AOH :: WITCH3.TXT|
The following is a transcript of a conference on
witchcraft held in the Women's Forum July 21, 1983.
I thought I would start with a historical background. The
origins of witchcraft date back as far as 20,000 to 30,000
years ago during the Palaoelithic Period. Primitive man had
little concept of anything not pertaining directly to his
survival and found nature so awe-inspiring, he assigned gods
to control these forces. This belief, called Animism, is the
most potent factor in the evolution of religion. Hunting was
the mainstay of man's survival. He needed meat for food,
skins for clothing and shelter, and bones for tools and
In order to have a successful hunt, he had to gain the
favor of the gods. When a hunt failed, man accepted the gods
were not pleased. So a tribal member, usually the shaman or
witchdoctor, dressed in the skin and head of the animal to be
hunted and led the others in a mock hunt by stabbing a clay
statue with their weapons. When the ceremony was completed,
the men were convinced the hunt would be successful. As late
as the nineteenth century American Indians continued this
The counterpart of the god of the hunt was the Earth
Goddess, whose domain was fertility and rebirth. She came
into prominence about the same time man began establishing
villages and learned cultivation and domestication. Humans
prayed to her to perpetuate their crops and animals. When an
area could no long support the population, a small group would
seek out new lands, often encountering other groups with the
Just as they joined forces, so did their beliefs merge.
Throughout history the names of the dieties changed, but the
concepts remained the same. Long before the birth of Christ,
these groups had migrated and settled much of western Europe
and the British Isles. One group in particular, the Druids,
had a profound effect on the development of witchcraft.
They were probably the first to create definite form in their
rituals, complete with a hierarchy of priesthood. Much of
their practices survived the Inquisition to be passed down to
In 313 AD Christianity was established as the official
religion of the Roman Empire. Priests of this new religion
spread throughout Western Europe seeking converts. They met
with little success among the peasantry because the religion
had so little to offer. The majority of the converts were
townspeople and the nobility. Interestingly enough, many of
those converts continued to worship in the old manner, somehow
adjusting to both religions. In an effort to stamp out the old
religion, the priests tore down the offending idols and
temples. When this effort failed, they tried another
approach. By purifying and dedicating the structures to the
new god, the priests hoped the people would continue
worshiping there and gradually convert.
The major flaw in that thinking was that the only workmen
available to do the rennovations were followers of the old
way. They managed to carve the images of their gods and
symbols inside the structures, and some of these carvings
still survive. To further hinder the old worship, buildings
were erected on sacred ground, and recalling that cemetaries
were always adjacent to the churches, it is easy to understand
the idea of witches wandering around graveyards. That was
as close as they could come to their sacred ground.
Another method of attack used by the Christians was to
invent a devil by using the image of the god of the hunt,
complete with tail and horns. For a long time the charge of
devil-worship has been leveled against witches, but
considering the devil was strictly a Christian invention and
the Craft pre-dates Christianity, that charge was and is
ridiculous. For several centuries the struggle between
Christianity and the old religion continued with neither
gaining the upper hand.
But slowly the constructive aspects of the old way were
interpreted as destructive, as in the case of fertility rites
blamed for famine and sterility. Around the end of the
fifteenth century, the Church lost patience and declared
all-out war. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued an edict
against any religion based on the worship of fertility. He
also named two Germans to travel the countryside and seek out
the followers of the old religion. Thus the Inquisition began,
a period of insanity when whole families and sometimes even
entire villages were wiped out. As estimated nine million
people were slaughtered during the 300 years of the
One factor that appears to have perpetuated the frenzy was
whoever was accused of witchcraft had their property
confiscated. This property was then divided among the judges,
the priests and the accuser. A great number of wealthy people
were executed. The last recorded trial and execution of a
witch was in Scotland in 1727.
Although the Church claimed a mighty victory, the old
religion did not die. A small handfull of people survived the
Inquisition period and continued to meet in secret. Very few
outsiders were aware that the practice was continuing and for
over 200 years the surviving members of the Craft kept it that
way. Since few written records survived the Inquisition, the
knowledge was passed secretly within the covens on the pain
of death if anything was ever revealed. That basically is the
background of the Craft.
Certainly the devil per se was a Christian invention but
did not the concept of the 'evil one' come from the ancient
Yes. But the Hebrews were geographically limited.
Were most of those accused members of the Craft, in fact?
