History of Witchcraft:

Ancient Period


figure wearing face mask with antlers

There is some evidence that can place the origins of witchcraft in paleolithic times. It seems ancient witches started the development of religio-magic, sympathetic magic and animism. These early examples are based on the belief that like attracts like, and one action could create another larger and varying reaction that could bring misfortune or luck. For example, creating a small clay buffalo and breaking it would result in the killing of a live buffalo on their next hunt. Mainly the beliefs and practices of the time revolved around nature, the elements and animals that roamed the earth. And that a god controlled the sky, the earth, the rain, etc. The concept of sympathetic magic can be shown in different cultures throughout history. Such as the Penobscot Indians in more recent history wearing deer masks and horns to perform rituals. 

It is also in these early times that we can connect the beginnings of the goddess of fertility and the god of hunting (or the horned god), that are worshipped in a variety of religions. Their depictions and abilities can vary, and mark the early beginnings of pagan history.

During this period where we can see the practice and beginnings of many traditions. An example of one of these early traditions is Shamanism, the practice of contacting spirits through dream work and meditative trances. Demonology was being practiced in Sumeria and Babylonia, believing that spirits of varying intent roamed on the earth. In the west, beliefs of witchcraft were starting to bloom from the mythologies and folklore of many different groups, such as Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks and Romans.


There are arguments that the real roots of witchcraft and magic come from the Celts, a diverse group of Iron Age societies with varying specialties and beliefs from around 700 BCE. They lived in a pantheistic society, believing in a god and goddess and also believing in the concept of reincarnation. Additionally, around 350 BCE a priestly class known as Druids began to surface and filled a variety of roles, such as teachers, bards, astrologers and priests.

The beliefs of the Celts later became known as Paganism, which is also used for a variety of polytheistic belief systems of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. And throughout this period the practice of spell casting, potion making, and the use of tools such as amulets began. These pagan practices and objects became more associated with witchcraft as we entered the medieval period