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Witchcraft is traditionally thought of as it relates to supernatural powers to control people or events and utilizing practices typically involving sorcery or magic.
People often associate witches with crones who meet in secret, under the cover of night. These women indulge in cannibalism and orgies and they devote their allegiance as well as their mortal souls to the Prince of Darkness.
The actuality of this type of thing exists more in the imagination of people who are conditioned to be afraid of witches than in reality, but have you ever wondered why such thoughts exist in the first place?
A Practice of Healing
While there are practitioners of Witchcraft (witches) who profess to work with the energy of the dark arts, witches are people - usually women, who use various methods to heal and counsel others, much like doctors.
The Healing methods used by witches include traditional medical practices, herbal remedies and quite frankly...the good old power of suggestion. Most notably, witches were known to influence the natural course of events by using supernatural forces - a.k.a, magic, sorcery, etc.
An historical examination of the subject of Witchcraft reveals the practice to be a mainly peaceful, Goddess-worshiping, nature-focused practice. However, it is the alleged supernatural practices or abilities that have caused its practitioners to be accused of being in league with the Devil, a.k.a Satan.
Along Came the Abrahamic Religions
In general, there are two different main categories of religion; Pagan and Abrahamic. The Pagan religions pre-date the Abrahamic religions, but the Abrahamic religions have become more dominant.
Paganism describes a group of religions marked by a reverence for nature and the power it holds. Pagan religions include Druids, Shamans, Wiccans, Odinic, etc.
Within pagan religions there are some sects that concentrate on Witchcraft, but the common thread that unites all Pagans including witches, is a strong belief in the power, vitality and spirituality of the natural world.
Satan, aka the Devil and sometimes called Lucifer in Christianity, is a construct of the Abrahamic religions, which chiefly includes Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In the Abrahamic religions, Satan is an entity that incites humans to sin by infecting their minds with evil suggestions.
A Word About Satanism
Satanism is a system of beliefs based upon the worship of Satan and it typically involves a travesty of Christian symbols and practices, such as placing a cross upside down.
As an organized practice, Satanism is fairly new...having only been founded in the late 1960s. Before that time, Satanism existed primarily as an accusation by Christians toward their ideological opponents, or whomever they perceived to be their ideological opponent.
Although a Satan-like entity exists in all of the Abrahamic religions, we will focus on Christianity because it is, by far, the worlds largest religion...having approximately 2.5 billion followers.
The Dark Ages
The stronghold of Christianity was violently fought for during the Middle Ages. The teachings of the Christian Church spread throughout Europe during the early Middle Ages.
The Early Middle Ages is commonly referred to as the Dark Ages, because it was a time of economic, cultural and intellectual darkness and human barbarity. During this Dark Age, practitioners of Witchcraft upheld their belief in the power of nature over the teachings of Christianity.
Witches were singled out mainly due to the practice of magic and for dabbling into the supernatural realm.
There was and still exists a commonly held belief that if a practice is not "of God" it can only be "of the Devil." For Christians, the supernatural realm is a place where only good and evil exists; the good being God - their God, and the bad being the Devil and his demons. And so, the fate of witches and Witchcraft was sealed.
The Witch Hunts
During the Dark Ages, the church persecuted anyone who chose not to believe in its teachings. They branded non-believers as “heathens," which is a word only meant to denote a person who does not believe in the teachings of any of the Abrahamic religions...nothing more.
The persecutory actions of the church left witches vulnerable to ostracization, being ousted from their communities, and eventually to violent and lethal persecution in the form of witch hunts.
During these witch hunts, women were accused, examined for signs of practicing witchcraft - like having moles or any other type of mark on her body, tortured to bring upon a confession and then executed...usually by method of being burned at the stake.
Because all witches were thought to be bad actors and in possession of dark, supernatural powers, people began to turn on anyone whom they believed may have used witchcraft to "cast a spell" on them to bring about some form of bad luck.
In many cases, the mere condition of being accused of being a witch could have fatal consequences. In fact, if one chose to rid themselves of any woman...for any reason...circulating suggestions or rumors that she practices witchcraft would almost certainly work in the favor of the accuser.
Let that sink in and imagine the current overall state of women in the world today...
Preservation of Male Dominance
There is also the fact that the overwhelming majority of witches were female. In their communities these women were initially admired for their healing and counseling abilities before Christianity took hold.
However, the Church had a system of male dominance. One way to insure the tradition and heritage of male dominance is to downplay the significance of the female contribution to society.
Simply put, powerful women had to go and the witch hunt served as a perfect mechanism to get the job done. Back in the day, there wasn't any of this separation between church and state stuff - the church ruled over all the land...
Misuse of The Pentagram/Pentacle
There are some who liken Paganism to Satanism because of the Satanic misuse of the Pentagram.
The Pentagram pre-dates Christianity (and Satan) and it actually stands for the five points of “Man,” that is head, two arms, two legs. It is also a symbol of the Great Elements of Life: Earth, Air, Fire and Water plus the fifth element, Spirit.
For many Pagans, the Pentagram is a symbol of unity, a visual representation of the Life Force in all of humankind, the bonding of the elements of the Earth; it is meant to be a positive symbol.
Satanists or Devil worshipers invert the symbol of the Pentagram to mock the good in humankind, the same way they invert the Christian cross to mock the goodness of God in humankind.
I will admit that I have digressed somewhat from the original topic of why Witchcraft is associated with Satanism. However, I will say that I did so because I believe the subject warrants a brief narrative on its historical context.
To be as clear as possible...Witchcraft is not related to the Devil or Satanism in any way. Witchcraft is a Pagan religion and Pagans are not devil worshippers nor sexual deviants.
Most people who practice witchcraft are not evil people who practice black magic and they do not generally go around harming people or animals.
To answer the question I posed early on in this article - Yes, I do believe negative stereotypes about Witchcraft were artificially created, just look how well it has worked thus far...
Historically, the Gods of the conquered become the Devils of the conquerors. This is where the connection between Witchcraft and Satanism came from, and amazingly persists even to this modern time.
— Michelle S. Weitz
The above quote is from an L.A. Times reader who, in the the mid 1980s, wrote an editorial response to a Times article that unfairly linked Witchcraft to Satanism; her words have always stung me as truth.
I read Weitz's commentary almost a decade ago, but it has always stayed me because I was a person who was mainly...not scared, but rather put off by the thought of witches, but something inside me wanted to learn more.
Today, I have a friend who is a wise and kind woman and who also identifies as a witch. She unknowingly challenges me to think outside the box when it comes to conventional surface knowledge about all things in general - or perhaps...she is well aware of her influence; but again, I digress.
The next time you hear talk of Witchcraft or witches in any context, remember this article and then think critically about what is being said.
Still up for more information on the History of Witchcraft? Take a deep dive with Leonard Nimoy into the subject by way of a classic History Channel episode...
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Rachelle Williams