Lindsy, no. Very few were actual witches.
Why is Halloween a special time for witches? Is it
Halloween is a day of great power. There are eight such
days each year when the position of the earth generates a
special cosmic influence. Partly astronomical/partly
geological. Halloween was stolen from us.
I understand that the name of the holiday was All Hallows
Eve, which was contracted to the present Halloween.
What are the other days?
Beltane, Candlemas, Lamas, and the four seasonal changes.
True, Myself, but Halloween represented the end of the
harvest season, the last celebration before the coming of
winter. A part of the celebration was to invite all mankind to
join -- past, present and future. From that came the idea that
the dead and demons walked the earth on that night.
Right. Sort of like Thanksgiving, which also coincides
with the end of the harvest season.
The Christians declared Nov. 1st as All Saints Day.
The power is higher than most other days. A skilled witch
(or psychic) can utilize that power to make contact.
With what or whom do you attempt to make contact? And why?
Those who have the ability attempt to contact what you
might call spirits or ghosts, who are beings on another plane
of existence. Sometimes, such contacts are used to foretell
the future, or just to gather information.
Is that the same as the so-called spiritualists trying to
call the dearly departed?
In essence, yes. Spiritualism came out of the Craft long
ago but fell into disuse during the Inquisition,
unfortunately, there are a lot of charlatans out there.
Of what use then is calling the dead? How can they, being
thus dead, be of help to us and why should we listen to them
after death? (Note: many of us don't listen to them while they
For those who believe in such things it is thought the
dead like to have contact with this plane, to meet their loved
ones again. Also, sometimes the spiritualist seeks specific
information, such as locating something that has been lost or
a glimpse of what will happen. However, if one does not
believe in such things, there is no real answer. It depends on
What about cats, big hats, brooms, etc.?
Cats were often kept as pets and to destroy mice. Many of
the people accused of the Craft had pets of one kind or
another. These pets were thought to be familiars, or demon
spirits, used to carry out the "foul" deeds of the witch.
Sometimes just having a pet was enough to be accused but
beyond that, cats are night creatures and mideval man
believed only evil stalked the night. So cats were evil demons
and their owners witches. As for the hats, that came of the
time period in which the Inquisition was taking place. It was
one of the styles of dress and had no significance to the
Craft. Broomsticks are another matter. People believed
witches flew to their sabbats on broomsticks or the backs
of demons. Actually the broomstick was the witch's wand
disguised as an ordinary implement.
Is there any relationship to the evil stalking the night
being darkness and demons being powers of darkness and the
present day problem among the races, specifically the blacks
Yes, it does have some relationship because black people
were automatically thought to be evil, so marked by God as
descendants of Cain.
And then much of our prejudices extends to the pre-dawn
and the earliest religious practice and distinction between
good/white and black/evil?
No, it dates to the Inquisition period of Christianity,
not pre-dawn religions.
Everything you say indicates that witches were and are of
both genders. And I was told by a gay man that gay men were
burned as kindling during the Inquisition (hence the term
"faggots") So why is the image of the witch invaribably female
-- and a certain kind of female, at that?
You mean old and ugly?
Big nose with warts, etc.
Witches are of both genders, but women seem to be able to
utilize the powers better than men because our emotions are
not blocked. As for the image, what else would someone do if
they were attempting to discredit a different religion but
represent the members of that religion as hideously as
But the devil is kind of a sexy fellow. And when a man is
described as "devilish" it's a compliment. Witchy sure isn't.
There's no encouragement for women to be witches, at all.
Why should anyone want to be a witch?
The devil was depicted as handsome in order to seduce the
"good" people of Christianity.
To what end?
So why not a glamorous, dragon lady kinda witch?
Tell us something about modern-day witchcraft.
Modern witches still follow a lot of the old traditions
in practicing their Craft, but we have also incorporated a
number of newer ideas and techniques that work better, i.e.,
mediation practices of the Hindus and Tibetans. As for what we
do, we try to make our lives better by influencing the
proper forces (or people) that can help us.
Personally, i think witchcraft is bullshit.
That's because your religion is PAC MAN!!!
Scorpia, that is your choice.
Lindsy==> dont be gauche.
There is some truth to it all.
Self==> if so, very little.
Perhaps, but faith is the cornerstone of any belief, and
if you honestly believe, things can work.
