Witchcraft and sorcery are almost identical terms as both use the magic spells, mystical or paranormal means to harness occult forces to produce desired results. Ideally speaking, persons pursuing witchcraft do not aim at producing evil results. Somehow the term sorcery is used pejoratively to denote the use of supernatural powers to produce unnatural and negative course of events.
Another factor that differentiates witchcraft from sorcery is that while sorcery can be learnt and practiced by anyone, witchcraft is considered to result from inherent mystical powers and is practiced by invisible means. Modern witches, however, claim that witchcraft can be acquired through learning as well.
Both Witchcraft and sorcery have existed since times immemorial in all the societies and cultures around the world. In ancient Greece, witchcraft existed as early as the time when Homer lived. The legendary Medea was considered as the best known sorceress in classical times. The Roman Horace describes two witches in his famous Satires. There are several references to witches in Bible. Saul (1 Samuel 28) consulted Witch of Endor.
Though witches were hounded and persecuted as being aligned with evil spirits in the past ages, Witchcraft has acquired respectability with the passage of time. It has washed away the stigma attached to it and cleared many popular misconceptions about it.
In twentieth century, witchcraft movement termed as Wicca the Craft, the Wisecraft is professed and practiced as religion.
The term wicca comes from an old English word wicca which has its origin from the Germanic root ‘wic’ and means ‘to bend or turn’. A witch is supposed to bend or turn the course of events for a good cause. Earlier the female practitioners of witchcraft were called witches, while their male counterparts were called wizards. But now the term witch is used both for male and female practitioners of witchcraft.
Witchcraft as a religion was developed in the United Kingdom by Gerald B Gardner, a British civil servant. Gardner had a life long interest in occult and supernatural forces. Witchcraft is now openly and proudly practiced in almost all the English speaking countries including the United States of America besides many traditional societies and cultures around the world. In Africa people seek medical aid for external physical problems and consult witch doctors for internal illnesses.
It is now widely believed that witches cast their spells for good objectives like love, health and wealth. Genuine believers in witchcraft do not cause harm to others. They worship God or deity or Mother Nature which is believed to possess both male and female aspects. They, however, emphasize on the female aspect or the Goddess side of the deity. Wicca is a religion of fertility. It celebrates the seasonal cycles of the nature that are central to the farming communities. The religious rites are tied to the cycles of moon which is the symbol of the power of the Goddess and also the seasons of the year.
Religious witches use their craft for the benefit of the people. They religiously follow their golden rule called the Wiccan Rede which says: "An' it harm none, do what ye will.” They believe in the theory of karma that any act of witchcraft will return to its practitioner magnified three folds, whether it is good or evil.
Wicca is the most democratic and free religion in the world. There is no central authority. The witches work in loosely organized groups called covens. Some covens are made up exclusively of women, some of men while others have mixed membership. There are witches who do not join any coven at all and practice their faith alone as solitaries.
Modern witchcraft is a recreation of pagan, folk and magical rites selected from the major cultures and societies across the world such as Babylonian, Celtic, Egyptian, ancient Greek, Roman, and Sumerian Buddhism, Hinduism, and the rites of American Indians.
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