 1680. Not all witch trials ended in deaths. In England, where torture was prohibited, only about 20 percent of accused witches were executed (by hanging); in Scotland, where torture was used, nearly half of all those put on trial were burned at the stake, and almost three times as many witches (1,350) were killed as in England. Some places had fewer trials than others. In the Dutch republic, no witches were executed after 1600, and none were tried after 1610. In Spain and Italy accusations of witchcraft were handled by the INQUISITION, and although torture was legal, only a dozen witches were burned out of 5,000 put on trial. Ireland apparently escaped witch trials altogether. Many witch trials were provoked, not by hysterical authorities or fanatical clergy, but by village quarrels among neighbors. About 80% of all accused witches were women. Traditional theology assumed that womenwere weaker than men and more likely to succumb to the devil. It may in fact be true that, having few legal rights, they were more inclined to settle quarrels by resorting to magic rather than law. All these aspects of witchcraft crossed over to the Americas with European colonists. In the Spanish and French territories cases of witchcraft were under the jurisdiction of church courts, and no one suffered death on this charge. In the English colonies about 40 people were executed for witchcraft between 1650 and 1710, half of them in the famous SALEM WITCH TRIALS of 1692. Witch trials declined in most parts of Europe after 1680; in England the death penalty for witchcraft was abolished in 1736. In the late 17th and 18th centuries one last wave of witch persecution afflicted Poland and other areas of eastern Europe, but that ended by about 1740. The last legal execution of a witch occurred in Switzerland in 1782.

Beginning in the 1920s, witchcraft was revived in Europe and America by groups that considered it a survival of pre-Christian religious practices. This
phenomenon was partly inspired by such books as Margaret Murray’s The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921). Some forms of modern witchcraft follow the traditions of medieval herbalists and lay healers. The term witch-hunt is used today to describe a drive to punish political criminals or dissidents without regard for the normal legal rules. E. William Monter

Bibliography: Baroja, Julio C., The World of Witches (1964); Guiley, Rosemary,The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft (1990); Levack, Brian, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (1987); Luhrmann, T.M., Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft (1989); Monter, E. W., ed., European Witchcraft (1969).



I’ve heard the terms ‘White Witch’ and ‘Black Witch’. Can you explain?

In this connotation, white is referring to Positive, Black is referring to
Negative. A White Witch then is someone who tries to do Positive or Good things.
Black Witch could be a term used to describe someone who deliberately does
Negative or Bad things.  A True Witch believes in the Law of Retribution and
would never deliberately harm anyone or anything or participate in Negative or
Destructive acts.
Is it possible for me to practice Witchcraft and remain a Christian?

No. The Christian Doctrine states, unequivocally, that Christians shall have no
other Gods before the Christian God. Christian Doctrine says to believe in any
other deities or to practice any other religion is not only evil but should be
punished by death, specifically naming Witchcraft. The Christian Doctrine also
denies Reincarnation and prescribes punishment for those who practice Magick.

Devil worship?

Witches do not worship the Devil. Witchcraft predates Christianity and does not
incorporate a belief in the Christian Devil.

The Wise Ones did deify the Masculine Principle and quite often He was depicted
as The Great Horned God; Pan, Cernunnos, the Great Stag, The Green Man. To the
Traditional Witch, the Masculine Deity (the Goddess’ Consort) is very important,
revered and loved. He is the perfect Father, the Lord Protector. The Horned God
of the Witches is loving, kind and good.

Don’t men have difficulty with a supreme female deity?

There are some groups which give equal status to the female and male deities.
Neo-Pagans are, by definition, people who attempt to live with the Old Country
Ways in a new, modern day manner.  And while, in this modern era, equal status
for the deities may be popular, as it relates to Witchcraft it is historically
incorrect. Therefore, a group which does not recognize the Goddess as primary
deity is not practicing The Ancient Art. Indeed, they, generally, know very
little about Witchcraft, despite their claims.   Traditional Dualistic Witches
do most emphatically believe that women and men are equal, but have no trouble
relating to the Goddess. The Male Witch finds great comfort and solace in his
Great Mother.

Do I have to join a Coven?

No. It is not necessary nor is it desirable for a great many people. Some people
enjoy the support and companionship a Coven provides, others enjoy solitary
worship. The Coven, which is an extremely close knit worship group, may not be
possible for some because of location, family climate, availability, etc.

Why is Witchcraft secretive?

The horror of the ‘Burning Time’ is still very real to the Witch. The past
persecutions were severe. Even so, in today’s more enlightened society the need
for complete secrecy has lessened and many are able to share their beliefs
openly. Very few, however, are willing to expose their very personal and private
religious expressions to others who may not understand.

What do I have to do to become a Witch?

The answer to this question is very simple. To become a Witch one must follow
the religion of Witchcraft. To do this one must believe in the Goddess as
primary deity and follow the three basic tenets. How simple! How uncomplicated!
How Pagan! Everything else concerning witchcraft is simply minor details.
Details that vary from Aspect to Aspect, Coven to Coven and individual to
individual. The details are relatively personal. They should not become more
important than the basic tenets. If you do not understand, believe and practice
Witchcraft, you are not a Witch. No one can make you a Witch. Reading about it
can not make you a Witch. An Initiation can not make you a Witch. Saying you are
a Witch, one thousand and fifty two times, can not make you a Witch.

In the search for your individual path beware of those who would take advantage
of you.   Do not fall prey to the unscrupulous charlatans who would swindle you
in a monetary sense (mail-order courses, charges for teaching or initiations,
vows of poverty, etc.), exploit you sexually or manipulate you for their own
personal ego-trips.

‘Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true
happiness.’ — Bertrand Russell