Origins of Witchcraft

Let us gather for another Witching Hour.

There’s no way of finding the true origins of witchcraft. Dr. Marget Murry, traced it back from the persecutions of the Middle Ages to the Paleolithic Age. It was the beginning as religo-magic not the beginning of witchcraft.

During those times, nature was looked on as a source of power; maybe even having a mind of its own. This causing the idea of Gods –as a way of offering respect to that which caused awe. A god of wind, god of trees, god of rivers, all that caused awe and deserved respect.

This was Animism the most forceful factor in the evolution of religion it still lingers in parts of the world today.

A very important concern of the early people was hunting and the success of each hunt. Without hunting, they wouldn’t have meat, skins for clothing, or antlers and bones for weapons and tools. Omens were looked for while hunting to provide confidence in the hunter’s success. These omens could get complicated quickly leading the hunters to believe that everything during the hunt was controlled by an unseen power enter the God of Hunting.

Believing if they gained the god’s favor their hunts would be bountiful, they would pray, and possibly perform rituals to the God. With one man acting as a priest, playing the part of the God he led the others through the pantomime of the hunt. Because most of the animals hunted had horns, and antlers the God was also thought of as having antlers or horns.

Paintings at Caverne des Trois Freres in Ariege, France and Fonneav du Diable in Dordonge, France show a man leading a ritual dressed in the skin of an animal, wearing a mask and horns of the beast. Artifacts have also been found at Le Tnc d’Audoubert in Ariege, France proof of Sympathetic magic (remember sympathetic magic) Clay models of bear and bison which are pot marked where they have been ritually stabbed in the mimes.

A fertility Goddess was also recognized by the early humans. Without fertility there wouldn’t be animals or even children for the tribe to continue. Later when the hunters became farmers crops fell into the need of fertility too. The early depictions of this Goddess accentuate the feminine and reproductive aspects of a woman. There are many early “Venus” figurines, they have exaggerated breasts, rear ends, pregnant stomachs, and enlarge genitalia –to show the fertility aspect.
The fertility Goddess later became the most import of these two deities as agriculture become more depended upon.

Animism and magic formed a very crude form of religion, with a priest who served as the go between man from Gods and the humans.

IN 22,000 BC to 18,000 BCE the Graverttian began the practice of burying the dead, showing a likely belief in Afterlife. As the bodies were sprinkled with red ochre to resemble life. Food and implements that might be needed in the Afterworld were also buried with the bodies. The Hunting God then became the God of Death and Afterlife. Keeping his place opposite the Goddess.

As humankind moved around the Earth, the ideas of deities, rituals and magic moved with them. With time the deities took on various characteristics but basically stayed the same. The Great Mother (fertility Goddess) stayed the same along with the Horned God (hunting God). The Celts called him Cernunnos which is Latin for “the horned one.”

In western Europe this pattern was followed, but instead of small groups or a single person, larger groups began to worship these deities. The priests still existed, but now not only did they lead rituals they also began to heal using herbs. They became known as Wicca or the wise one. Witch comes from the word Wicca.


6 thoughts on “Origins of Witchcraft

  1. Fascinating and well researched Mari 🙂

  2. Karen Soutar says:

    I love all this stuff – thanks for the great piece, Mari! 🙂

  3. paulaacton says:

    While I love ancient history I think sometimes we need to be wary of imposing our own beliefs upon them we can of course have a guess based upon the similarities between the artefacts depictions and more modern rituals but I have seen so any documentaries and articles were experts come forward saying well this is what we have always believed but now we believe this instead that you can never be quite sure. Everything is interpreted by the information the interpreter possesses and that changes constantly my favourite demonstration of that is the change of meaning for the word ‘gay over the last 50 years. Sometimes as much fun as dissecting history can be I do think that it is okay to just say you know what we don’t know why they did a certain thing they did in a cave drawing but isn’t it just fabulous they did

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