I have been asked this countless times- I think the common assumption is that a witch is a female- but there have been male witches for just as long as females. So, if you just want the short answer – all genders are included under the term WITCH.
That’s it…but I’ll back that statement up below 👇👇👇
Witchcraft has been well documented from the 1400’s on- but before everyone caught “witch fever” and started dunking, crushing and burning them, there were tons of happy little witches with great jobs- they were the town or village’s “wise” or “cunning folk” -they knew shit that other people didn’t. Magick shit. They were alchemists, astrologers, midwives, mathematicians, and herbalists. They were also the Reign’s “mystics” or “healers.” They were the trusted advisors of the Protector of the Realm (yes, I went there with the GOT reference just now.) These jobs were not exclusively held by men or women.
The 14th and 15th centuries saw a surge in what is referred to as Renaissance Magic. Basically, this is where your sorcerers and “wizards” came from. The Key of Solomon was most likely written around then. See, right around then, there were influences from EVERYWHERE all over the place. Art and magic, necromancy and chiromancy (palm reading) were things that had filtered in from Arabic, Jewish, Romani, and Egyptian sources. The aristocracy loved it and couldn’t get enough.
In the 90’s there was a Robin Hood movie made (again) and the bad guy had a witch, she was amazing- remember her? No one even cared. It was like she was part of his hype crew- it was the Sheriff, his cousin and the Sheriff’s witch. Just the facts.
Robin Hood took place in –presumably– around the late 12 and early 1300’s. Just before they decided witches were extra scary- no matter what kind of sorcery they practiced, even if it was “Godly”…just ask Joan of Arc.
Lots of the earliest “witches” were locked tightly in a relationship their gods. They were theologists and artists who copied and created sacred texts, and they were warriors for them. Super gnarly ones too…
In August C. Krey’s, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eye-Witnesses and Participants, Princeton & London, 1921, one crusader’s account goes like this:
- “Wonderful sights were to be seen. Some of our men (and this was more merciful) cut off the heads of their enemies; others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers; others tortured them longer by casting them into flames. Piles of heads, hands and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one’s way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious services are normally chanted . . . in the temple and the porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins.”
*I think it’s worth noting here that this Solomon is not the same Solomon as The Key of Solomon. We’ll get into that later….just remember that for now.
The Pope who decided he’d had enough of the Turks, and decided to start some crusades, was Pope Urban II. He kinda did it to get some serious heat off of him as the person everyone was looking to for information on the problems they were having with the Germans, and France was being a pain for him at the time too- so what better way to get the attention off of him than to suggest people start purifying the earth of heathens and make it all pretty for god?
Spoiler alert: it worked really well.
Suddenly there were SO MANY people, professional soldiers, and regular citizens alike, ready to wield a sword for God and stamp out the barbaric sinners.
The origins of Christianity go back to the Hellenistic period, when gods and men walked the earth together. There was bound to be a certain amount of magick that transferred from the Old Ways to the new. Folks were either exhausted by or just plain over the idea of so many gods. Some started getting forgotten, some got merged into one, and some disappeared altogether. The Christian God was one of the offshoots, and some of the old magic was still there, for sure… By bringing all the gods into one God, everyone knew they were talking to the same person, that their energies were focused. So, people could now worship more effectively. oh, also, if there is just ONE good guy- aka: God, then there is also just ONE bad guy. The Devil- aka: Satan, aka: Lucifer- aka: all sorts of shit…
Thanks rulers. I feel so much more focused now.
Basically, the Christian religion came out of Judaism. For awhile, after the Hellenistic period, it was just Judaism- kinda mixed with a bunch of leftover stuff from the old gods…but then the guy in charge at the time, Caligula, decided he wanted to be called “Jupiter” and thought his people should start worshiping him, and then, shit started to fall apart. …then came the pagans who worshiped the earth and the seasons, and then came Jesus.
So, before Jesus- pretty much, witchcraft and sorcery of all kinds were pretty normal- and for awhile afterwards, magical things stayed pretty much under the radar. People who didn’t live “in the city” or the village or whatever, didn’t have anyone looking at them to see if they were worshiping the Christ God. No one really cared, except for in the city. Out of sight- out of mind. The Original English word Pagan, simply meant someone who lived in the country. No big deal- but then the Vikings and their Heathen Army changed that. So the “Christian” English definition of the word Pagan became saltier… Christians and Pagans both made sacrifices or offerings to their gods at one time in their histories, and there were trusted individuals who kept traditions and rituals alive. Lots of time priests- of whatever order was the current reign- or whoever the Pagan leader of the local village was- but for the early part of magickal history- we see men more than women. There’s actually a pretty simple explanation for why…
Women were not educated for a very long time. A woman who could read, may have only ever read the Bible or another “approved” text. You can’t even find stuff on women being educated until around 1700. In ancient cultures, there were certainly high-born women who could, and did learn to read- but the sad truth is that many women did not. In fact, many people did not, except for those (mostly men) who learned through some higher order, be it birth or god. So the majority of our known alchemists and sorcerers were men…the same was true of Christian witches, (or monks) who spent their lives dedicated to the reproduction and illumination of the sacred texts. This was something women were forbidden from doing- which made it particularly tasty in the show Vikings when the King grants Judith her freedom to learn to paint the holy word.
This was almost too progressive of him- the guy he hires to teach her refuses at first on holy grounds- and while it is a work of fiction based on fact, the truth remains that there is fact in it. Women weren’t the original keepers of the Christian religion, and since “witchcraft” was a propaganda that male Christians decided to make up and sell that was supposedly based in opposition to the Holy Bible, women were likely not the first “witches” by Christian definition. They wouldn’t have known the holy texts well enough to pervert them. It had to be an inside job…
Women may have been the first- and the most to suffer it, but the knowledge that they “exploited” was held first, by men. Christianity is a Patriarchal faith. The men are in charge there. Not so much with the pagans.
In some years time, the patriarchy gave a new face to the Pagan. No longer was it the sage old man, crooked over his books who lived in the countryside-
Now, the new face of magic, malice, Pagans and heathens- was a woman’s.
In 15th century England- any number of things could get you accused of, and tried for, witchcraft. They cited things like third nipples, the inability to recite The Lord’s Prayer without error, or the ability to float as proof of witchcraft and heathenry. The fact that The Black Plague was super busy wiping out a shit ton of Europe at the time, did not give people less anxiety about witches. Now they feared they could, and did, corrupt everything- from sickening your livestock to bringing The Black Death, or even The Devil himself, to your door. If it was bad, and it happened- #BlameItOnTheWitches. This bullshit went on for damn near 400 years and just when they started to GTF over it- around 1887 all of a sudden- there were witches all over America.
Oh- hi, Salem witch trials…
So, if you really look at the history- I feel pretty comfortable in saying we can share the term. If anything, the boys had it first…like high heels 👠😁👠