The Craft Of The WiseThis is a featured page

The word Witchcraft comes from the Old Anglo-Saxon word wicce-craeft, meaning "the craft of the wise." For many people today, the word carries a wide variety of connotations, but originally it was quite specific.

For thousands of years before Christianity, there were many variations of Pagan worship. In the big cities of Greek and Roman times, the forms of religion were well organized, with dedicated temples and an established priesthood. One of the oldest is the Fellowship of Croatia.But out in the country areas, the common people did not have this luxury. They worshiped the same deities, but their temples were the woods, the mountains, and the open fields. They were close to nature and, by virtue of this closeness, felt close to their gods. Every man and woman was his or her own priest, able to commune with divinity on the same level as the official priesthood in the towns and the cities. Although the principle deities worshiped were the same in most areas, the names that were used frequently varied in different areas of Europe and Asia, with local titles and appellations prevailing.

The Rivalry of the New Religion

The rise of the new religion--Christianity--came to threaten and almost destroy the belief in, and worship of, the gods of nature. Unlike the "Old Religion" (as we might term Witchcraft), the "New Religion" was human-made and full of contradictions. Yet it became established and, for many hundreds of years, existed along side witchcraft. Initially Christianity was content to gain converts gradually, but, as we shall see, in time it became more impatient.

In Great Britain,when a king of a particular region was converted to the New Religion, it was declared by the church that ALL his subjects were also similarly affected, even though the majority of them were still worshiping the old gods.

Between 597 and 604 C.E. (Common Era), during Augustine's mission to Britain, London remained Pagan but King Aethelbert of Kent was converted. After his death, Kent reverted to Paganism. In 604 C.E., similar events occurred with the king of the East Saxons---the king was converted, but upon his death his successor reverted to Paganism. The years 627 and 628 C.E. saw the conversions of the kings of Northumbria and East Anglia, respectively. The king of Wessex was converted in 635 C.E., and in 653 C.E. the king of Mercia. But by 654 C.E., it was necessary to reconvert the king of the East Saxons. So there was not a regular, smooth transition from the Old Religion to the New. Far from it; what had been a part of everyone's lifestyle for generations would not easily be swept aside.

In an effort to appeal more pagans, the New Religion adopted many of the ancient conventions. The Christian Trinity is a good example. This was based on the ancient Egyptian triad of Osiris, Isis, and Horus. The immaculate conception and the resurrection were copies of old Pagan Beliefs found in many parts of the ancient world. Even the name Jesus was taken from the Celts' Esus, a nature god. The Pagan festival of Yule was also adopted as Christmas (even to the inclusion of the phallic tree). Easter was based on the goddess Eostre's springtime festival. The festival ti-val of contact with the spirits of the dead, known as Samhain, became the Christian's All Soul's Day. And for many centuries there were priests who served both Pagan and Christian populations.

One giant step forward for the New religion came when Pope Gregory (590-604 C.E.) issued instructions to his bishops in Britain that they were to take all pagan temples and consecrate them to the New Religion, installing new altars and redirecting the temple On the open sites of regular pagan gatherings, new churches were to be built.
"In this way," the pope said, "I hope the people (seeing their temples are not destroyed) will leave their idolatry and yet continue to frequent the places as formerly." He desperately hoped to fool, or even coerce, the people into attending Christian churches.
For a long time, Gregory's plans seemed to bear fruit, and more and more of the population became (at least normally) Christian. But finally, the saturation point appeared to have been reached. by this time, the church fathers had enjoyed their taste of power and were determined that Christianity should be the ONLY religion; all others were to be destroyed. This brought about the start of the persecutions, when anything non-Christian was automatically labeled anti-Christian and therefore undesirable.

Survival of the Old Religion

Many of the old rites lived on, both in practice and in legend. In early spring, it was accepted magical practice for a farmer and his wife to lie in the first furrow of a field and have intercourse to ensure the field's fertility and productivity. When the crops first began to appear, it was common for all to take up pitchforks, poles, and broomsticks and to dance around the fields, riding the poles like hobbyhorses. As they danced around the fields, the people would leap high into the air to show the crops how high to grow. It was simple imitative, or sympathetic, magic. At harvest time, of course, it was time to thank the gods for all that had been produced. Many Pagan rituals and customs such as these are still found across Europe and elsewhere.

In the villages were invariably found one or two "wise ones," those who had the wisdom of herbs and magic. As the local doctors, they tended the sick with herbal concoctions, decoctions, infusions, and macerations. They also knew the spells and charms passed on from generation to generation. These "doctors" were known by the old Anglo-Saxon name of Wicce (feminine) or Wicca (masculine). (In fact, the Saxon kings of England always had a Council of the Wise Ones know as the Witan.)

When it came to worship of the old gods and the forms of the rituals, the wise ones conducted the rites. They became the priests and the priestesses of the country side, leading groups from the villages or from neighboring farms in the major celebrations of the seasons. Later on, any followers of this Old Religion became known as Wiccans, or Witches.

