Witchcraft of the Past

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Witchcraft of the Past

What images does the word "witch" create in a person’s mind? Most people would tend to think of an old woman wearing a black, cone-shaped hat, with a large mole on her face, and perhaps flying on her broom. This is the stereotype of witches, and although some witches of the past may have fit into this category, one must remember witchcraft is a religion with a variety of followers. On the Covenant of the Goddess website, the basic philosophy of witchcraft is stated in one simple sentence: "Our religion is not a series of precepts or beliefs, rather we believe that we each have within ourselves the capacity to reach out and experience the mystery – that feeling of ineffable oneness with all Life." 1 This website is devoted to finding the origins of witchcraft, specifically faith and reason, and how it has affected society over the past 700 years.

In the thirteenth century, witches, then called cunning folk, "played a positive role in helping people cope with calamity."2 They provided hope to townspeople that through magical means, natural disasters might some how be avoided. The cunning folk provided this important service that kept village life moving ahead. Possession of these so-called magical powers made one an important member of village society. People in need of "security and influence, namely, the old and the impoverished, especially single or widowed women" most often made these claims.3 In the late thirteenth century, the Christian church "declared that only its priests possessed legitimate magical powers," and "those who practices magic outside the church evidently derived their power from the Devil."4 The church wanted to rid society of the witches’ influence, and thus witch-hunts began.

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8. "The Burning Times."

9. Kagan, 491.

10. Witches in the Bible and in the Talmud, (8 March 1999).

11. Witches in the Bible and in the Talmud.


"About the Covenant of the Goddess." Covenant of the Goddess. (8 March 1999).

"Beliefs & Superstitions." The Library of Witchcraft. (9 March 1999)

"The Burning Times." The Library of Witchcraft. (9 March 1999).

Kagan, Donald, Steve Ozment and Frank M. Turner. The Western Heritage Volume

II: Since 1648. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1998.

Witches in the Bible and in the Talmud.

(8 March 1999).
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