What comes to mind when we think of witches?
Magic spells, potions and broomsticks.
A description of a witch usually includes wart nosed, haggard faced beings with a cackling voice. Of course being dressed all in black adds to their daunting appearance!
Witches are often envisioned as huddling over their cauldrons and brewing magic spells while wearing their pointy hats and chanting spells.
Early Christians in Europe saw witches as evil.
Witches were often thought of as evil because they were always brewing some kind of potion. It never occurred to anyone that these were natural potions.
Made from fruits and berries, not hair of the dog! Herbalists, not witches. They were making herbal concoctions for salves and soothing brews.
Merely cures for colds and other ailments. However, as with many things that couldn’t be explained logically, these 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. Swift justice fell upon them. Executions began. Germany had the highest execution rate, while Ireland had the lowest.
“The Hammer Of Witches” was a book written by two well respected Germans in 1486. This book served as a guide on how to identify and hunt witches. From this came the term “witch hunt”.
The Salem Witches
In Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 several young girls in the town exhibited signs of having “fits”. They were exhibiting body contortions, outbursts and screaming. Naturally, with all the witch tales circulating there seemed to be but one explanation. Certainly they were possessed ! Witchcraft could be the only explanation for this strange behavior.
Convinced that a spell had been cast upon the children, townspeople set out to find those involved. Hysteria took hold of the town.
A massive witch hunt got underway.
After some questioning and speculation the townspeople concluded that three women were responsible for afflicting the children.
Of the three women accused in Salem, one was a woman rarely seen at church, another was said from the West Indies. Most likely targeted because of ethnic differences. Lastly a destitute woman accused based solely on her reputation.
Interrogations began and the women were left to defend themselves. Jailed and then followed by execution for the three was the result.
Arrests continued into1692. Soon dozens more people were accused of witchcraft.
The Salem witch trials began. The witch hunt continued. Dozens of women and half a dozen men were deemed to be witches by their accusers.
Hanging by the gallows was their demise. Level headed observers believed that the true cause of the girls having seizures and fits was caused by a fungus.
Possibly something they had ingested had caused the high fever and convulsions.
But most likely it was not witchery.
Modern Day Witches
Today there are still women known as witches who practice the ancient rituals.
Wicca is a pagan religion and it is said to be the religion for witches.
It began in the 1950’s and its followers practice witchcraft and natural healing. Wiccans believe in worshipping both a male and female and god.
Witches 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. Writing a spell is merely setting an intent and then they may conduct 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.
A ritual doesn’t always 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. Some may truly see themselves as a bad witch. Perhaps solely because of the mysticism that surrounds witches. Not because they actually are one! 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 that 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”