Witchcraft, also known today as "Wicca", is a Pagan mystical polytheistic religion with roots dating back to Paleolithic times. During those times, the most important things with which man was concerned was the success of the hunt and the fertility of their fields (and women). Therefore, they prayed to a God of the Hunt and a Goddess of fertility. It was in those early times that religio-magickal ritual came about, with tribe members enacting a ritual before go out on the hunt, symbolically bringing down and "killing" a clay effigy of an animal with the belief that such an action would ensure success in the actual hunt to follow. It was an early form of what is known as sympathetic magic, the idea that "like attracts like". There are many different carvings and models in existence representing the early God and Goddess. The Goddess likenesses, known as "Venus figurines", were all similar in that the feminine attributes (breasts and genitalia) were all greatly exaggerated, emphasizing the fertility aspects of this deity. many times details such as facial features were not even included. The God was generally depicted as a horned god (as most of the animals hunted were horned), usually with foliage surrounding the face symbolizing his natural aspects. Such a carving or mask is known as a "Jack O' The Green" or a "Robin of the Wood". As time moved on and things like hunting became less important as technology advanced, the God became more of a general god of nature.
When Christianity began to flourish, it took years to stifile this mystical religion that had developed over hundreds of years, and the Church had a hell of a time doing so. Pope Gregory the Great ordered the Pagan temples smashed and the new churches built on those sites in the hopes that the worshippers of the old religion would attend an already familiar gathering place. People were not quite a guillible as he thought. Stonemasons and builders hired to construct the new churches secretly incorporated images of their beloved deities into the walls so they might worship the old even if forced to attend the new. The church would have to resort to drastic measures to eliminate their rival. The church issued propaganda against Witches and other Pagans, presenting the customs and followers as unsavory, unfashionable, and evil. The Pagan god was horned. Apparently, so was the Christian devil. Therefore, Witches and Pagans were obviously devil-worshippers. Such a charge is ridiculous of course, as Witches do not believe in an "all-evil entity", much less one called "satan". That belief was a Zoroasterian concept that was picked up by Mithraism and later adapted by the Christian church. The words "Pagan" (country dweller) and "Heathen" (one who dwells on the heath) slowly became derogatory terms. In 1484 Pope Gregory produced his Bull against Witches. Two years later two German monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger produced the infamous anti-Witch book Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch Hammer), which gave specific instuctions on the persecution and torture of Witches. It was a terrible point in what has become known as the Burning Times, a period dating from about 1000 C.E. to the present. It is thought that as many as nine million people were put to death on the charge of Witchcraft during this time.
In the 1940's, anthropologist/Egyptologist Dr. Magaret Alice Murray produced a book showing Witchcraft in an un-biased light. The last laws against Witchcraft in England were finally repealed in 1951. Dr. Gerald Gardner came forward as a Witch at that time, drawing Witches remaining in existence out of the shadows and back into the light of freedom. Raymond Buckland, a protege of Gardner's, spoke out for the Craft in the United States. Today there are many different traditions and denominations of Witchcraft thriving all over the world once again.