Origins of Witchcraft

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 under ARCHIVES | No Comment

What Halloween would be complete without Witches!  Here is some really cool information about witches and links to more information about witches.  Enjoy!


The witch-hunt of the 16th and 17th centuries was an organized effort by authorities in many countries to destroy a supposed conspiracy of witches thought to pose a deadly threat to Christendom. According to these authorities, witches were numerous, and in conscious alliance with Satan, forming a sort of Satanic counter-religion. The belief that witches are not just individual villains but conspirators organized in a powerful but well-hidden cult is a distinguishing feature of the early modern witch-hunt.

This idea of an organized witch–cult originates in the second half of the 15th century. In the following two centuries, witch trials usually included the charge of membership in a demonic conspiracy, gathering in sabbaths.  It was only with the beginning Age of Enlightenment in the early 18th century, that the idea of an organized witch–cult was abandoned.

The Early Modern testimonies of accused witches “confirming” the existence of a witch cult are considered doubtful. It has been argued that being accused of “witchcraft” was determined, in large, by the expectations of the interrogators.  Torture, also, had people confessing to things that just never happened.

Beliefs in witchcraft are found in many cultures worldwide, today mostly in Sub-Saharan  and historically in Early Modern Europe of the 14th to 18th century, where witchcraft came to be seen as a vast diabolical conspiracy against Christianity, and accusations of witchcraft led to large-scale witch-hunts.

So, What’s the Deal with Witches and Brooms?

Besom Brooms

Besom brooms are traditionally constructed brooms made of a bundle of twigs tied to a stouter pole and are still made today. These brooms are traditionally associated with witches.

Supposedly, an upward pointed besom (bristles up), especially over or near a doorway, would help protect the house from evil spirits or negative energies.

The generally accepted theory about the origins of witches and flying with their brooms is based in a ritual involving a psychoactive drug trip.  The witches would prepare a flying ointment to aid them in their journey. There are many recipes for this ointment all having a base of either Atropa belladonna or Mandragora officinarum, both highly psychoactive drugs producing visions and encouraging astral projection. The ointment was rubbed all over the body using the broom. Witches mounted broomsticks and would leap around the fields, smeared with the flying ointment, in order to “teach the crops how high to grow”. The ointment would give them hallucinations, which made them believe that they flew.

In Wicca

A besom is one of the tools used in Wicca. The broom is an ash stave handle with bristles made from birch twigs. These twigs are tied on using thin pieces of willow wood. It is used to cleanse the ritual area before circle casting.

The besom is an important part of Wiccan ceremonies in some traditions. The couple jumps over the besom during the ceremony. Alternatively, the couple may jump over a small bonfire.


The besom’s name is linked to the Egyptian/Nubian cat god Bes, whose headdress resembles the besom broom. The deity was a popular household god, protector of women and children.  Alchemist in the 17th century, showed Bes as the guardian of their doorways. The origins of the protective qualities of an ‘upward pointing’ besom near or over the door may have been derived from an association with Bes.


“Bes (also spelled as Bisu) was an Egyptian/Nubian deity worshipped in the later periods of history as a protector of households and in particular mothers and children.”  It is controversial as to whether this god was truly Egyptian or Nubian.

The Egyptian Bastet is a “goddess” cat who was protector of mothers and children in ancient Egypt.  It is also said that Bastet would transform herself into the lioness to protect Pharaoh in battle and took on the name of Sekhmet.  Many gods/goddesses in Ancient Egypt had dual roles.

I hope you have enjoyed this post on Witches, brooms and their origins. I will have more posts in celebration of Halloween. Stop by soon for my fun and informative information.

Have a Great Day!

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Sekhmet from the temple of Mut at Luxor, granite, 1403–1365 BC, in the
National Museum, Copenhagen:

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