The practice of magick. Often practiced by pagans who refer to themselves as witches. One such group of pagans are Wiccans, it is important to note that although all Wiccans are witches, not all witches are Wiccan.

The definition that anthropologists give to witchcraft places it on a spectrum with religion, sorcery, and magic. Religion is all belief and no empiracal evidence. Witchcraft is mostly belief and a little evidence. Sorcery can be practiced by anyone and is part belief, part evidence. Magic is no belief and all evidence- it comes from people thinking they're being magiced, and the stress can actually kill them- it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A neo-Pagan religion that was recognized as a legitimate religion in 1982 in the United States, therefore receiving all of the protection given to all other religions, including Christians.

There was a fairly public trial last year regarding a girl in Oregon who fought for the right to wear her pentacle to school.

The concept of witchcraft in the middle ages depended on certain presuppositions. These included the beliefs that the devil and his subordinates, such as demons, imps, incubi, and succubi, were real and had power in the world; that people could have physical relations with them; and that contracts between people and demons could be enforced.

In the satanic witchcraft of the middle ages, witches were thought to be servants of the devil. In return for serving the devil according to contract, witches allegedly received certain powers, particularly to cause or cure illness or transfer it from one person to another; to raise storms and make rain or, sometimes, to cause drought; to produce impotence in men and sterility in women; and to cause crops to fail, animals to be barren, and milk to go sour. They were believed to be able to arouse love through the use of philters and potions and to destroy love by charms and spells; and to do harm or even bring about death by the so-called evil eye, or by sticking pins into a wax figure of the victim. They supposedly could become invisible and fly with the aid of a broom or special ointments. Witches allegedly foretold the future; animated inanimate objects, revived the dead, and conjured up other spirits; and transformed themselves and others into animals, particularly cats and wolves.

Witches in Europe in medieval times and later were organized into covens of 12 members, mainly but not exclusively females, and a leader usually a male. The leader was considered the vicar of the devil and was regarded by many of his simpler worshipers as the devil himself. Traditionally, he was represented as dressed all in black or in the guise of a goat.

Acts against witchcraft were passed in England in 1541, 1562, and 1601. The last person tried under these laws was Jane Wenham of Walkern in Hertfordshire in 1712, though I can't tell you the outcome. In Scotland a witch-burning took place in Sutherland in 1722, and in Ireland that of Bridget Cleary at Cloneen in Co. Tipperary on 15 March 1895 (sic).

Modern laws against the practice began with the 1736 act against pretending to use witchcraft, and in 1824 act classes it as vagrancy. These days there is a loophole that says if you do these things for "entertainment" it's okay, which is why alas astrologers have escaped long prison sentences for fraud.

Anyone who sniggered at the Tipperary business might like to know that a case of trial by ordeal occurred in Charleston, North Carolina, on 26 February 1951. I wish I had more details.

CJ Carella's WitchCraft
A RPG by Eden Studios, Inc.

The world of WitchCraft is a world of myth, magic, and conspiracies. On the face of it, it is our world. The average Joe has no idea of the forces at work. But hidden in the framework of society are legends. The Knight Templars exist. Wiccans can tap into the power of nature. The Rosicrucians have lodges across the world. And darker powers wait for the unwary.

Players can play a wide range of characters, from magical adepts to hard-nosed detectives, werewolves to Immortals. The setting has some resemblance to White Wolf's World of Darkness, though with a grittier, more realistic aspect.

WitchCraft is run off of d10 based Unisystem. This class-less, level-less method is a bit like a cross between GURPS and BESM. There is a wide range of skills and abilities, and a little bit of competence will go a long way. Basic attributes (strength, dexterity, etc.) are added to the applicable skill (such as stealth). The player adds that number to a roll on a d10, and succeeds if the final number is 9 or above. Of course, if the task is particularly hard or easy, that number can change.

Angels and Zombies:
WitchCraft has many sourcebooks and spin-offs. Two of the more popular are All Flesh Must Be Eaten, a zombie and zombie-hunter game, and Armageddon, which takes the WitchCraft world into a possible future. That world has everything WitchCraft has, plus angels, devils, demons, godlings, World War III, and the Anti-Christ.

/msg me if you want me to add/change something

Throughout the years, people accused of practicing witchcraft have had a bad rap with the Catholic Church. Though, no viable reason has ever been given, between the years of 1275 and 1929 a minimum of 173,408 people were persecuted for being accused of witchcraft (Europe and America only). During the Spanish Inquisition, 30,000 people (mostly Jewish) were killed for supposedly practicing witchcraft. 80 were killed in the same fire in 1574 at Valery-En-Savoie, France. One person was killed in Pennsylvania, USA in 1929.

Altogether throughout 1275 and 1929 just between Europe and the United States:

2,386+ people in France,

114,517+ people in England,

24,577+ people in Germany,

30,303+ people in Spain,

25 people in the United States of America,

That's a total of 173408+ people killed for being a witch (according to the Catholic Church). That's one person a day for 475 years!

