Grimoire – History of Spellcasting

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History of Spellcasting

Casting spells has been popular throughout history. The term spell originates from the Anglo-Saxon word spel, which means “saying” or “story.” In ancient civilizations, spells developed alongside language. In ancient Egypt, for example, written stories often contained spells within them. The term witch has been traced to the old Teutonic word wik, meaning “to bend.” Prior to the fourteenth century, witchcraft and magic enjoyed a golden age. Things changed in 1486 when a now-discredited Catholic clergyman published the Malleus Maleficarum (or Hammer of Witches), known colloquially as the witch-hunter’s handbook. The popularity of the book led to a rise in anti-witchcraft sentiments. In 1542, England’s Witchcraft Act made witchcraft and spellcasting punishable by death. In 1692, the Salem witch trials took place in Massachusetts, and 19 people were executed for allegedly practicing witchcraft. Persecution against witches continued for centuries. The anti-witchcraft movement began to lose steam in the 1900s. In the 1960s and ’70s, American society saw an increase in Pagan practices and groups dedicated to Wicca and witchcraft. In 1986, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard the case Dettmer v. Landon and recognized Wicca as an official religion. Despite the growing acceptance of witchcraft, many witches still fear wrongful persecution. Some prefer to practice their craft in secret—or “in the broom closet.