Sorcery, witchcraft, and magic… Sweep me away! 

Stories of witches have existed across the world for centuries, but many people seem to only be familiar with depictions of witches in popular culture. The concept of being a witch is more complicated than a wearing a tall, pointy black hat, mixing potions, and flying around on a broomstick. There is so much to learn below the surface, so let Spirit Halloween sweep you up into four interesting witch facts! 

1. Witches don’t represent evil

A large majority of modern-day representations and beliefs regarding witches and witchcraft are false. The actual etymology of “witch” and “witchcraft” is of Old English origin, from “wiccecraeft.” This word derives from “wicca” and “wicce,” denoting a masculine and feminine ability, respectively, to practice sorcery with skill and craft. Words depicting witches exist in other languages, including Spanish and Italian, with no precise translation. As shown in the translation, witches do not inherently represent evil and fear.  

2. Witch hunts excited long before the Salem witch trials

Witch hating and fear of witches have been around for a long time. While many Americans are familiar with the Salem witch trials of the 17th century, witch hunting goes all the way back to Europe in the 14th century.

Witchcraft became tied to Satan and punished for diabolism, along with “maleficium” (malevolent sorcery). Women on the outskirts of society, such as widows, were targeted as practicing sinful and forbidden sorcery. Word spread that witches were worshipping the Devil and practicing magic to defame the Crucifix and other holy Christian objects. Falsely accused witches and self-identified witches were burned at the stake or hanged to be executed as a public spectacle of the supposed horror of witches. 

3. Witches are mentioned in the Bible

The exact origin of witches is difficult to pinpoint because there are many different depictions of people who “practiced magic.”. An extremely early documented mention of witches occurs in the Old Testament, Book 1 of Samuel. This was thought to be written sometime between 931 BCE and 721 BCE. The story tells of King Saul seeking help from the Witch of Endor in order to contact Prophet Samuel’s spirit, as he was dead. Witches being able to contact the dead may have originated from this story.  

4. Modern-day witches practice Wicca

Witches and witchcraft still exist and are part of the fairly new religion, Wicca. Wicca was created by Englishman Gerald Gardner and spread around Europe beginning in 1954. Today, both men and women identify as practicing members of the witch community, but men are often referred to as “wizards.” Wiccans continue to celebrate customs involving communication with the world of the dead, notably on October 31, which is actually their New Year, not Halloween. Wiccans also celebrate the new and full moon, as well as the changes of seasons. One survey found that 1 to 1.5 million Americans identify as Wiccans or Pagans.

Now you’ve learned some novel facts about the reality of witches to help you understand them better. If you want to dress up and look ready to practice some magic of your own, Spirit Halloween has concocted plenty of crafty witch costumes!