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That's what this website is here to find out. Witchology.com is the website of WICA - the Witchcraft Information Centre and Archive - founded in 1999 as a research and education provider specialising in the areas of Witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism, Magic (Magick) and the Occult. We have been online continuously since 2000.

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Witchcraft Out of the Shadows A Complete History

History of Witchcraft & Wicca

Almost entirely overlooked, the Northern European mythological heritage has contributed significantly to our ideas (and fears) of witchcraft. Here we explore the Norse sagas, ancient Germanic religion and the Druids.

Witchcraft in Northern Europe

Witchcraft Amongst the German and Slavonic People

[...] let us consider those people of Germanic origin whose magical interests and activities are well documented. If we accept the evidence about them, it would appear that, among the Germanic tribes too, each individual social class had its own particular brand of magic; even the gods used magic under certain circumstances. The practice of magic in these tribes also corresponded to their logical and social order (the 'logos' and the ‘ethos’), however surprising this may seem. This is also true, of course, of other communities which have recently been studied in detail; maleficent magic flourishes during certain states of tension.

In the highest levels of Germanic society the kings practiced magic publicly, and their success was more or less generally admitted.

Among the Swedes, Erik 'of the windy hat' had remarkable powers as a king and magician. In other cases, the trials and misfortunes of the community were attributed to the fact that the reigning monarch lacked the necessary magical power to deal with the adverse circumstances. But coming down in the social scale we also discover that in ancient Scandinavia every magical activity was thought to be the property of a particular family. Thus, 'all' the sooth-sayers, 'all' the witches and 'all' the magicians could be traced back to three specific forbears, just as the giants could.

The division of human activities according to families pre-supposes the handing down of knowledge from the period of myths. Witchcraft or maleficent magic has its own special terminology, and is completely defined by the term seid.

There are passages in the Icelandic sagas in which whole families are accredited with the power of witchcraft; father, mother, and children. However, as in the classical world, women, or particular types of women, are believed to have more special powers. The passage in Tacitus's Germania which relates how the men of that country believed women to be sacred and always attached great importance to their opinions, warnings, and advice, has been the object of numerous conflicting interpretations - like other parts of that work.

But if the cases of Velleda or Ganna, both heroines of German history, can be adducted in support of this view, there is also good reason to believe that fear as well as respect and veneration was sometimes felt for women; fear of the spells of which they were held to be capable.

[...]

The Germanic world was dominated by belief in witchcraft from its northern extremities to the shores of the Mediterranean where the Visigoths and Lombards lived; from the steppes of Eastern Europe to the Atlantic islands. Even at the height of their power, men lived in constant fear of witches.

This fear and hatred led the Germans to accuse their enemies of practicing witchcraft or of being descended from evil witches. An example of this is the traditional story of the origin of the Huns. This was first written down by a historian of the Goths called Jornandes or Jordanes, in the sixth century, and it was later reproduced and modified by many other historians. According to the legend, king Filimer, after conducting a survey into the customs of his people at a very early period, discovered that a number of sorceresses lived among them. These he banished to the remote and deserted regions of Scythia so that they should have no ill effect on others. However, as a result of the contact between these women and certain foul spirits who wandered about the same deserts, the Huns were born. Those were the sorceresses called alrunae or haliurunnae which also appear in other texts. To call someone a "son of a witch” is a very ancient insult.

Extract from Julio Caro Baroja, 'Witchcraft Amongst the German and Slavonic People', The World of the Witches (1964).

Recommended Reading

Witchcraft Out of the Shadows by Leo Ruickbie

Witchcraft History If you knew that there was one book that would change the history of witchcraft would you want to read it? Contains new analyses, fresh insights and previously unpublished material from the author's PhD research.

Wicca in the context of historical witchcraft from Ancient Greece to the Witch Hunts.

"Witchcraft out of the Shadows is an engaging book which deserves to be the benchmark for all future analyses of the Craft." - Alan Richardson

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