I've heard about "white witches" and "black witches". Is
there any such thing, and if so, what are the differences?
A "white" witch was one who only performs "good" or
"beneficial" magic. A "black" witch tries to cause harm.
Actually, there is no real difference because the power is the
same -- only the way it is utilized is different, but there
is little percentage in performing "black" magic because
eventually it will come back to haunt you.
Exactly how do witches get their power? Do they harness
the forces of nature, or a force within themselves? And what
kind of "magic" can they perform? Just how powerful can a
Their power comes from within, but witches are taught
how to tap that power. And we believe all things contain
power to some degree that can be tapped -- universal power. A
witch can do just about anything if he has the proper
What you describe is essentially the basic idea of The
Force (Star Wars) which is itself a two-edged sword having a
balance of good and no-good.
Money can be good or bad depending upon its use. The same
is true of power.
Could you tell you how you personally discovered the
I have been interested in psychic phenomenon and the
occult for years. After trying different philosophies to find
the right one for me, I decided to give the Craft a try. I
went to a local occult store and told the man there I wanted
to become a witch. He gave me a form to fill out to enroll
in the classes that were held there. I never regretted that
Did it represent a big change from the religion you wre
raised in (if any)?
A very big change for me personally. It fit with many of
the things I believed in.
A two-part: One, what is the size of the normal or average
Traditionally, a coven was 13 or multiples of 13
depending on the size of the meeting place and population.
Two: is there any significance or relation between that
and the fact that Christ had (initially) 12 disciples? And
what is the significance? A curious coincidence?
13 people usually gathered, six couples and the leader. I
know of no special significance between that and Christ and
his 12 disciples. Coincidence or deliberately designed by the
To represent the duality of nature -- male/female.
I've always read that the concept of "duality" is a
late-blooming, Christian, patriarchal kind of concept -- that
the old female goddess religions were more expressive of unity
of nature. From what you say, is that not true? (I personally
find that yin/yang leftbrain/right brain stuff used to put
down women and also gays.)
Duality is an ancient concept, buried for a long time but
coming back into focus. Nature is dual and therein lies its
unity. Its concept has been twisted for other purposes.
Is the Craft a religion, a way of life, or both? And since
a religion implies worship, who or what is worshipped?
It is both. We worship the Horned God and the Mother
Goddess symbolized by the sun and moon, the male and female,
Why is the guy the sun?
Strength and power. The moon represents the softer
emotions, the nuturing aspects of the female.
Could you be more specific about what witchcraft offers
you that the other philosophies you tried failed to give you?
It shows how to control your own life. It is not as
fate-oriented as most religions. For me, personally, it helped
me achieve an inner serenity that helps keep me on balance. I
tried various kinds of religions, astrology, and some new
philosophies you might not have heard of.
Translation, for one. An interesting concept, but not too
Do you have inscribed rules re food, sex, etc.?
How about general guiding ethical concepts?
The basic principal my group uses is to use the power for
good, practical purposes. Define one's goals and proceed to
achieve them. Obviously a million bucks is not going to just
fall into your lap. But if you want that million, you have to
work for it. It teaches discipline.
What do witches believe about an "afterlife"?
I can't answer for all witches, but I believe in an
afterlife. I believe it is another plane of existence,
different but just as real as this one.
If you were discriminated against in housing or something
because of being a witch, could you be protected by
constitutional and civil rights laws regarding religion?
No, because witchcraft is not recognized as a religion.
Is that their idea or the government's?
I think that would depend on locale.
It is not one of the world's recognized religions.
Well you have more an historical track record than the
moonies and others who claim legal protection.
There are some areas where Wicca claim and receive the
same constitutional protections as other religions. Oddly
enough, one of these is Salem. But I suspect that the more
fundamentalist an area, the less likely would be the Wicca's
chance to be recognized.
Very true, Alex. There is still a great fear of
witchcraft. People still believe we sacrifice virgins, kill
and eat babies.
Do witches (modern) use drugs in ritual?
Some do, Lindsy. My group doesn't.
Are the people in your group close friends, or just people
you relate to on this level? Did you know them before? And can
you choose them?
Like any group, some are good friends and some i don't
know well. No, I didn't know them before. And yes i can choose
my own friends.
I think that the inability to choose one's own friends is
the prime dividing line between religions and cults.
Lindsy, my group is a teaching coven. We train people in
the craft. Very true, Alex.
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