Witchcraft Essay, Research Paper
Hundreds of years ago something, that was considered one of the darkest and most tragic events in all of American history, began in 1692; The Salem Witch Hysteria.
In the beginning, before the trials ever began or were even thought of was something every witch is greatly aware of, The Inquisition. It was the catholic tribunal’s way of exposing and punishing those that they called ‘Religiously Unorthodox’. By 430 AD there came a civil code that ordered death sentences and cruel punishments to anyone who believed in something that was supposedly against the beliefs of Roman Catholicism. Sorcery was considered great heresy. Many years later this so-called civil code of the Inquisition was made law and so began The Salem Witch Hysteria.
It was the year 1692, ?alem Village Massachusetts, the actions taking place there were quite ironic. Before the Salem witch trials were ever even speculated about, the Puritans had been coming to America to escape the harsh religious persecutions undergoing in England. They came here to be able to live and worship freely, without fear but they ended up doing something I believe to be most unthinkable. The Puritans caused the English persecutions, that they had been running from, to occur all over again only this time it was Salem Village and the Puritans were the persecutioners. They punished people for worshiping a religion that was not evil, just simply different from theirs, and of course that religion was Witchcraft.
It all began with a group of young girls who became enwrapped in the stories of Tituba. She was a West India slave to the village minister Samuel Parris, and she was very conversant in the lores of magic. Tituba told the girls many stories of natural magic and the island culture. The girls continually listened to her stories knowing that it was violating their puritan morality. “With all of the talking the girls did of this so called ‘natural magic’ they were finally accused of heresy and proclaimed the ‘witches’ of Salem Village”. 1
The first warrant was issued for the arrests of 6 girls and Tituba on February 29th, 1692. The 6 girls were Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Parris, Elizabeth Hubbard, Ann Pulman, Mary Walcot, and Marcy Lewis. These girls were questioned and eventually released after they had all accused two different girls, Sarah Good and Sarah Osbourne, of being the perpetrators of their so-called “bewitchment”, along with Tituba. Sarah Osbourne was released but Tituba and Sarah Good were both put in jail until someone paid Tituba’s jail bill, she was released and never seen again, while Sarah was sentenced to death. Some believed that Sarah Good was accused of witchcraft, like many others, because she was considered “socially undesirable”.
Many accusations occurred after the first warrant. People would claim that others were witches because they weren’t attractive or because they had a fight with them or for any number of reasons that showed no evidence of being a witch.
On April 18th 1692, Bridget Bishop was accused of witchcraft, most likely because she was known to be a very strong, argumentative woman with quite a sharp tongue. The warrant for her arrest was issued and on June 10th. She became the first person to be executed for witchcraft in Salem. The previously accused Sarah Good was not executed until July 19th. They said Sarah’s “final remarks to the Reverend Noyes before her execution were that if he took her life, god would give him blood to drink.”2
The next to be accused was the Proctor family: John, Elizabeth, and their children William and Sarah on April 6th, 1692, by a feuding neighbor. After a long trial they were all sentenced to death but only John Proctor was hung on August 19th, because his wife Elizabeth was pregnant so her sentence was postponed. Before Elizabeth’s hanging was to take place a letter was received from the late John Proctor pleading for the lives of his family. Elizabeth Proctor and her children were released from prison in November of 1692.
The next case was about an 80-year-old farmer by the name of Giles Corey who lived with his wife Martha. Martha believed in witchcraft very much, was not one herself, but didn’t believe that the persecution of witches was right so she began to speak out against the accusers.
On March 19th, 1692, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Martha Corey. Her husband Giles gave a testimony against her, but he then decided it was a mistake and tried to take it back. On April 19th a warrant was also issued for his arrest.
On September 19th, Giles was taken out of the Salem jail and led into town in front of the courthouse. “Because Giles would not enter a plea, he was ordered to undergo the ancient punishment of ‘Peine Forte et Dure’ meaning strong and hard punishment. Under this punishment, a prisoner would have a board placed atop his chest whereupon heavier and heavier rocks would be placed until the prisoner either entered a plea or was crushed to death”. 3
Undergoing this torture, Giles still refused to enter his plea and eventually the weight became too much for him. His final words were “ More Weight”, and then he died. Two days later, on September 21st, Martha Corey was hung at Gallows Hill along with 6 others.
Finally the tragedy ends. These few cases were only a brief glimpse into the terror and tragedy of what really happened in the Salem Witch Trials. “From the very first warrant that was issued on February 29th, 1692, to the last executions on September 22nd, 1692, over one hundred and fifty people were accused and put in jail for the suspicion of practicing witchcraft. Four people plus one infant died in jail, eighteen people were executed by hangings, one person was pressed to death along with the hangings of two dogs.”4
On October 29th, 1692 Governor Phipps officially closed the court of Salem Village and ended all remains of the Salem Witch Trials.
