Whether it’s Hollywood tales like Hocus Pocus, The Craft, and Bewitched or centuries-old legends of real-life sorcerers, the concept of witches and witchcraft has always been enchanting — and not just at Halloween, either. From fascinating origins to bizarre, little-known rituals and traditions, these fascinating facts about the history of witches may have you waxing up those broomsticks and re-drawing those pentagrams!
1. ‘Witch finder’ was a valid career
If there was such a thing as career advisors in the 17th century then ‘witch finder’ may well have been a regular suggestion. Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General said to have instigated the deaths of roughly 200 witches in southeast England, received £1,000 for his efforts, a huge sum of money at the time.
Towns would pay the man and his interrogation team 20 shillings to help get rid of any witches. Eventually the general public started to resent paying so much money, though, and Hopkins ended up disappearing from view in 1647. There are rumors that, ironically, he was executed on the grounds of witchcraft.
2. Their sidekicks were more than black cats
“Familiar” is the word given to a small animal that essentially acts as a witch’s sidekick, helping to guard them and provide assistance with spells. The most common companion is a black cat. But everything from rats and toads to dogs and even insects can take on this vital role.
So how do witches and familiars find each other? Well, as you would expect, it’s all spiritual. It’s usually fate that draws the pair together, rather than any conscious selection process.
3. Is there a witch bottle hidden in your house?
If you happen to have a bottle full of glass shards, fish hooks, and human teeth lying around your home, then you’re likely to be in possession of a witch bottle. Such vessels were used as a protective tool against witches in the 17th century, a period when their sorcery was said to be at an all-time high.
All kinds of disgusting things were placed in there, including fingernails, strands of hair, and even urine. The latter was used to apparently guide any witches on an otherworldly journey into the bottle.
4. Warding off evil with witch marks
There were several other common ways of warding off those at the center of the witch panic. To protect the home, marks were deliberately etched into spaces near doorways, fireplaces, and windows — essentially places that would otherwise have given witches a chance to enter.
They could be marked into everything from plaster and stone to woodwork. And there was a wide range of symbols used, too, including daisy wheels, consecration crosses, and overlapping Vs.