It’s actually quite interesting how very far from gone witchcraft is. It wasn’t really shamanism, and wasn’t driven by a tribal view of nature.
The phrase old wives tales for example. It does not always refer to the lore of witchcraft. Women in particular, and to a lesser degree men, have been making intuitive observations about life for a very long time. Even in myth there have been witches. Hell in Norse myth, cerydwen, circe, those who live apart and know the seemingly unknown. Men make poor gods, but we keep to this day making men gods. They disconnect from nature. We supposedly conquered it, but this has made us a bit psycho. We call those who bear the witches gift today psycho.
Witches were the first mediums and modern mediums are BS by comparison. This is why people went to the village on Halloween to hear from their departed, and sometimes just because they were sick or disturbed by a nightmare. We visit the graves of the departed so they leave us alone for the coming year, remembering the dead so they don’t get angry at you. They were your kin anyway.
Witchcraft is universal. To this day there are still witches. The church was right and wrong about it, and it is not linked to Satanism. Christians called anything not approved by their priests Satanism. Witches, warlocks, and stuff, predates Christianity. Their belief system has nothing to do with Christian mythology, and their traditions aren’t linked to Christianity. Christianity incorporates old druid/pagan festivals. Even the Protestant sects exist from Catholicism which absorbed these other elements. Witchcraft is basically natural magic. It comes quite intuitively, but was derided by the Romans. They already had a tradition of ritual, a sorcery.
The Romans had a doctrine for keeping the pax romanum. One was controlling education, much like any fascist government does. The sorcerers of the Roman Empire were their citizens at the very least, and not every one could be or was considered a true citizen. The Romans stamped out or tried to stamp out the craft. The reason they and the Holy Roman Catholic Church did so, is the lore of the craft seemed to empower the non citizens. They couldn’t have that. The conquered people had to be dependent on the state.
The wicce would be left alone because most folk don’t like hanging around old bones, but mediums don’t see death the same. Occasionally, witches did form societies similar to Native American medicine societies. Coven is a derivative of the word covenant, meaning a pact between peers. They weren’t churches. The witches worshipped the same pagan gods their people did. The covens were more cooperative work groups which might have involved prayer, but the bale fires weren’t a craft practice. The whole village did them.
So the witches were keeping the unity ceremony. Later in history they were the only keepers of it. They light the bale fires today, and they don’t celebrate a black mass. That was made up. They celebrate the holidays of the Druidic calendar; the solstices and equinoxes, and the moons. Halloween started well before the United States ever did, and much of the lore of witchcraft still exists in Ireland. Just very integrated and not recognizable as it once was. This is why the cultural concern with luck, though they didn’t originally use that word. Luck is Norse, but same idea.
In Celtic lore, there were many levels of initiation. Witches were out of it, but when druids had to go underground they fused with the witches. The witches were like the lay persons of the druid tradition. Not official leaders nor bound by their traditions, but still kin. There were no “druid on witch” wars as there wasn’t any need. So witches live apart from the tribe. Not shunned, just marked like the Greek oracles. Warlocks lived apart too. Difference being, witches were civil. The town wise woman knew a lot of things even if she didn’t seem rational. In the case of warlocks, the mountain hermits and warriors, they weren’t so civil as the witches.
The old Norse solar cross reversed became the swastika, but was in their clothing and woodwork and everywhere. It was a holy symbol and was a rallying point for covert war. Another name for the solar cross is Thors Hammer. The warlocks (the oath breakers as that word means) received baptism as they were required, but conspired to preserve their culture and did bear animosity toward Rome. The rallying sign of the warlocks, and the vandal mercenaries who eventually sacked Rome, was a black solar cross.
In those traditions that have a focus on the spirit world, they notice one of two leanings and it’s not a choice. It is a natural inclination. There are those with insight who serve the people. They were tribal shamans but became priests, and there were those who were touched. They were more creatures of the spirit world than of their people. In voodoo were known as bokor, and as they say in voodoo the bokor serves the loa or spirits with both hands. Heyoka were also more touched and less of the people.
So there are witches, warlocks and wizards? Wizards are Norse, but basically yes. The ovates of Celtic tradition were basically wizards.
Do witches have to be women? Oh no, they don’t. Gender doesn’t really matter, but even metaphysically there do seem to be differences.
These days witches are women and men are warlocks? No, these days most men are witches too, because warlock became a dirty word. Warlock is a heavily suppressed concept. War lock from waer loga meaning man of the logs, was a rune caster. The Norse didn’t really have a priesthood, and weren’t necessarily organized. Spirituality was a family thing.
What is the origin of the word witch? Wicce, celtic, meant set apart. Often referred to what they saw as an unusually long lived woman, often a widow.
I thought oracles looked to the future? Oracles look to the spirits, gods from the Greek view.
Do witches really have significance in the modern age? Does women’s intuition? Natural magic is based on an intuitive grasp of connections. Manifests in a lot of ways, and people come to these insights even if never taught. In Japan, the Shinto still exists, the way of the spirits. In Latino cultures, and Sufis, and Sikhs, both of those traditions have mystics.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.