Medieval Witchcraft

Medieval witchcraft was practiced primarily to control the cycles of nature, cure disease or prevent death. The medieval witch practiced openly as they were not aware they were going against convention. Innocent in their witchcraft rituals, the medieval witch was an easy target for persecution.

Crop failure was life or death to the medieval peasant. The broom (besom) was viewed as a symbol of fertility. The shaft of the broom represents the male energy while the straw represents the female energy. The two were believed to hold power over the area that was touched by the broom. A woman would place the broom between her legs as if she were riding a horse.

She would run around the field three times in order to bring fertility to the crops. This ritual was a common one in the medieval time period and had no connotation with evil or sacrilege. It was a means to appeal to God to fertilize the fields to produce a rich harvest.

The broom was also used to cleanse the house physically and metaphorically. Before a broom was used to clean the house, the medieval witch would cleanse the broom by chanting over it and requesting the spirits to cover the broom in protection that would then lead to protection of the house. To the medieval witch disease entered the door as a bad omen. Bacteria and virus had not been discovered so, disease was thought of as magical. The spiritual invasion would cause all of the house members to become sick and possibly die. The medieval witch would wave the broom in the air and clean the bad omens from the house.

In the medieval time period, peasants cooked their meals outside in metal or wooden pots. The medieval witch also concocted their potions of herbs and salves in these pots, leading to the label of concocting in the cauldron. The cauldron became the symbol of medieval witchcraft.

In these cauldrons the medieval witch would prepare healing recipes. Herbs, mud and parts of animals were blended and then applied to the sick or dying. If the patient survived the treatment the witch was heralded, if the patient died the witch would be accused of causing the death. Near the end of the middle ages, the witch was persecuted whether the patient lived or died, it was the ritual that was viewed evil instead of the bad omen.

The medieval witch soon learned that practicing their craft also threatened their life. They turned to the use of scrolls to record their recipes, spells, chants or other thoughts that would be deemed evil. They hid these scrolls between the straws of their broom.

Medieval witchcraft was a positive practice used for the protection of crops against locust and famine, guard against earthquakes, floods or tornadoes and healing the sick. Medieval witchcraft had no opinion on the common theologies of the day, the witch was concerned with providing solutions to supernatural phenomena that science had not yet explained and their craft was not used for the evil for which they were persecuted.

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