by Marci Schwartz

To look at the subject of witches, one really must break them into two groups. There are the witches that come to most people’s minds when the word is said and there are the modern day witches who are largely misunderstood.

The common “witch” that is thought of when one hears the word involves an ugly woman riding a broom, casting spells of misfortune upon people that are around her. This witch is truly viewed as a monster. You get this idea from childhood stories that we grew up hearing, movies, and even history books. This misconception led to the death of thousands of people, starting in the early thirteenth century.

Originally, the idea of witches dated back to early antiquity when Greek and Roman gods and goddesses were thought to be the only magical thing around. The idea of a witch was actually considered a sign of good fortune because the gods had looked kindly down upon you and granted you with the gift of magic. Over the years though, this “gift” began to be looked upon as heresy to the church and as a satanic religion. When the witch-hunt crazes started, it is questionable whether there were really any real witches around anymore. Most of the accusations branched from family feuds, jealousy, greed, and people looking for a source of their misfortunes. It is questionable whether witches really existed until the twentieth century.

The other witch that not many people know of is the modern day witch. They are more like the yoga-doing, incense-burning, nature loving following that practice the Wiccan religion. They are not associated with evil or Satan, nor do they dress in gothic attire. Instead, these witches are all around you and are a peaceful earth-based religion that worships a god and goddess. They care a great deal about nature and work on channeling energy within themselves. They do not have supernatural powers, nor do they cast spells. Instead, today’s witches learn how to use the natural energy you are born with and use it in his or her life.

In both the past and the present, it is though witches act as lightning rods for when calamity strikes. They are our scapegoat for when things go wrong. Luckily, things are starting to change for the modern witch though. As more people learn about them, the prejudices and fears will start to go away, as will our idea of the witch as a monster.

Annotated Bibliography

Ankarloo, Bengt and Stuart Clark. Witchcraft and Magic in Europe. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.

This book contains a wide assortment about witches starting with early antiquity and the heroic age. The book mainly focuses on Greek and Roman history and lore. Though it makes reference to the seventeenth-century witch-hunts, the book’s main attention is focused on the centuries before this. There is much mention of gods and goddesses in this book, as well as many biblical and religious references. It is more focused towards the magic side, rather than witches, however. Though it contains information on goddesses that were considered witches, there is little help with actual events that occurred. There is a plethora of information, but it might not be as helpful towards this topic.

Hoyt, Charles Alva.  Witchcraft. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1981.

This book focuses on the question to whether witches ever really existed before the twentieth century. It goes into depth on the reasons behind the start of the witch-hunt craze, as well as other historical happenings. The book takes makes different positions and views to try and cover different angles of the occurrences. It states the facts in a clear manner without the large terminology that some of the other books use. This volume tries to cover most of the subjects concerning this topic in a quick to read manner. Though it does not go into a lot of depth on any one topic, it is a great source of general information pertaining to this topic of witches.

Thurston, Robert W. Witch, Wicce, Mother Goose. Harlow: Longman, 2001.

This source takes more of an analytical view of the witch-hunts and religion. The book analyzes the hunts from the perspective of geographic location and social structure as the cause. It also looks at the gender roles played in these societies and why women were the more likely accused. This book is intended to make you think along different lines about a subject that most people know the basics of. It focuses on the start of things, as well as the victims and processes of death occurring as a result. There is also reference to stereotypes today dues to tat of children’s stories we are raised listening to involving the “bad witches.” This is a good source that goes deeper on topics that are usually only generally covered.

Witches’ League for Public Awareness. http://www.celticcrow.com 1999.

This site contains what you need to know about the modern day witches. There are facts, links to articles, and some history of witches and their religion. The site is meant to cause awareness of what witches are and aren’t and has the purpose of correcting misconceptions about the religion of Wicca. It is a site based for, not only the curious that are interested in the religion, but also the prejudice that misconstrue their ideas. Overall, this is a good site to learn about the religion today. (Includes laws and rights, as well as their mission statement.)

Zimmerman, Denise and Katherine A. Gleason.  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft. Indianapolis: Alpha, 2000.

This book is just what you need to learn about the religion of Wicca today. It talks of the modern day witch in a light-hearted manner to make the reader feel comfortable reading about the topic. It is broken into easily findable sections that range from their celebrations and history to how to write your own spells and brew potions. This book really helps you grasp concept of the religion today and what they believe in and stand for. Many misconceptions are also covered. Since there are only two pages dedicated to the history, this would be a very helpful source if the purpose were to learn about the “witch” today.