Halloween – Witches

When we think of witches we think of magic spells and potions. Early Christians in Europe saw them as evil. They were described as wart nosed, haggard faced beings. Often thought of as huddling over their cauldrons brewing magic spells in their pointy hats.

In reality most of them were actually natural healers, using herbal concoctions to make salves and soothing brews for colds and other ailments. They were “wise women” but of course as with many things that can’t be explained logically, their potions were seen as evil. In Europe in the mid 1400’s the hysteria surrounding witches grew. Witch hunts were common and those found guilty were burned at the stake. Germany had the highest execution rate, while Ireland had the lowest. Two well respected Germans wrote a book in 1486, “The Hammer of Witches” and it served as a guide on how to identify and hunt witches.

In Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 several young girls exhibited signs of “fits”, having body contortions and screaming. With witch fever high it was told that they had a spell cast upon them and the towns people perceived three women to be responsible for afflicting the children. This began the Salem witch trials. Dozens of women and half a dozen men deemed to be witches by their accusers were hanged by the gallows in Salem. It is believed by those more level headed that the true cause of the girls having seizures and fits was perhaps caused by a fungus they had ingested and not by witchery.

Today there are still women known as witches who practice the ancient rituals. They believe in a pagan religion known as “Wicca”. A group of them are called a coven, they celebrate solstices and equinoxes. They honor a male god and female goddess. They often use herbalism and other natural objects in their practices. They believe in the power of herbs and potions and mainly use spells to stop someone from doing evil. The actual act of writing a spell is merely setting an intent and then conducting a ritual in hopes that it will happen. The ritual can be as simple as lighting a candle or drinking a cup of herbal tea. It doesn’t involve all the theatrics of folklore such as eating small children!!

Good witch, bad witch ?

As with all cultures and beliefs there are those who stretch things to the limit .While there are certainly those who practice witchcraft for evil and dwell in the myths and legends of the dark past of witches, there are many more who truly believe in their religion as source of healing. Positive energy is much more powerful than negative energy.

“Double double toil and trouble: fire burn and cauldron bubble”

~ William Shakespeare, “Macbeth”

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