Witches & Drugs

I don’t have a cite, but I read once that almost everything we think we know about witches comes from confessions extracted by the Inquisition. Personally I find it hard to take anything a woman being tortured says seriously.
Also I’d like to know what Wiccans have to say on the subject.

Are you referring to this column?

The thoughts of modern Wiccans may be interesting, but of limited relevance w.r.t. earlier ideas of witchcraft. Modern Wicca is a recent development that arose in mid-20th century based in large part on modern-day “enlightened” notions of what a good Wiccan religion ought to be like. Contrast, for example, the ancient stereotyped concept that witches were unrepentantly evil, vs the modern “first, do no harm” Wiccan creed.

I don’t understand what your question is, furryman. Are you saying that witchcraft, magic, is real? That there is something to be learned about it? Or perhaps you are asking if there is a religion called witchcraft, with coherent practices that transcend cultures and centuries, that somehow can be defined?

If not, all we have are accusations. There is nothing to be learned.

What are you asking? What can be answered?

There is certainly a belief (at least in some times and places) in witchcraft, and in the various phenomena surrounding it (broomsticks, etc.). These beliefs certainly had some origin or origins. The OP is asking about these origins. One possible origin, of course, would be that witches really are real and these are the things they really do. Another possible origin is that it was all made up by victims of the Inquisition attempting to appease their torturers. But this is not a dichotomy, and there are many other possible origins as well.

It seems to me the basic assumption of Cecil’s thread is that there were some people who believed they were witches and took drugs during their ceremonies.
My thought is that the only people who believed in witches was the Inquisition.
Of course it’s possible some pagan ceremonies used drugs and persisted into the 17th century.

This is 100% incorrect.

We have stories of witches and witchcraft from long before the Inquisition ever existed. For that matter, we have stories of witches and witchcraft from long before Christianity ever existed - for starters, among both the Romans and the Greeks.

Modern scholars agree that there never was such a thing as a “witchcraft religion” during medieval times. The best scholarly book on the subject is The Triumph of the Moon, by Robert Hutton.

Again, 100% incorrect. Belief in witches and witchcraft was widespread both outside of the Inquisition, and indeed long before the Inquisition ever existed.

There were many many different notions about sorcery, magic, and demon-worship and the people who supposedly practiced those things, pretty much throughout all of recorded history. A whole lot of those notions have, I think, been haphazardly thrown together under the label of “witch-craft”.

What about something like fortune-telling? Was that evil? Was it something done in league with the devil? Was it witch-craft? And if so, sez who?

Example: In the Old Testament, Saul consults a medium, asking her to put him in touch with the deceased prophet Samuel:

(ETA: Compare various English translations here.)

Was that medium a witch? Many commentaries refer to her as a witch. The KJV Bible I have has a brief title at the top of each page mentioning the main subject discussed on the page; on this page, it says “Saul consults a witch” – even though the English translation doesn’t actually use the word “witch” that I can see.

Surely, the Inquisition weren’t the only ones who believed in witches: Whence did they recruit?

Quite right.

Complicating the matter further is that both “witchcraft’s” proponents and its opponents both tend to take part in this haphazard grouping together of wildly disparate historical phenomena under the same label. It’s plain to see why: Anti-witchcraft people like the idea of an eternal enemy; pro-witchcraft people like the idea of an eternal tradition.

In fact, around Charlemagne’s time, belief in witches was seen as a remnant of the bad old pagan days. Anyone who accused another person of witchcraft was automatically guilty of heresy. Alas, the bad old superstitions wormed their way into Christianity throughout the middle ages, and finally blossomed into full-blown hysteria in the Renaissance, despite the mockery by such as Reginald Scot.

All that stuff about witches being medieval pagans was pulled out of her ass by Margaret Murray in the 1920s, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica has been apologizing for their part in spreading it for over forty years now.