I have been having a ball “witch hunting” recently. Oh, what? You don’t witch hunt? Well, I’ve always had a thing for history and learning about different religions, cultures, and societies both ancient and modern. When I was in university I took a Women in History class and there was a segment on witches that I fell in love with.
The idea of witches/Wiccans/Satanists has been around since the biblical ages. Many scripts warn people of witches or those who practice Black Magic and say that any act of that sort is punishable by death. In early Europe though, especially in the UK and Ireland, peeps got a little carried away with this instruction causing tens of thousands of executions. It was especially scary if you happened to be born a woman and did anything out of the ordinary. Depending on how harsh your fellow townspeople were, you could be in danger of being called a witch if you had red hair or laughed in public. Or even if you were widowed.
This kind of behavior made it easy for men and women alike to accuse almost anyone of being Satan’s mistress. Often times if a fellow member of society didn’t like someone, they could say something like, “When she looked at me, her eyes pierced through my soul!” and bam–they were a considered a witch. It was a game of one person’s word against another’s.
Most people know how these medieval communities would judge if someone was a witch. It was pretty gruesome. Basically, the belief was, if you were a practicing witch, you wouldn’t be able to feel any pain or at least wouldn’t be capable of showing that you were hurt. It was also believed that witches couldn’t drown, so of course the easiest way to test this would be to hold suspects under water and if they drowned–congrats! They weren’t a witch! And if they didn’t, they would be put to death. A win/win really.
That’s not to say all women accused of such crimes weren’t practicing witchcraft. Some were. There have been accounts (some true, most probably false) of covens or circles of women that would meet in the forest at night, naked, sacrificing animals or even dead human children to Satan. Spooky stuff. There were also a handful of women who confessed to being witches in early modern Europe.
Most witches, but not all, had a vast knowledge about nature and the human body. Midwives who tried different techniques for removing children from their mother’s womb had to be careful not to be accused of magik. Same with those who had a keen sense of herbs, spices, and anything from the apothecary. This seems stereotypical but many witches, even today’s modern Wiccans have a profound knowledge of such things, as well as crystals, stones, and many animal and insect species.
Of course the scare of witches has moved all around the world. One of the biggest, most common hunts was in Salem, Massachusetts from 1692-93. This was a particularly popular case because there was mass hysteria and the public actually held court room trials about it.
You wouldn’t believe my excitement when I started to research witches/Wiccans in Victoria, B.C. (where I live now) and the results showed that it held, at one point, the highest population of witches in North America. Of course I quickly grabbed my purse and ran out the door to find out more about the topic. I went to a used book store and found their Wicca/witchcraft/occult section. I was looking more for a history of witches in B.C., but only found a lot of how-to books. Which were still amazingly cool.
I asked about a book that is out of print called Michelle Remembers. Every time I asked about it, people gave me a weird look and smile like, “Ohh you’re into that stuff?” Apparently this book is the maybe-true-maybe-false story of a girl who lived in Victoria that had insane night terrors to the point where she would find herself awake and screaming. She visited a psychologist who used hypnosis to find out the root of her problem. Apparently when she was younger, she was abused in satanic rituals. Super creepy. The book is out of print and impossible to find. But I’m on a waiting list for it. My husband of course has not only read it, but also been to the house where she lived. It’s been knocked down but the address numbers used to be 666. Spooooky! I feel like I’m telling ghost stories right now.
On my journey I visited a couple stores that focus on the metaphysical world. Both had a wide selection of books, but none on the history of witchcraft in general or in Victoria. And both had many crystals for sale. Recently I purchased a quartz crystal pendant, which not only looks chic, but also gives me power, energy, and clarity. Jus’ sayin’!
I was super intrigued when I visited a store in Fan Tan Alley (a 4 foot-wide alleyway downtown that people used to visit during the 19th century to illegally gamble, drink, and do other things…) called Triple Spiral where I talked to a woman about classes that I could take to learn about witchcraft/Wicca/occult magik. You even get to create your own spells and rituals! So cray cray. I guess it’s taught by some of the high priestesses in town and is supposed to be a great series of classes. It’s out of my price range though. How cool is it that they offer that kind of thing?
Lastly, here are some ways you can add a touch of witchy wonder to your drab, everyday life:
“Rihannon” by Fleetwood Mac
“Season of the Witch” by Donovan
“Wicked Annabella” by The Kinks
“Black Magic Woman” by Santana
“Witchy Woman” by The Eagles
“Wicked Witch” by Lene Lovich
“A Witch’s Promise” by Jethro Tull
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Michelle Remembers by Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder
The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe by Brian P. Levack
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft by Denise Zimmerman
The Crystal Bible by Judy Hall
Wicked nail polish by Essie
Black Shatter nail polish by OPI
Magic Spell Juicy Tube by Lancome
Ceridwen’s Cauldron bath melt by Lush
Magic Ink liquid eyeliner by Benefit
The Witches (1990)
Practical Magic (1998)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
American Horror Story: The Coven (FX 2013)
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Harry Potter (2001)
Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Poison (or regular) apples
Lots o’ black
Long billowy skirts or dresses
Opium by Yves Saint Laurent
Midnight Poison by Dior