Religion in the Middle Ages vs. Nowadays

Have you ever had trouble timing your practise with the speed of events that are happening around you? The world feels like spinning and all real life hits you hard. What if the same thing happened to our practising ancestors? What if Wicca was not feared but rather forgotten? We all know that history is always written for the winners and that events such as the “Witchcraft plague” can be very influencial and threatening to anyone practising but were they really? And on the other hand, how have we, by doing Witchcraft, changed in our century and eventually how does our practise differ from the one beforehand? And how do we “do” Wicca nowadays?

Let’s start with the start.

How was Witchcraft practised before ?

Around 12th to 13th century, Witchcraft was an expression form.

What, you may ask? Indeed, I would answer. Witchcraft was much like an artistic form of expression since the Church’s views were not necessarily shared by the people living in the pieces of land controlled by it. Witchcraft was heresy because it was challenging to the views of the former and all its supporters.To add up, there was also the Inquisition that was pushing the church in numerous countries like nowadays Spain, Germany and others, and was teaching the people that any faith outside of the Church was “bad faith”. As Burton Russel 1974 puts it, the witch was “a rebel against the church”.

This Venn diagram puts Witchcraft on the middle of all old terms, in which it is located between religion and the magical world view. Bear in mind, Magick was contemporary at the time and it took many forms in the Middle Ages. Anthropologists and historians, much like today, percieved it as a “superstition”. Witchcraft was about alligning oneself with the stars, planets and generally putting the model of man within the universe but as a microscopic part. And so magick was a social belief. As pointed out on the diagram, there were different types of it. Low magick was the closest to Witchcraft. Now, low magick, as worded by the anthropologist Alexander Hales, was maleficum, alas centered around evil-doing and high-magick was divinatio, alas divine. And so black and white magick came to be built up off that. You can read more about that in Jeffrey Russels’ “Witchcraft in the Middle Ages” 1972.

But how does that serve us?

Witchcraft was, and still is, a craft deviating from the Church’s beliefs. It was a riot, if you will, against the omnipresent power of Christianity and a cry against the one and only power then. You have to understand the historical background too – the Church was, for instance in England, the sole owner of land – the so called fifs were lended out to the vassals that, on their own accord, collected all taxes and export from the peasents that were working the land, and were giving all this to the king or the church. And so, to be alive and to work, you had to comply, very much like slavery, and you didn’t have a chance to be yourself.

So what is witchcraft nowadays?

It is a combustion of all different views one may have on religion, whether atheistic or christian, no matter. It is a unificator of all people that believe in something + the nature. However, Wicca is much more solitary, unless one is in a coven, and is getting accepted as a religious view in some countries, such as the US.

But why is it different?

One may argue, that because the church’s monopoly is not as influential as before, believers have much more access to old practises and information, making witchcraft and wicca both progress as one. But I have one question on my mind, is the spark the same as before?

I personally think it is, we may have other goals and be money-driven in a exploitive society where 9 hours of our regular days are taken up with sitting in front of a computer but exactly this mundane living has brought us much more to care about as to the people we are inside. The wish to get better and to know more has led us to realising that we are, after all, all children of something greater than our mothers. We have evolved and progressed. From there on, crystals and candles and physical objects should not define our practise, but we ourselves and the freedom we have by living at out own dedicated piece of land and also living in our own conditions and minds, working for ourselves, should always be the driving power behind it.

Do no harm and love each other, as well as who was there before you. Cherish them.


All pictures – Pinterest

Information – Medieval Studies classes, as well as Burton Russel 1974 Witchcraft in the Middle Ages by Jeffrey Russel, The Catholic Historical Review Vol. 60., No. 3, pp 468-470 and JB Russel “Witchcraft in the Middle Ages”