Although Wicca and witchcraft are often seen as the same thing, they are actually quite different. One involves a practice or way of life, while the other is actual a religion. Throughout history, there have been traces of both Wicca and witchcraft, which earliest recollections can be traced back to 2000 BC. In this article, we will deal with the milestones of both Wicca and witchcraft up until the 3rd century.
In 2000 BC, we see the first written account of references made towards witchcraft. As seen in the Babylonian Code of Hammrabi, we see the passage of:
“”If a man has laid a charge of witchcraft and has not justified it, he upon whom the witchcraft is laid shall go to the holy river; he shall plunge into the holy river and if the holy river overcome him, he who accused him shall take to himself his house.” It is interesting to know that the history of such a practice has deep roots throughout the past. The exact emergence of such beliefs and practices is not readily available.
During the third century AD, we first see the use of fire and burning one alive as the punishment associated with witches. In both Wicca and witchcraft, this is the title given to those who practice each. During the pre-Christian Roman Empire times, this was a common way of dealing with witches. They were burned alive if it was proven that their acts were the cause of another’s death. These people who were burned alive were thought to possess these sorts of powers and when used for the harm of another, they committed an act against a State law. There was actually a law in the 3rd century, especially made for witches. It is quite telling of this time period when you see that the unknown deeply influenced the way that the law was carried out.
In 306 AD, the consequences for being accused of using witchcraft against others were felt even when it came to the afterlife. During these times, it was the Christian Council of Elvira (Canon 6) that began refusing last rites to individuals who were convicted of killing a man by the use of a spell filled with magic. This type of crime was viewed as one that required the help of the Devil.
Changes were also seen throughout the rest of the third century, especially in 313. This is when the Conversion of Emperor Constantine took place, which meant that Christianity was seen as the main route of religion throughout the Roman Empire. In 314, Canon 24 of the Council of Ancyra becomes involved in the quest against witches and others connected to the practice of magic. They are credited with imposing a penance of 5 years for anyone who turns to a magician for assistance. This move was viewed as a form of participation with pagan ways.
For more information on the history of Wicca and witchcraft, be sure to check out the continuing installments of this series of articles. Next, we will take a look at some of the natural occurrences that witches were blamed for throughout history.