Witches. They are everywhere. In the movies and books, some are real, and some are not. As a practice, witchcraft has endured throughout history. Witchcraft is a practice that has been taken throughout history. There are stories and myths galore, both good and bad. Today we are going to look at ten weird facts. So let’s get to it.
1) There is no origin story for the word witch.
There is no record of the first usage of the word. It’s believed it could have come from the word “wicce”. Wicce means “female sorceress”. Wicce is the basis of the word Wiccan. It makes sense.
2)Witches didn’t wear pointy hats.
In 1215, Pope Innocent III decreed all Jews must wear a peaked hat. This caused rampant anti-Semitism. I equated the Jewish people with demons and heretics. In the 1700s, the image of the Jews wearing this hat became the image of an old hag, with a crooked nose and a witches’ hat. Rude!
3) Witches did “Fly “on broomsticks, although, not the way you’re thinking.
Witches were herbalists. They experimented with a lot of plants and flowers. The herb and potions they created for rituals contained mandrake. Mandrake contains chemicals that cause feelings of euphoria. In higher doses, it causes hallucinations.
The ointment was used in rituals that required the witch to be astride a broom. This would create a pleasant feeling that gave the witches the feeling of flying. I’ll let you use your imagination on that one.
4) Not all witches were wicked.
There were good witches that practiced “white magic” as it’s called. These were herbalists, healers, and therapists. One of Booktubes’ favorite good witches is Diana Bishop from A Discovery of Witches. The books, written by Deborah Harkness, show witches as well in a few words, nice, caring, and gracious.
5) There are entire books dedicated to the art of witch-hunting.
Zen and the Art of Witch Hunting? Witch Hunting for Soccer Moms? Probably not.
In 1486, a German priest, Heinrich Kramer, wrote a book called “Malleus Maleficarum”. This translates to “Hammer of Witches”. This book elevates witchcraft to the criminal status of heresy.
The Royal Court in the 16th and 17th centuries used this book. The “Malleus Maleficarum” led to increased brutality towards witches.
James I of England (the guy that took over after Elizabeth 1 died.) wrote a book called “Daemonologie” in 1597. This book let the people know that witch hunters had the King’s full support and how to hunt witches.
These books are still available on Amazon. Don’t hunt any witches, ok?
6) Pope Innocent VIII confirmed witches exist.
In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull, recognizing the existence of witches. He deemed them a threat to the Catholic Church and its followers. The Pope read the “Malleus Maleficarum” which confirmed all his fears. Because of the papal bull (a public notice), Kramer and Sprenger, the authors of the book carte blanch to handle witches as they saw fit.
7) Witchcraft laws were in place until the mid-20th century.
Yep. But then again, there are also some strange laws that are still on the books. In 1944, they found Jane Rebecca Yorke guilty of witchcraft. This was because the Witchcraft Act of 1735 was still in effect. It’s believed that they actually arrested her for defrauding people. They finally took this law off the books in 1951.
8) Witch hunters targeted everyone, not only women.
It’s true. Witch hunters arrested, tried, and executed men, women, cats and birds as being witches. Cat’s especially, were the prime targets of witch hunters. It didn’t matter. If they thought it to be a witch, it was a witch.
9) They needed no evidence to arrest, convict, and execute suspected witches.
Who knew? <—that’s actually extreme sarcasm. It is unfortunate that this is true. People were being accused of witchcraft for the simplest of reasons. Your cow dies, three days after Goody Whatever looks at you strangely in church. She’s a witch. They have cursed you and that is why your cow died.
10) They did not burn witches at the stake.
When thinking about the executions of witches, we can’t help but imagine the guilty person on a burning pyre. During the Salem Witch Trials, they burned no one at the stake. Actually, no one was executed by burning at the stake in the American colonies. There was one man, Giles Corey, that was pressed to death by court order. History has given us a lot of gory, horrific execution stories of witches. They mostly hung the convicted witches.