History of European Witchcraft Spells and Magic Witchcraft Spells and Magic, Love Magic & Wiccan Magic
Witchcraft, spells, magic – those very words conjure all types of mysterious images. Hopefully, this informative article by Ms. Kalila Smith on Witchcraft History will enlighten you on this secretive and misunderstood magical path!
The word occult literally means hidden, not revealed, secret, and mysterious. Uncover it and you have magic! Magic is much harder to define, more than parlor tricks, magic means transformation. It is the art of taking thoughts, intentions and emotions and manifesting them into reality. “The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft,” by Rosemary Ellen Guilley, describes witchcraft as “…sorcery, the manipulation of supernatural forces through the casting of spells and conjuring or invoking of spirits.” To put into more simplified terms, it is using one’s will to create change in one’s life. To walk the path of the witch means to take responsibility for what is going on in and around you. What you believe is. Therefore, every thought, every wish, every word spoken is an act of magick.
The roots of magic go back thousands of years, predating Christianity, Judaism, and recorded history. Ancient cultures all applied magic in their early belief systems. God had not only a masculine aspect but also a feminine one, the Goddess. This represented the balance between heaven and earth, light and dark, male and female.
Ancient cultures had wise women that were honored and respected in the community. They were the healers, the midwives, the advisers and the priestesses. How did these beloved and respected figures become transformed into hideous creatures that we think of when we hear the word witch? No figure in mythology or legend has been so despised and yet so misunderstood.
Some historians believe that when the Indo-European Nomads, (warrior people), invaded the Middle East, they brought with them their male gods of war. When the Hebrews settled there in 1300 BC, they perpetuated the one male God. In the Creation story, it was the female who bears responsibility for the fall of mankind. Once benign symbols, the goddess, the tree and the serpent would soon come to represent evil.
In the Middle Ages, the church, feeling threatened by Pagan religion invented the link between Paganism and Satanism. Any innocent act of naturopathic healing, herbalism, etc. were now interpreted as sinister and the practitioner accused of consorting with the devil.
It was believed during that time that demons walked the Earth creating disease and pestilence. If someone had the knowledge to heal, then surely they had the power to destroy! Most of these healers were women and women were then considered to be evil.
The church convinced followers that witches would gather in the forests at night for secret meetings. It was believed that they would fly through the air, have sex with the devil and plot against the church. Witchcraft had begun to be associated with heresy. Beginning in the 11th century, heretics were usually sentenced to death by burning. More often than not, the victims were burned alive!
The Inquisition against heretics began in the beginning of the 13th century. It lasted for the next several hundred years. It is estimated that 30,000 to nine million people were executed during that time. Most of the activity was in Germany, France and Switzerland in the 15th and 16th centuries.
In his Bull of December 9, 1484, Pope Innocent VIII turned the Inquisition full force against witches in Germany. (I find it incredibly ironic that his name be Innocent!) Two years later, Dominican Inquisitors, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Springer published the Maleus Maleficarim (literally translating into the Witch Hammer) with set forth rules for identifying and punishing witches. The book is based on the Biblical pronouncement in Exodus 22:18, “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live.”
The witchcraft inquisition focused mainly on women. Because traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs hold women accountable for sin, the church found it easy to presume that women were naturally predisposed to the evils of heresy.
The Maleus Maleficarum stated that, “all witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable.” It went on to state that women were “feeble-brained,” “intellectually like children,” “weak in body, impressionable, lustful, have weak memories and are liars by nature” therefore, “chiefly addicted to Evil Superstitions.” Often the women accused of witchcraft were social outcasts, usually spinsters and widows. Generally older and less attractive, therefore of no use to the men who judged them. Women had few rights during this time and no say so of their destiny. They were merely property. Pope Innocent also rationalized that if someone was not Catholic, he/she was not of the church, therefore against it. If one were against the church, it could only mean against God. If one were against God, it translated into worshiping the devil.