One interesting possibility for the sudden increase in witchcraft and witch hunts during the Middle Ages is linked to a global period of colder climate, commonly known as the Little Ice Age, (LIA) which is thought to have begun in the 11th century and lasted up until the 19th century. (These dates are highly contested, some schools believing the Little Ice Age really began in the 15th century and the three hundred years before were just a period of climatic fluctuation and deterioration culminating in the cold period.)

The beginning of the LIA brought about a time of increased precipitation, heavy snowfall and frequent unpredictable and violent stroms, as well as seasonally low temperatures. These climatic trends are particularly noticeable during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, beginning to stabilise by the 17th century. The environmental factors, combined with various outbreaks of plague and other epidemics, put many rural areas of Northern Europe into economic and social crisis. Due to the severe weather conditions, which shortened growing seasons, flattened crops and flooded landscapes, food became more and more scarce and rural subsistence farmers struggled to support themselves and their families. This change in weather pattern was particularly bad as it followed a period of warmer climate, in which population density had increased and warmer environment crops had been favoured. These crops were badly hit by the colder conditions and a widespread increase in infant mortality, famine and malnutrition seems to dominate the human landscape of Early Medieval Europe.

But what does this have to do with a rise in witchcraft?

It was not unusual for minority groups to be blamed for freak events that were out of human control. Epidemics were frequently blamed on lepers, and the Black Death was thought to have been related to the Jews. These people were not responsible for the events, but were used as a convenient scape-goat by a populace driven to distraction by hunger, disease and fear. Witches were just the next convenient scape-goat to be named and persecuted. (A similar type of scape-goating can be seen in Britain today in the mutterings of 'Thatcher' every time something goes wrong...)

The first reported witch hunts began during the trials of the Spanish Inquisition in the late 14th Century, when magic and weather control became popular as a sign of heresey (unsurprisingly). The Christian church, however, refused to get involved in this debate maintaining that it was impossible for people to control the weather as this could only be an act of God, or of the Devil. In 1484 Heinrich Kramer, a dominican friar of the Alsation Republic, urged the Pope to persecute witches as the harbingers of crop destruction and for working in league with the devil. Kramer had already tried to incite witchhunts on religious grounds and after his endorsment by the Pope, wrote the Malleus maleficarum, or Witches Hammer - a notorious book detailing why to not believe in and work towards destroying witches was heretical, and how to go about spotting witches. Over the next three decades this book became the accepted truth in the hunting of witches and was used to justify the persecution, torture and murder of many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people.

In the early 16th Century, humanitarians such as Erasmus of Rotterdam and Agrippa von Nettesheim appealed against the witches hammer, and the belief in witches altogether. Their voices, along with the changing ideas brought about by the Reformation brought an end to the use of the malleus maleficarum in Inquisitions and witch hunts. Weather control once again became something thought to be impossible by people and everyone thought that the witch trials were a thing of the past.

The early 16th century had been a period of stability within the LIA, but the effects were not yet over. During the 1560's the weather once again became wetter and colder, with violent and 'unnatural' storms began to occur across Europe once more. This was combined with a period of political instability with many landowners attempting to increase their power. As the suspicion of witchcraft and weather control once again gained credence, many landowners gave in to the wishes of their communities and reinstated the hunting, imprisonment and torture of witches. Large cities did not seem to suffer from the widespread panic that rocked the smaller communities with very little mention of witchcraft occuring in Imperial centres. Peasant communities however, on the verge of perishing in the harsh conditions, demanded retribution.

The late 16th century was to be the peak of the witch hunts, and also the peak of the weather conditions associated with the Little Ice Age. Prolonged winters, wet summers and frequent storms destroyed vineyards and orchards, fields and pastures, instilling a 'Great Fear' in the people dependant on those resources for their livelihood. It is during this time that we see the greatest amount of mob mentality as communities took witch hunting into their own hands and would frequently hunt down suspected witches and obtain confessions from them, (through any means possible) before taking them to the authorities to be formally eradicated. The death toll is unclear but from the numbers cited in the nodes above, it is a very large and distubing number. Especially when many, if not all, of these people were just those on the margins of society who perhaps didn't conform to the social norm of the time, or who disagreed with the Catholic Church.

By the 17th century the effects of the LIA were lessening, and a new era, the Age of Enlightenment swept away many of the old beliefs of the previous centuries. The political situation in Europe also stabilised, small landowners once again being able to take control in their rural communities. In areas where there was still political unrest, witch persecution continued as late as the 18th century but was becoming less and less widespread with every passing decade.

Links between the Little Ice Age and the rise in the European belief in witches is a relatively new theory, but seems to bear up quite well. Periods of intense witch hunting activity can be closely linked to episodes of severe climatic change. There are, of course, other factors at work, such as the political and religious framework of Europe at the time, but it cannot be denied that the deteriorating environmental conditions went some way to increasing the fear and mania within local communities.

Wolfgang Behringer's recent report on the links between the LIA and witchcraft formed the basis for this discussion.
See also:
For two sites filled with information about the witches hammer and the early 16th century witch hunts.

Witch"craft` (?), n. [AS. wiccecraeft.]


The practices or art of witches; sorcery; enchantments; intercourse with evil spirits.


Power more than natural; irresistible influence.

He hath a witchcraft Over the king in 's tongue. Shak.


© Webster 1913.

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