History of the Craft Part 1

So I finally figured out the name of the book. It’s called Teaching Witchcraft: A Guide for Teachers and Students of the Old Religion by Miles Batty

My mentor once told me that it’s important to know where you’ve been so you can determine where you are going.

Another of my personal favorite quotes from my father and many others is “Study the past or you are doomed to repeat it.”

Both are important lessons.  All religions have been discriminated against. The Jews have been persecuted, the Christians thrown to the lions, the crusades, and the pagans were burned at the stake. Some people may say that the past is the past, but most times when society follows that rule the past repeats itself and we end up in another pointless war.

So lets take a glance back to the beginning of how archaeologist and anthropologist think this religion has formed.

Way back in the 25000 BC man was just mastering fire and trying to get with the conversation by learning rudimentary language.  Lots of tribes roamed the world and settled in different parts of it before the world broke apart separating them all.  He made tools, learned the cycle of the seasons, and figured out what plants could help or hurt them.

From there man developed the earl concepts of religion.  Early artwork on cave walls indicates that they most likely practiced animism, or a belief that all plants and animals posses a diving spirit.  One of the first archaeologist to propose this was Edward Taylor in his discourse Primitive Cultures; Researches Into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art and Custom. This indicates that early man was aware of the duality of life and importance of nature within their lives.

As time went on they developed the concept of the God and the Goddess around 20000 BC as noted by Baring and Cashford in The Myth of the Goddess. They worshiped these deities to promote the hunt, fertility, and other activities essential to their survival.   Some tribes wore the skin of the bear to essentially (or magickally) become the bear.

And time went on. Civilizations developed. Man became more aware and religion grew.  Some deities traveled far across the world by word of mouth, while others were only ever local to their region.  From there religion, in its many forms took on a life of its own.

The Birth of WicceCraft

Then around 15000 BC, according to the book, man learned greater understanding of spirituality by tracking the sun and moon, the cultivation of herbs, and even the early development of magick as we know it.

The God and Goddess had become prolific and essential to common life. Customs and rituals were developed to mirror and enhance the cycles of the year. They developed rituals to help them have children, to raise the crops, and all the things that magick is still used for today.  This of course, led to leaders that would eventually become known as priest and priestess.  They were sages who offered advice and who were better able to lead the rituals.

In some places these people became known as the Wicce (pronounced Wee-kee) or the Wise ones.  By 5000 BC there was no political leader who did not employ the advice of one of these wise ones.  But the wise ones weren’t just for the leaders, they served the people as well.   They acted as midwifes, herbalist, mediums between the living and the dead, and created spells to enhance the lives of the people.  And the word Wicce also had a second definition: Shapers of Reality. It just depended on if you went by the Saxon or Germanic Definition.

Druids

Around 2000 BC another path diverged from Wicce.  In the Celtic lands (what would later become France, Britain, and Ireland) the Druids had arisen.  They started as a caste of priests, both male and female, who oversaw the spiritual growth of those in these lands.  The druids developed forms of divination, stone masonry, and herbal lore.  They were the first to discuss the ley-lines, which are lines of force or power deep within the earth.  To many other ancient mystics they were known as the Dragon Track. They built stonehenge and many other sites on these ley-lines. Whether or not you believe in that is beside the point. They were the big thing in paganism in their era.

If you want to learn more about the druids there are plenty of good books out there.  I would start with some history books first though. And maybe I’ll do a post on them once I’ve finished with all the posts I currently want to write.

Anglo Saxon Shamanism

As we’re coming to see paganism began to split in similar ways to Christianity.  Different groups found slightly different ways to do things and diverged based on the culture of their particular areas.  It is important to understand these divergences, so that we can understand where some of our modern practices come from.

The anglo saxons grew from around 4000 to 1000 BC. They came up with the Wyrd (pronounced weard). It was seen as the guiding force of life. the anglo saxons propsed that man could let the wyrd take him as it wishes or that he could use his own will to control (to some extent) where the Wyrd tossed him.  It is preconceived by some sources as the first mention of fate or destiny.

There are two perceptions of the Wyrd.  The Wryd is all-encompassing and instant all at the same time. It is here, and then, and the future all at once.  Secondly, it is a guiding force. It doesn’t control you, but it gently pushes you toward destiny or your calling.

To quote the book:

“Modern Witches use the wisdom of Anglo-Saxon  Shamanism and the Wyrd to better understand the flow of magick in their lies, and in recognizing their place in the cosmos. Incidentally, there is an excellent modern interpretation of the Wyrd: Jedi Knights call it the Force. 

Northern Religions

While the Druids gathered herbs and the Wicce practiced in the East, there was a new movement in the North.  The Norse culture arrived on the scene around 2000 BC.  They were nomads who followed the call of the wild and survival.  These were what would later become the Germanic people.

While we don’t know a whole lot about their whole religious structure, we do know some of the Gods they worshiped and some of their practices. We know that they had two groups the Aesir and the Vanir. Most of what we know is about the Aesir.

Their witches were and still are called the Asatru, which means loyalty to the Aesir.  We know that while they primarily worshiped the Aesir, they most likely treated the Vanir in the same way the Catholics honor the saints.  The Asatru do not celebrate the sabbats as we know them, but they do have their own.

For more information see the Asatru Alliance.

Hebrew and the Kabbalah

Meanwhile, on the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean, there were Hebrew scholars developing the Kabbalah.  It is essentially a complicated mish mash of philosophy, science, mysticism, and is ever evolving.  They are traditions of doctrine not revealed to the general masses.  Supposedly they were given to angels from Jehovah, who gave it to man after his fall from grace.  Moses is said to have taught it to seventy elders during Exedous and it was passed by oral tradition until it was finally written down.

The Kabbalah says that God is all things: good, evil, man, woman, in and out. Sounds a bit like some other pagan traditions right? The Kabbalah supposedly represents the organized patterns of the universe and through its study the mysteries of the universe may be discover-able.

Throughout the middle ages it was studied by alchemist in attempts to reach divinity, create gold, and figure out the secrets of life.  It is sad to note however, that because it was Hebrew in origin, and promoted the use of magick and esoteric philosophies, the Church assumed it to be evil.  Over time it became a heretical practices among most Jewish communities as well.  Today there are still witches that use the Kabbalah in their own studies and practices.  In fact, there are several books that relate the Kabbalah to the tarot even though they are separate practies.

Other Folks Other Strokes (Gods of other Cultures)

Along the nile, the Egyptians created their own form of paganism.  While living in the blazing heat of the sun, the pantheon that developed there reflected their lives.  Their gods personified humans and animals in combination.  Many of their gods were derived from the Gods of other cultures past.

The Greeks prospered from 3000 to 1000 BC. They defended their lands and fought when negotiations failed.  This was a major pantheon as, By 500 BC, Athens was the center of the civilized world.  Their influence would flow from their lands to Spain and India.  Philosophy was the fad of the day and as the Greeks were the father’s of it, the Greek Pantheon was revered around the known world.

 

Conclusion

There were a lot of faiths that spurred from the meager beginnings of a neolithic tribal faith.  We are a growing religion that stems from a long history of very different groups with very different ideas.

In part two We’ll talk about the burning times. The fear, the destruction, and the unnecessary death of thousands, man of them innocents. And all because of fear. A fear that would set us back until the modern revival of the old religion.

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