Witchcraft, also known as The Craft; Wise Craft; The Old Religion; Wicca; The Hidden Children of the Goddess, or Craft of the Wise is a peaceful, nature-based faith. In the early days the common witch was usually a midwife, a healer, a herbalist, and a wise woman/man who based his or her everyday lifestyles around nature. They worked well with herbs and became very good at healing the ill.
Most witches use what is called White Magic, which is used only for good purposes, like healing the sick. In many cultures they were praised and called tribal shamans or healers, but to Christians they were considered not so neighborly sorcerers who were to be shunned and avoided.
There have been and still are many misconceptions about witchcraft. Many believe it is a religion of Devil worshiping. What people, mostly Christians, think about witchcraft is not true. I doubt that any of the people who shun witchcraft know that most of the rituals and traditions of witchcraft were created and based on old Christian beliefs. Only a small few of their beliefs and traditions came from Ancient Pagan traditions and early Celtic religions.
The word Witch comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “Wicce” or “ Wicca”, meaning a twister or a bender so I guess that definition kind of suits a Witch, doesn’t it?
Witchcraft can be traced back at least 20,000 to 40,000 years, during the Paleolithic times, which makes witchcraft one of the oldest religions on earth. Many pieces of evidence show that these early witch tribes had a great belief in life after death and reincarnation.
The old tribes of witchcraft would bury their deceased in full clothing, sometimes with his or her dog, and with everything the person might need in their afterlife. Also, the dead were often buried near or even underneath the family’s home so that the deceased could stay close.
In these early times witches believed that each part of nature, such as rain, streams, rivers, thunder etc. had their own individual god. They believed that one god controlled the rain, a different god controlled the wind, and most importantly a god controlled the hunt. They gave each thing in nature a god and they call this “Animism”, which is defined as “to assign gods to naturally occurring events”.
The God of the Hunt was the most important of all. In ancients rituals they used something called Sympathetic Magik. An example of this is when the tribe needed to have a successful hunt, they would create life-like versions of the animal they wished to kill and acted out how they believed the hunt would take place. They greatly believed that this act would positively help them on their hunt and give them great success.
Besides their great love for the God of the Hunt, they also heavily praised the Goddess of Fertility. It was extremely important that the people of these tribes reproduce because they felt very strongly about the balance of their lives and tribe. The Goddess of Fertility did not only represent the reproduction of their people, but also of the earth and its animals.
Today, modern witches call themselves followers of the old religion. Both males and females call themselves Witches now. The men never call themselves Warlocks because it is known to mean traitor, and its also considered an insult in these modern times.
Today’s witches believe that every god that has been worshiped does exist but prefer to worship only two: The Great Mother and The Horned God. From these two they now believe that all the other gods were created. The belief is that the Great Mother gave birth to the universe and also to the Horned God. The Horned God is considered Lord of the Hunt, the Lord of the Dead, the Underworld, and the Lord of Life. He is considered an Earthly God.
Today, Witches still believe heavily in reincarnation. They instill their entire beliefs on the fact that if we are faithful and good we will be reborn with our loved ones again. Their beliefs are basically the same as in early times but they have revised them a little and believe more in freedom of the mind than ever before.
Today, it seems to be a popular ritual to worship in the nude, alone, or with a group, because they feel it causes them to be closer to the spirits, more in tuned to nature, and allows their minds to be free.
Like Christianity has faiths such as Roman Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and many others, the religion of Witchcraft has two different faiths of its own called Wicca and Paganism.
First, the most popular and most popular of the two faiths is Wicca. Anthropologists have said, in many of their historical studies, that they have found bits and pieces of evidence that show both Witchcraft and Wicca can be traced back thousands and thousands of years but there is no reliable evidence to prove these theories true.
The only facts we have are that Wicca, as we see it today, was introduced in 1951. The person who deserves the credit for really bringing out the religion of Wicca is Gerald Gardener. He got into witchcraft a great deal and gained a good knowledge about it from the many experiences he had in his own Coven, or a church of witchcraft. After reading many books about witchcraft by popular historical writers like Margaret Murray, Robert Graves and a few others, Gerald published a book of his own, and it was the first official book on Wicca.
Today, Gerald Gardner has created a Wiccan path of his own called “Gardinarian Wicca”, and it is very popular.
Like most religions, Wiccans have many beliefs and rituals. Some of the very commonly used rituals are of the following: Cleansing, which is used to remove any negative energies from a person or place involved. Also they have Blessings, which are done usually after a thorough Cleansing of a new place or person, where they feel the gods and goddess’ fill the place with positive energies. Then there is Divination, which is the art of foretelling the future and finding the right advice. Next are Healings, which are done for one’s self or for the healing of others. Last, but not least, Prayers, which are another form of spells in which most Wiccans try to reach a specific goal.
As a tradition, all Wiccans see living things in nature as Sacred, and many are vegetarians because of this. Also, Ritual jewelry is very important to many Wiccans because they believe it shows off their love and dedication for their religion.
