It has long been established that witchcraft has been a prominent function in society, from the use of healers in ancient civilizations, to the modern advancements in the pagan religions over the years.

Witchcraft was the main way of life, with people following astrological charts, ridding themselves of demons, using the earth as a restorative power for themselves and their land, and making use of magical entities to define how they should live based on the seasons they lived in. Healers of the ancient world have always called upon the powers of the gods or the earth, to provide care for those suffering, and were well respected in their communities for all the good they do.

The majority of witches believed that the earth had supernatural powers, and that everything should be done for the good of all, as nature was revered, and so was the spirit of the person who would eventually return there. There was a focus on creating equality and balance within the community, and for everything that one took out of the earth, something must be placed back within it. Magical entities thrived amongst societies who feared the unknown, but the wise ones were always there to heal the sick, and be a positive force on their lands. Both men and women held these titles, and the spirits blessed them for their care of the lands.

However, it has not always been that the label of 'witch' comes with positive thoughts.

The definition of witch is a person who uses supernatural powers and practices sorcery. However, there are terms in the dictionary that are derogatory towards those practitioners. Words such as 'hag', or 'evil', are used in conjunction with 'bewitching' and 'ugly'.

The disparaging terms stems from the 14th century, where the church and other ruling classes aimed to persecute those who helped the lower classes and prevent them from using their healing skills in the medicine profession. Witch hunts spread across the world, shaming and torturing civilians into confessing that their life choices were part of a devil worshiping pact, and that their use of magic was only intended for harm.

For over 400 years witchcraft was outlawed, and many faced imprisonment or death for not following religious rules, or for attempting to heal family and friends without paying for medicines. Men, women and children were under threat from being accused of terrible crimes, although mostly women were targeted during those times. Pagan practices were forced underground, as simple occupations such as midwifery, or female healers were also persecuted. Poorer communities were closely regarded as having higher populations of evil witches, as the threat of rebellion was always larger in these areas.

Thankfully, the persecution died out, and several apologies were given for the oppressive and violent treatment of citizens during that time. Witchcraft was no longer seen as an illegal act, and many people who practiced covertly were able to live without fear for bringing good to the lives of many.

From the mid 1900s, witches are emerging once more in a positive light, and their powers of divination are often called upon to bring love, luck and happiness to those who ask for help.

The witch has had many traits, some good, some not so good. Throughout history, there have always been stories circulating about many people being witches, or possessing supernatural powers.

The most famous witches being Morgana Le Fey and Merlin of the Arthurian stories. One evil, and one good, both were instrumental in securing Arthur's position on the throne of Camelot. Conceived at around 1100, their stories set about preserving the ancient pagan religion and entwine it into a story of oppression by the emerging Christian religions, yet successfully ingrain the two religions as being able to work together.

This harmonious viewpoint of witchraft has not been matched until late 18th Century, with witches such as Gerald Gardner, and Madame Blavatsky promoting the ancient earth religion as a way of living in harmony both within the self, and the world that is inhabited.

The story of the witch doesn't always end in tragedy, but many tales show the struggle to live a life without oppression. Whether the oppression stems from a different religious organisation, the government, or simply the surrounding neighbours, it becomes clear that historically, witchcraft was a targeted phrase used to prevent a person from having thoughts that appeared different from the norm, or attempted to explain events that others could not.

Alice Kyteler was the first woman to be accused of witchcraft and consorting with the Devil. Her case involved her seeming to murder her husbands using sorcery, and stories began to circulate of her offering sacrifices and using her powers to escape a conviction. After she fled the country, her followers were convicted of heresy and thus subjected to torture and death.

Another historical witch is Joan of Arc. Although later canonised as a Saint, she was accused of witchcraft after her visions (which she claimed came from God) enabled her to lead the French army to victory. It was these visions that perpetuated the belief that she was in league with the devil, and was burned at the stake in 1431. Again, the tragedy of Joan perpetuates the notion that when one deviates from the normal way of living, it becomes inevitable that harsh forms of social control are used, resulting in the death of an individual.

Many more stories involve a bleak outlook for the witch. The Pendle Witches of Lancashire, Mother Shipton, Elisabeth Sawyer, even the Witch of Endor (found in the bible) live in a world where they are oppressed for stating their opinions, tortured for their supposed crimes, and feared for their beliefs without opportunities to defend themselves or explain how they live as they choose to do.

Those who practice witchcraft live harmoniously with nature, preferring to live as their elders did in pre-Christian times, and use their wisdom for healing others. A witch, even in ancient times used their powers to ensure that justice was done, not to harm others.

In the later part of the 19th century, the pagan movement re-emerged, and connections to the old faith were restored as the harmonious living was no longer feared or unknown. The later witches that appeared in our history use their knowledge of nature to heal and help, and have often been accepted into society as practitioners of alternative forms of medicines and religions and are able to live without the persecution of their predecessors.
Considered a Gythia (Asatru High Priestess) among her Coven, Julia Roslyn Antle is a master of divination and dream interpretation. Her wisdom is sought-after by her peers, her colleagues as well as the public.