… Fire burn and brimstone bubble. Witches and witchcraft date back through the ages to when people worshipped the Mother Earth or nature goddess. It was a time before traditional religion when the unexplained was called magical and people with unique talents were special. The Old Religion which existed since the Stone Age was far from evil. These people were connected with the seasons, the plants, the animals and the planet and sought a balanced life. These special people were seers, knowers, healers, and averters of evil.
Over the centuries the nature goddess was replaced by more traditional religions and practices. The word witch only took on a negative meaning with the coming of Christianity, which taught that all the heathen gods were devils. And by association, anyone who clung to the old ways and the Old Religion was a devil worshipper.
The real roots of witchcraft and magic appear to come from the Celts, a diverse group of Iron Age tribal societies which flourished between about 700 BC and 100 AD in northern Europe. The Celts were a brilliant and dynamic people, gifted artists, musicians, storytellers, and metalworkers, as well as expert farmers and fierce warriors much feared by the Romans.
They were also a deeply spiritual people and believed in the many gods associated with Mother Earth, the Divine Creator. By about 350 BC, a priestly class known as the Druids had developed. They became the priests of the Celtic religion as well as teachers, judges, astrologers, healers, midwives and bards.
The religious beliefs and practices of the Celts, their love for the land, and their reverence of trees (the oak in particular) grew into what later became known as Paganism. Blended over several centuries with the beliefs and rituals of other societies, practices such as concocting potions and ointments, casting spells and performing works of magic, all of which (along with many of the nature-based beliefs held by the Celts and other groups) developed and became known as witchcraft in the Medieval Period.
There are many types of witches. The witchcraft of the Picts, the early inhabitants of what is now the Scottish Highlands, goes far back and differs from all the other types of witchcraft in Europe. This is Old Scotland and its history and legends are filled with stories of magickal workings, spells and charms. There are charms performed to increase farm production, to ensure a favorable wind for fishermen. Some seamen walked around a large monolith stone seven times to encourage a good trip/catch. Other people created charms such as the woodbine wreath. They would cut down woodbine (a form of honeysuckle) in March during the waxing moon (anytime between new moon and full moon) and twist the boughs into large wreaths. They kept the wreath for a year and a day. Young children suffering from a fever would be passed through the wreaths three times to be cured.
Old superstitions have a strong hold on people. There are hints of the ‘old ways’ even today. Some in Scotland carry a lucky penny or ‘peighinn pisich’ that they turn over three times at the first glimpse of a full moon.
There are many cases of Witchcraft throughout Scottish history, demonstrating the zeal of the Protestants and Catholics alike, in their paranoia over possible “servants of the devil.” The vast majority of Scottish Witches practiced as Solitaries (alone without a coven), only occasionally coming together for special celebrations.
Witchcraft was first made legally punishable, in Scotland, by an Act passed by the Scottish Parliament, in 1563 during the reign of Mary. Witch hunts swept through Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries and were fed by a mixture of superstition, religious fever, political motivation and general suspicion. No one was safe, not the peasant not the nobleman. Storms, diseases, and misfortunes had to be blamed on something or someone—witches were an easy target.
Kitchen Witch: Practices by home and hearth, mainly dealing with practical sides of the religion, magick, the elements, and the earth.
Ceremonial Witchcraft: Mainly use ceremonial magick in their practices such as Kabbalistic magick or Egyptian magick.
Satanic Witch: This doesn’t exist. Why? Contrary to the witch hunts of Europe and America, witches don’t believe in Satan.
Celtic Wicca: Believe in the elements, the Ancient Ones, and nature. They are usually healers. They work with plants, stones, flowers, trees, the elemental people, the gnomes, and the fairies.
Eclectic Witch: These witches don’t follow a particular religion or tradition. They study and learn from many different systems and use what works best for them.
British Traditional Witch: A mix of Celtic and Gardenarian beliefs. They train through a degree process and the covens are usually co-ed.
Alexandrian Tradition: They are said to be modified Gardenarian.
Gardenarian Tradition: Follow a structure rooted in ceremony and practice. They aren’t as vocal as others and have a fairly foundational set of customs.
Dianic Tradition: A compilation of many different traditions rolled into one. Their prime focus is the Goddess. It is the more feminist side of ‘The Craft’.
Pictish Witchcraft: It’s originally from Scotland and is a solitary form of The Craft. It is more magickal in nature than it is in religion.
Hereditary Witch: Someone who has been taught the ‘Old Religion’ through the generations of their family.
Caledonii Tradition: Also known as the Hecatine Tradition, it has its roots in Scotland.
Pow-Wow: Comes from South Central Pennsylvania and is a system based on a 400 year old Elite German magick. They concentrate on simple faith healing.
Solitary Witch: Any witch who practices alone, without a coven.
Strega Witches: Originally from Italy this group is known to be the smallest group in the US. It is said their craft is wise and beautiful.