This week, I want to talk about something that has been on my heart for a while.
The Witch is once again in the spotlight, as the "trendy" title to have. Personally, I think it's about time to reclaim and rewire the meaning, fears, and misunderstanding around being a witch. First, we need to dive into a little history to see how we got here.
Early witches were known as wise women, because most who followed the path were in tune with the energies of nature, had a knowledge of medicinal herbs and plants, gave council, and were valuable parts of the village or community as healers and leaders. They understood that humans are not superior to Earth and her creatures but are parts of the whole. These wise people understood that what we take or use, we must return to maintain balance.
The pre-Christian traditions originated in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, yet there were wise woman and men in many cultures around the world. Due to the efforts of the medieval church, a lot of the information of how our witchy ancestors lived, worshiped, and believed has been lost.
It’s unclear exactly when witches entered history. Some archaeologists believe that witches could date back to Paleolithic peoples who worshiped a Hunter God and a Fertility Goddess. One of the earliest records of a witch is in the Bible, Book of Samuel.
For the past several hundred years, the image of the Witch has been mistakenly associated with evil and heathenism. The medieval church of the 15th through 18th centuries created these myths to convert followers of the old religions. By making the Witch into a evil, conniving character and turning the old religious deities into devils and demons, the missionaries were able to create a fear around these beliefs, which aided in the conversion process. Some historians believe that in a strange way, witchcraft is responsible for the great plagues. When the witches and their feline familiars were put to death, the rat populations exploded causing an plague outbreaks.
It fairly easy to accuse someone of witchcraft. For those who were superstitious or malicious, gossip or rumor were the only things needed to create hysteria. However, it was much harder to be cleared of the accusations.
Witch accusations really took hold in Europe during the mid-1400s. When Malleus Maleficarum was published in 1486, it created witch mania. The book was a guide on how to identify, hunt, and interrogate witches. Often under torture, many accused witches confessed to a variety of wicked behaviors. Within a century, witch hunts were common and most of the accused were executed by burning at the stake or hanging. Between 1500 and 1660, almost 80,000 suspected witches were put to death in Europe. About 80 percent of them were women.
The Witches Weighhouse in Oudewater Netherlands became famous for certifying that someone was too heavy to be a witch. It was believed that witches weighed practically nothing. After all, how could you fly on a broomstick? All of those who passed the test were given a certificate to show authorities if they were ever accused of practicing witchcraft. Of course, this didn't work all the time.
As witch hysteria decreased in Europe, it reached a fever-pitch in the New World. Probably the best-known witch trials took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. The Salem witch trials began when two girls claimed to be witches and accused many of their neighbors. Ultimately, almost 150 people were accused and 18 were put to death. Forty-six people were accused of witchcraft in Connecticut with 11 being put to death. In Virginia, a law was passed making it a crime to falsely accuse someone of witchcraft, but it was still a concern.
On the other side of the coin, medical sciences were beginning to emerge in the 1400s. Men who were engaged in these early medical studies had a very poor understanding of female physiology, especially in the area of our monthly cycles. The unknowns in this area worked very well for the gaslighting Witch Hunter’s. The fledgling medical profession also stood to benefit from the hysteria around witchcraft because it took the power away from the women healers and gave it to the male physicians.
Unfortunately all of this misinformed fearmongering and superstitions have been carried through the centuries like DNA baggage. Modern-day witches still struggle to shake the historical stereotypes. This is why many who follow nature-based beliefs have gone into hiding to escape the persecution and harassment over ignorance associated with the title "Witch."
Contrary to what some people believe, witches are very peaceful, harmonious, and balanced in their way of life, which promotes oneness with the Divine and all living beings—seen and unseen. Spells and potions are more likely to be an herbal remedy for the flu rather than a hex. A Real Witch knows that what she puts out into the world will come back to her three fold.
Witches have a deep love for Mother Earth and honor her ways above all else. To be a Witch is to be a healer, teacher, seeker, giver, and protector. We are the hearth keepers. We walk our paths in honor, light, and integrity.
Witches have had enough bad press over the many centuries. We're working hard to turn the misconceptions around. We do not need people running around claiming to put spells and hexes on people, divining or doing parlor tricks at parties and calling it witchcraft, claiming to "be a witch" simply because it's trendy, or TV shows that espouse that witches are devil worshippers. It's time we reclaim the title "Witch," teach others about our magical ways, create communities, culture, and new traditions based on what we know of those who came before us. We are not a trend. We're awakening the old magic once again.
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