Witches: their origin and history.

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March 02, 2022

To this day we cannot define exactly the date and place where the first notions of sorcery and magic arise, but we know that their existence dates back at least 5000 years of antiquity.

Ritual practices to influence the environment are known to date back to several very ancient proto-European cultures, ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Vedic India, among others.

What is the origin of witches’ ritual practices?

It is difficult to go back to the origins of magical thinking, but as early as classical antiquity there are the first documents that speak of certain women with the ability to transform themselves at will and transform other animals.

We must try to understand these phenomena, which sought to favour the opening of perception using substances that bridged the gap between the logical world and the supernatural, releasing the rational structures and opening the mind to contact with the subtle reality.

Greek and Roman culture:

In Greek and Roman cultures there were great associations between magic, healing, and women. Among the best known are the Eleusinian mysteries, initiation rituals in honour of Demeter, goddess of life, agriculture and fertility and her daughter Persephone.

In them, the fast was broken with the use of kykeon, a drink composed of a potent psychoactive, in which the participants in these rites reached states of mystical revelation. In these mysteries appeared the idea of a lower world, of a life after death and it was suspected that ergot of rye was used and perhaps some other psychoactive element such as psilocybin or amanitas.

In Roman times, before the arrival of Christianity, the cult of Diana spread throughout the empire. Goddess of hunting, nature, and the moon. Figures like this goddess appeared in other Mediterranean cultures, generally accompanied by other nymphs. Also in Rome magic was a widespread belief. In the sorcery of the ancient world, substances and preparations that were combined and ritually applied to alter passions or regain balance were essential.


However, with the establishment of Christianity in Europe, everything changes. The efforts for religious unification in Europe were first outlawed and then harshly condemned. In those early years, paganism and Christianity lived together in harmony.

In fact, many of the Christian traditions such as Easter and Christmas were established on the summer-winter solstices coinciding with prominent holidays of the ancient pagan traditions. All this set of festive practices of nature worship continued to be performed in many different territories and their roots were anchored in ancient times.

With the passing of the centuries, what were innocent ancestral practices of respect and worship to the earth, were branded as acts directed by the devil, being repressed with great violence by the civil and ecclesiastical justice, giving rise to savage and cruel acts against women.

As these practices were demonized, the people themselves generated increasingly fantastic myths and fables. These women, already labelled as witches, were attributed powers beyond what the knowledge of plants and a more connected experience to existence gave them. Accusations of witchcraft against women were repeated in many European countries.

The new order would bring consequences of incalculable adversity for women, who seemed to be more predestined to evil than men according to biblical texts. As the centuries progressed, the church hardened its stance and condemnation was transformed into real persecution, a tool used in many cases to maintain order and reinforce its own authority. This directly generated a disempowerment of women and meant centuries of hardship for the female gender.

What were the covens?

To better understand what happened in the covens, we need to know more about how medieval women lived. At this time, much of the rural population lived in small communities of a few families, often around a parish and an environment dominated by a feudal lord who had almost full power over his subjects. Families slept together in a single room, even living together with animals in some cases.

Under these roofs, beatings, incest and constant abuse of women and children were common. Women were highly repressed in almost all aspects and lived a precarious and miserable existence. Some women started from a tradition of great knowledge of plants that were used for healing, fertility, and small home remedies.

For centuries, pagan gatherings or festivals had been held in honour of the fertility of the earth, represented by the goat. In these ceremonies it was common to use ointments made from plants with psychotropic properties, which allowed women to escape from a highly repressive environment. Datura stramonium, belladonna, mandrake and even mushrooms and toadstools were used in these celebrations.

In the beginning they had a more innocent character and were pure festivities where sometimes mockery of power was made, parodying the feudal lord and the parish priest. But as the centuries passed, these rituals became wilder parties, where women escaped from this oppressive context, in orgies of great debauchery and in some cases all kinds of aberrations. We hope it will serve as an inspiration to many women, helping them to recover their space as women of power, where healing and knowledge of nature will make them connect with the true essence of witches.

If you want to learn more about the phenomenon of witches, we invite you to visit our course Witches, the knowledge of the healing woman, from Conscious Television.