The other branch of witchcraft I talked about earlier is Paganism. It is believed to be a very spiritual way of life. Like Wicca, it focuses much on nature and also “honors the divinity in all its aspects, male or female, as parts of the sacred whole. Every man, woman and child is, to a Pagan, a beautiful and unique being”5. They respect the rights of every living soul, whether it be human, plant, animal or even a rock. They take responsibility for themselves and their actions at all costs. They encourage free thought, creative imaginations and learning to spend your life in harmony with the natural world around them.
Paganism stresses personal spiritual experiences and often they find it through their relationships with nature and the things they love most to become one with something they call The Devine, however each person perceives it. They are trying to find their inner self, a place of peace and self-satisfaction. Many Pagans have teachers and leaders of all sorts to help them to reach their own sense and interpretation of Divinity but most learn on their own using their personal experiences.
As mentioned before, Pagans believe that each person is unique, therefore they also believe that each individual’s spirituality is just as rare and different. Each Pagan believes in different things. For instance, some follow multiple gods and goddess’ whose names all come from ancient European folklore, while other Pagans focus their beliefs on a single Life Force that has no specific gender. Also, some Pagans follow a specific couple called Goddess and God or Lord and Lady.
Pagans continually take many of the beliefs and values of their early European ancestors and transform them to suit their modern times. But still, like all witchcraft, there are so many misconceptions whether Witches, Pagans and or Wiccans worship Satan or not. That is definitely not true, and it is almost impossible, for Pagans especially, because they do not believe in Satan or the Devil. In most branches of witchcraft no such figure ever existed.
Whether we are talking about Wicca or Paganism, we are still talking about Witchcraft. Along with witchcraft comes many things such as rituals, magic, curses, beliefs, tools and much more.
One might call these the basic elements involved in the definition of Witchcraft. For instance, A Coven is where a witch learns about magic and the religion itself. Then there is the Circle, which is a witch’s own personal sacred temple. He or she simply lays out a nine-foot circle in any place he or she wishes, usually outdoors, and can worship there at any time. These temples are usually considered Temples of the Goddess because it was said that she had always worshiped in her own sacred temple.
Then there is Nudity, which may sound strange, but many witches prefer to worship in the nude because they believe it to be a symbol of freedom. It is said that the clothing gets in the way of gaining more psychic and magic power. The Goddess was said to always be naked as a sign of freedom and equality. But it all depends on the beliefs of the witch because some like to wear sacred robes as a sign of equality.
After that there is something called Rank, which is the separation of witches into three groups or degrees, as they call it. The Third Degree is called Student/Witch; the Second Degree is Practitioner/Priest/Priestess; and the First Degree is Teacher/High Priest/Priestess.
After that there are Esbats and Sabbats, which are great rituals that let Witches celebrate their relationship with nature and the gods, generally dedicated to the Horned God.
Magic and Psychics are next. Witches all believe that everyone possesses some form of psychic ability and that with the right training anyone can become very well inclined in their magic and psychic ability. Many witches believe that the Goddess gave magic to Her children simply to make their lives easier, but not to make them lazy.
Another part in witchcraft is Fertility/Nature/Balance. Witchcraft is a religion that emphasizes the balance and especially the fertility in our lives. It also pursues the equality between men and women. Most Covens have at least one Priestess, and some have no priest, just a priestess because a lot of witches feel more comfortable and more spiritual with the teachings of a woman, rather then a man.
With all of these rituals and beliefs come tools used during the ceremonies and rituals of many witches.
The Athame is a very intricate tool that is used to direct energy, it usually has a black handle and a long straight blade but it is never used to cut anything. The Cup is also important because it is used to hold the wine, the herbs and in someway symbolizes the goddess. The censer is used to hold the incense; it has 3 legs and 3 chains on it usually. Then there is the Wand, which is a gentler version of the Athame. Also there is the Cauldron, which is a vessel for fire, water and flowers. Candles and their holders are used for lighting the ceremony. Then there was the Broom that was used for cleansing ritual areas. There is also the Sword which sometimes is used in place of the Athame, but mostly only for rituals that are outdoors.
Although these tools are all very intricate to witchcraft, the most important tool of all, even more important than the Athame is the Pentacle or more commonly called the Pentagram. It is said that it completes the 4 major tools, The Athame, The Cup, The Censer and the Pentagram. It is also a protection symbol. It has some resemblance to the shape of a man with his legs and arms outstretched. The 5 points on the star symbolize the five extremities of the body and are engulfed in a circle, which symbolizes protection of the body and soul.
The beliefs of Witchcraft can be a harmonious and beautiful thing if you only know what it’s really all about, instead of believing the speculations that people portray upon it. Living in peace with yourself and the things around you, knowing what you want and knowing exactly how you feel is something that most people never achieve.
If this is the way to find it then I give my respects to everyone that takes that chance of being seen as different to find pure bliss or what they witches call “ The Devine”.
I. The Tragic History
A. The Inquisition
B. The Salem Witch Trials
II. Witchcraft Defined
A. The definition of Witchcraft
B. Early Witchcraft
C. Modern Witchcraft
III. Types of Witchcraft
IV. Magic of the Craft
A. Basic Terms and Elements
B. Tools of the Craft