Most people associate burning at the stake with the Inquisition. Many were burned alive, but a number of victims were hung to death prior to burning. All were tortured quite severely. If you have ever heard of giving someone the third degree, this comes directly from the Inquisition as there were three degrees of torture. In the first degree of torture, a long pair of tongs called a tongue puller was used to pull the woman’s tongue out as far as it could go then it would be cut off. This was to insure that in the event that the woman is found innocent, she could not bear witness against her inquisitor. Women were stripped, probed and pricked with knives and needles.
In the second degree of torture, there were numerous devices used. One of the more commonly used devices was thumb screws. This device was similar to a small vice grip that was used to crush the knuckle of thumb until the nail popped off leaving blood and marrow shooting out of the end of the thumbs. Another commonly used device was a small set of pliers that had a flat hammer-like projection off of the bottom. The hammer was used to break the delicate bones of the hands and fingers then the pliers used to pull the nails out one by one. Pins were then put into the quick of the nail to inflict more pain.
If the third degree of torture was deemed necessary, a device called a skin puller was often used. This object was similar in appearance to a small curling iron as it was curved around a wand. A slice would be cut into the woman’s skin, which was then wound around this wand and literally pulled off. The victim would then be burned at the stake. It is easy to see how many of the women undoubtedly died during their torture. In the case of this event, the church wrote on the death certificates that the victim died in her sleep. These area merely examples of what was used in tortures, as the Inquisition grew stronger so did the methods of torture.
Much of the worst tortures of the early Inquisition were in France and Germany. Women were customarily stripped naked, shaved and pricked with needles and then examined in ever crevice for the marks of the devil. The Inquisitors rarely showed signs of remorse for their actions, regardless of the agonizing screams of the accused. Methods of torture varied from country to country. Inquisitors wore herb amulets to protect them and sprinkled their equipment with holy water.
A commonly used torture device in France was the rack. Victims were tied to the rack and stretched for days. The result would be systematic dislocation of every joint in the body accompanied by the loud popping sounds of the joints breaking. Red-hot pincers would then tear off nipples, tongues, ears, noses, and genitals of the accused. Some victims were disemboweled as they witnessed their intestines slowly wound onto pulleys before their eyes. Hands and feet were put into boiling water. Hot oil was pored over the bodies of the accused. Boots called bootikins were made to cut up the flesh and break the bones of the accused.
The Spanish Inquisition was particularly harsh on witches or those accused of witchcraft. It is estimated that from 1481 to 1517 there were 13,000 people burnt alive, another 17,000 condemned to punishments. In 1481 alone, Torquemada, referred to as the Inquisitors of Inquisitors, had burned to death over 800 accused witches. During Torquemado’s reign, iron gauntlets, floggings, amputation of women’s breasts, and being bitten by scores of rats were commonly used methods of torture. Accused heretics and witches were imprisoned without a hearing. They were held captive in dark, vermin infested dungeons, along with their excrement. Moldy bread and stale water their only staple. Cockroaches, spiders and rats infested the confinements.
Another commonly used device that was particularly horrific was the Oral, Rectal, and Vaginal Pear. This pear shaped object would be forced into the mouth, rectum or vagina then expanded forcibly. Throats, intestines and cervixes were ripped. The result was almost always fatal. Pressing, or crushing under boards with stones was another commonly used torture method.
The witch-hunts in England were a bit different. The Maleus Maleficarum was not translated to English until 98 years after it was written. England had its own Protestant Demonologist who turned witch hunting into a profitable profession. Most of the trials in England and Scotland regarded witches who practiced black magic. Those who practiced positive magic were spared. The guilty were hung rather than burned. In Europe, the Spanish Inquisition lasted well into the early 1800’s.
This is just a brief glimpse of the vast and vile witchcraft history perpetuated by those who were completely ignorant of ancient traditions. Sadly enough, we haven’t evolved much further when considering the hatred and fear that permeates so many cultures that are different from our own, especially those who kill in the name of religion.