Its time for our first The Witching Hour!
I’ll go over a the history of the witch today.
When you hear the word witch what comes to mind? Do you see an old ugly woman with greenish skin, and warts? Does she have a long pointy nose or a hooknose? Is her hair graying and stringy? Is it in total disarray? Does she wear a long flowing black or other dark color dress? Most importantly, does she carry a broom with her everywhere she goes?
Hmmmm, I was afraid of that. You dear reader, (if you thought that way) have watched too many movies. Media has made that the image of the witch an image of an ugly woman to show us how witchcraft (which is thought of as evil) is ugly. In reality, it isn’t so. Or not always so.
The word witch comes from a Wiccan term meaning “Wise One”
Many centuries ago, witches were looked upon very differently than they are now.
In those days, medicine was very different than we know it to be. Doctors were far and few. Villagers were more likely to go to the local witch (she might be called an herb witch or a healer) for their illnesses. They were skilled in what we now call natural medicine.
They were usually the only midwife available. They would use their knowledge of plants to help a woman in labor, to ease the pain, to help move the labor along, and in some cases to begin labor. These women practiced what is commonly called white or good magic. Where they didn’t hold a diploma, they were better than not having treatment. I would go out on a limb and say they were much better than the medically trained, considering the medical use of leeching and bloodletting.
We can now look back and see where their downfall was just a matter of time. The church (I use the word for all religions) –needing a scapegoat- became upset that “Women” were healing and not only healing but doing so well. They were skilled and knowledgeable; something not highly looked upon by the church. Witches were also called on for many other reasons: to cause the rains to come, to make crops to grow, to have bountiful crops and a bountiful harvest.
People began to see how well a witch’s spells worked so well that when things went bad they doubted the motives behind the witch. Soon the idea of a witch working under the guidance of the Devil was easy to believe. The idea of witches doing the Devil’s biding was commonplace. Witches went from a helpful healer to something to be feared.
Slowly they began to go into hiding. Before long, they would no longer admit to knowing the skills that once helped so many. By the 1400s, any woman accused of witchcraft was tried and executed publically as an example to others. By the time the mass hysteria started, the true witches were watching their backs. Anything out of the ordinary was reason enough to make an appropriate allegation. If one neighbor was annoyed with another it was easy to get rid of them. Accuse them of being a witch. If the accused refused complying with the Devil; they were found guilty and sentenced to death. Witch-hunts and trials spread like wild fire through the world.
By the time, the United States began its hysteria Europe was in the process of ending their hunts and trials. In England, witchcraft wasn’t punishable by law anymore when the Witchcraft Act of 1735 in England was signed. Witchcraft remained punishable in Germany until the late 1800s. There are still some places in Africa where witchcraft is a punishable act.
Green witch http://trialx.org/2012/11/28/witches-brew-hearty-pics-and-photos/
Natural medicine http://www.sallyhomemaker.com/journal/how-to-talk-natural-medicine-with-your-doctor/
Devil and witches http://segonku.unl.edu/student_projects/hist970/s07/smeyer/imagegallery.html
Witch trial http://www.salemweb.com/guide/witches.shtml
Another interesting historical fact is that fact that a lot of women charged and found guilty of witchcraft were actually property owners, women who had either inherited and remained unmarried or women who had been widowed
and of course once found guilty the property became the property of the crown or the lord who usually was the one handing down the sentence
But of course, how would they leave that property to the family. Now I’m leaning even more towards the Witch Hunts and Trials as being sexist pursuits to over power and take what they wanted.
Of course, there were also men accused of Witchcraft. I’m not sure how common this was, but I heard of some accounts during the Salem Witch Trials where men were targeted as well. Though I’d guess that women were targeted far, far more often. There’s also a difference between people initially accused by the church or government, versus people accused by their neighbors out of spite.
Of course, there were men accused! Not to the same numbers though. i don’t remember what percentage it was, but it was much lower than the women who were accused and executed. I did make a snarky statement about not liking your neighbor, so accuse them and get rid of them. It was a time of pure hysteria and prejudice, and that made it easy to get rid of those you didn’t like, no matter the reason.
I didn’t know this..
I asked my husband while researching if he thought it was a sexist act of the church, they wanted women to be quiet and serve their husbands. “Witches” knew a lot of various stuff and were in their own way powerful and the church wasn’t down with that. He thought it was more of a scapegoat sort of thing. Church says something like: “Witches are evil! We’ll kill all of them. Don’t worry about all the taxes we charge it goes to removing evil from the world.” I had to agree that did seem logical.