Which Witch is Which? A Brief History
It’s Halloween here at The Storage Inn in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, and along with the falling leaves , and dropping temperatures come our yearly Trick or Treaters. Whether they are our self storage customers, or neighborhood families, it is always great to spend time with visitors to our storage facility. We see all sorts of costumes, from current and topical, to the traditional monsters, witches and goblins. So in the spirit of Halloween, we thought it would be fun to give you a brief history of a most time-honored Halloween symbol… The Witch!
Images of witches have appeared in various forms throughout history—from evil, wart-nosed women huddling over a boiling cauldron to a nose-twitching, suburban housewife. The real history of witches however, is dark and, often for the witches, deadly!
Early witches were people who practiced witchcraft— They used “Spells” to call upon spirits for help or to bring about change. Most witches were thought to be pagans doing the Devil’s work. Many, however, were simply natural healers whose choice of profession was misunderstood.
One of the earliest records of a witch is in the Bible within the book of Samuel. It tells the story King Saul who sought the Witch of Endor to summon the dead prophet Samuel’s spirit to help him defeat the Philistine army. Additional Biblical passages caution against chanting or using witches to contact the dead.
Witch hysteria really took hold in Europe during the mid-1400s. Witch hunts were common and most of the accused were executed by burning at the stake or hanging. Between the years 1500 and 1660, up to 80,000 suspected witches were put to death in Europe. Around 80 percent of them were women thought to be in cahoots with the Devil and filled with lust.
The book Malleus Maleficarum, written in 1486—was essentially a guide on how to identify, hunt and interrogate witches. It labeled witchcraft as heresy, and gave Protestants and Catholics the authority to flush out witches living among them. For more than 100 years, the book sold more copies of any other book in Europe except the Bible.
Witches in the New World
As witch hysteria decreased in Europe, it grew in the New World. Probably the best-known witch trials took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. The Salem witch trials began when two girls claimed to be witches and accused many of their neighbors of witchcraft. Ultimately, around 150 people were accused and 18 were put to death.
In 1730, a satirical article written by Benjamin Franklin brought to light the ridiculousness of some witchcraft accusations. It wasn’t long before witch mania died down in the New World and laws were passed to help protect people from being wrongly accused and convicted.
Modern Day Witches
Modern-day witches of the Western World still struggle to shake their historical stereotype. Most practice Wicca, an official religion in the United States and Canada. Wiccans avoid evil and the appearance of evil at all costs. Their motto is to “harm none,” and they strive to live a peaceful, tolerant and balanced life in tune with nature and humanity.
There you have it – a little witch history. Well, it’s time for me to go. I have a Halloween party to attend – I’m going dressed as… (wait for it…) a self storage manager – BOO!!!