Wicca, Witchcraft, Paganism.....it is all the same and puts fear in people when they hear the words "The Craft." What does it make you think? What was your first reaction? To most it means "satan," "the devil," evil, horror movies on T.V., teenage and adult murderers, and all the bad T.V. media coverage. When a person opens their minds and really finds out what Wicca/Pagans really are all about, most are shocked! Like I stated in my other pages, MOST of us, myself included, practice POSITIVE things and never negative.
The Craft has all been traced for the last 25,000 years, even before the Christian religion. The lines have been unbroken right up to todays presense in todays society. The Craft was born out of "Animistic Cults." The God of this controlled the wind, rain, hunts, waters, ect... It was at this time that Magick was first mixed with religion.
Together with the God the Goddess evolved. She was the symbol of fertility. She was just as important as the God because she was fertility to all animals, and people. This meant the continuence of life for both species. The God has changed little over the intervening millennia, while the Goddess changed dramatically with the advent of the agricultural society, and the Goddess expanded to cover the fertility of the crops. The year then fell into two halves, the Summer, when the Goddess expanded and the crops predominated and the Winter, when the people had to resort to hunting and the God predominated. With the Goddess and the God of hunting growing enpowered in the society, as the chiefs among deities, the other Gods fell into secondary roles, and then were finally forgotten. As the race spread across Europe, the Goddess and God were carried with them, and as the nations rose, and languages changed, the Names of the deities changed, but the essential force of the deities remained the same. The Celts, Heathens, Nordic, Greek, Latin's, and all other races have the same Goddess and God at the center of the religions.
With the development of civilization and the learning of the ability to store food, hunting became less important, and the God took the role of God of Nature and the Wild Places in general. The Goddess grew into both the Goddess of Fertility and the Goddess of Rebirth, as life after death and in reincarnation had evolved into the religion. As time progressed and the Rituals became more involved, a Priest class developed to insure the Rituals were carried out properly and the knowledge was carried on. These people became known as the Wicca, "The Wise Ones." The power of the Wicca was such that it infused the entire religious and political structure of the nations. The Kings of Anglo Saxon England would never make any important decisions without consulting the Witan, "The Counsel of Wise Ones."
With the coming of christianity, there never was the mass conversions that the christians claim. While whole nations were classified as christian due to the fact that the leaders had converted, the populace, in general, kept the old ways. The most important attempt at mass conversion was imposed on the Wicca by pope Gregory the Great. He ordered the constuction of new churches on the sites of the old temples and the creation of new holy days on Wicca Sabbots. The reality, the attempt was only partially successful, for the only available craftsman to build these temples were the Wiccan, and these craftsman very cleverly hid their Goddess and their God in the decorations of these churches. That way, when Wicca were forced to worship here, their Goddess and God images were also present. It was at this time that Lucifer, became the Horned Satan, the new christianized Image of the Goddess. The charge of Devil Worship is therefore a contribance of the christian church in an attempt to eraticate it's rival for the attentions of the populace. The contrived God of the new religions is the God of a complex civilization, developed to control a rebellious people, rather then the loving inbrace of the people, as they are, that the more Human Old Gods offer. As the influence of the new religion grew, through force of arms, the old ways only survived in the outlying districts and countries. These people became known as Pagans, from the Latin Pagani meaning people who live in the country and the Heathens, which means "One who dwells on the heath." The derogatory connotations are again undeserved and a contrivance of the new religion.
The persecution of the Old Way continued and grew with the advent of the Papal Bull against Witches of pope Innocent the VIII, in 1484. Two years later, two infamous German Monks, Henric Isnstitoris Krammer and Jacob Sprenger, produced the most baleful contrivance of anti Witchery ever produced. The Malleus Maleficarum (the Witch Hammer). In this book they provided definite instruction for the persecution of Witches. Although this book was never accepted by the appointed church censor, the approval was forged by the authors, and then the hysteria spread like wildfire throughout all of Europe. The forgery was not discovered until 1898.
Throughout all of Europe the new religion used Witchcraft as an excuse to murder any people they felt were an enemy to their church and god. The old, invalid, mentally ill, women, healers, and of course the true Witches. Since the Witches held fertility as an object of great importance, the christian Judges gave these sexual rites unnecessary prominence and seem to delight in the prying, often through torture the details concerning them from those accused of participating in them. The religion of Wicca is an extremally happy and joyous religion that was totally incomprehenceable to the dour and repressed inquisitrous and reformers. The total estimated number of people burned, hung, or tortured to death on the charge of Witchcraft 9 million.
It was during these times, the burning times, that the Craft began to go underground for safety. Also the members of the Craft realized that the Craft was indanger of losing all it's knowledge, as the Craft was being so mercilessly hunted and killed. The High Priestesses and High Priests began to keep records of the Rites, Rituals, and Esoteric knowledge. These books of the Craft were kept hidden from the enemies of the Craft, they were kept "In the Shadows" and it was thus that gave rise to the term "The Witches Book Of Shadows." It, The Burning Times, there was but one such book in a Coven, and all were contributors, but with the reassurance of above ground Witchcraft, in these modern times. It was to become accepted for each individual member of the Craft to have their own personal Book Of Shadows, which is, in the view of the Coven of the Fiery Skies, a very good thing, as this will help insure the dissemination of reclaimed knowledge, and there by help insure that it is not lost again. Modern Witches still use this as the title for their book to Honor our lost Sisters and Brothers. The Coven of the Fiery Skies encourages each of it's Witches to both maintain their own personal Book as well as contribute to the Covens Book Of Shadows.
By the late 17th century, the Craft was well underground, as it was also illigal to be a Witch, as well as against the Cannons of the church. In 1951, the last of these laws was repealed, and the first Witch to speak up in defense of his religion was Gardener, and through him, all of Witchcraft was able to resurface, in it's many forms. Now there are many Covens out in the open and many many more still in hiding and who practice solitary, fearing a resurgence of the persecutions. In America, the first Witch to come forward was Raymond Buckland. Sybil Leek, Gavin, Yvonne Frost followed in his footsteps, then a rush as more and more Covens came out into the open. Now, even the U.S. Army, with the publication of the Army pamphlet 165-13, A Handbook for Chaplin's, recognizes Witchcraft as a religion.
We have come a long way since the first Witches endured so much. I Honor all that gave their lives to bring us where we are today.