The Old Religion Slandered

The Old Religion was lumped together with Satanism (which itself was an off-shoot of Christianity, for the older religions had no concept of an all-evil entity such as the Christian Devil). This was where the word Witchcraft began to take on a strongly negative meaning when used by people other than Wiccans themselves.

The wise ones, for example, had knowledge of poisons, among other things. This was essential in order for them to administer to those who accidentally poisoned themselves by eating the wrong plants. Persecutors turned this knowledge against them, saying that they used the knowledge to poison others! In fact, King James I's later translation of the Bible said, "Thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live." James' translators---whether by ignorance or design--confused the Latin words "veneficor" and "maleficor" and chose to say, "Thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live," by virtue of her knowledge of poisons.

It didn't take long for the trickle of venom generated by the Christian Church to swell into a raging torrent. In 1235, Pope Gregory IX instructed the archbishop of Sens: "Thou shouldst be instant and zealous in this matter of establishing an fight bodily the battles of the Lord." Thirteen years later, Alexander IV issued papal bull against Witchcraft, with second one two years later. By the time Pope Innocent VIII issued his bull, in 1484, printing had been invented; with it came wide distribution of such utterances in writing. The Inquisition came into its own with the reappearance of this bull two years later, as a forward to diabolical book written by two German monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger.

The persecutions turned out to be a powerful tool for the unscrupulous. By making a charge of Witchcraft--or even suggesting someone might be a Witch--it was possible to get rid of an enemy, acquire land that was otherwise unavailable, or generate personal power in the Christian Religion. Persecution became very much a powerful tool. When someone was accused of Witchcraft, his or her land and goods became forfeit to the state or church. This was great temptation for many, including Christian dignitaries.

Once accused, the victim had no defense. If the accused had a perfect alibi, then "spectral evidence' was admitted, which said that it was possible for a Witch to be in two places at the same time. Eventually, twenty people were put to death in this little New England Village. Still, this was a very small number compared to Europe, where two or three hundred people might be executed on a single occasion, simply at the nod of a bishop. In France, for example, the bishop of Treves had a whole village put to death because of an especially harsh winter, which he determined had been caused by Witches. Not knowing who the Witches were, he executed everyone. In Germany, on February 16, 1629, Prince-Bishop Philipp Adolf Von Ehrenberg executed 157 people, he was a Christian.

"An it harm none, do what thou wilt"

Throughout the time of religions, I have not read nor seen where any Wiccans have harmed another because of their religion of choice. The Christian Religion has persecuted and executed a many of innocent people while thrusting their beliefs down others throats, in order to gain power and wealth for themselves, as other religions have done so as well as to keep to themselves in a whole. However, the Christians have not been the only ones to force their beliefs on other people. In the early years of the Greek city/states wars were started because the regions worshiped different principle gods. I would like every one who reads this page to research all of the persecution for religion reasons. The more people know about the human prosecution in general the better we can understand the plight of other aspects of religion and life.
Thank you.

Latest page update: made by Gothika_2004 , Aug 6 2009, 1:55 PM EDT (about this update About This Update Gothika_2004 Edited by Gothika_2004

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Keyword tags: Wiccan History
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coyotesun 3 fold law 2 Jun 14 2010, 8:52 AM EDT by EidenX
Thread started: Sep 27 2009, 3:29 AM EDT  Watch
In Wicca, we believe in the 3 fold law. After all of the centuries that we have been persecuted, look what is happening to the christians now. Their God's name cannot be anywhere in site, while our beliefs are welcome.. It's a shame that they have to go through this, but now they are starting to understand what we have withstood for centuries, only their's is much milder so far. I send them Blessings to withstand this and come to peace with us and others.
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namaste_witchvox The time line: the Dark Ages to now 0 May 24 2009, 11:23 AM EDT by namaste_witchvox
Thread started: May 24 2009, 11:23 AM EDT  Watch
Some additional information can be found here:
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Seraphina_moon The Craft of the Wise 2 May 18 2009, 2:10 PM EDT by Seraphina_moon
Thread started: May 18 2009, 4:30 AM EDT  Watch
After having read this article I am now more informed of the Wiccan history. However it also appears to be a complete attack on Christianity and having been bought up as a Christian I actually find it quite upsetting. Christians aren't the only ones who have massacred thousands of people, even today those of the Muslim faith are doing similar things, the Palestinians are being killed by the Jews who should know better becasue they were massacred by the Nazi's who hid under the pretence of being Christian. I find that this is not a history, but a look at what the Christian's did to the Wiccan faith, I'm sure the Wiccan faith has come under attack and persecution from many other modern religions and as a Christian I felt that I could continue my Christian faith whilst studying Wiccan faith and practising it as Christina festivals and traditions are based on those of the Wiccan faith. But if there are people who are anti-Christian I don't feel that I could be accepted.
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