I've never done one of these informational posts before so I decided to write down what I've researched and found out about the history of witchcraft, I will list my sources at the bottom.
History of Witchcraft
Around twenty five thousand years ago, many men and women depended upon hunting for food and other materials. At this time, the men and woman believed in a diverse number of Gods. For each aspect of nature, whether the wind or the flowing rivers, the people made each a deity, a god. A god to control the sky, one to control the waters and many more including the significant important god of hunting.
Since most animals they hunted were horned, so the god of hunting had horns too. Rituals thereby came about, men wearing animal skins and a antlered mask and played the part of the God of the hunt.
Along with the God there was also a Goddess, it is not known which came first or if they possible were created together. The Goddess though was generally associated with fertility, particularly amongst the animals they were hunting. The Goddess was depicted with over emphasised breasts and a enlarged stomach, as if though she was pregnant.
Agriculture started to become more popular, the Goddess became also associated with that, the fertility of the crops. From this the year was split into two halves; in the summer food was grown, so the Goddess dominated and in the winter the God dominated as crops couldn't grow so they relied on hunting in the winter.
The idea of the Gods spread across Europe, countries referring to them in different names and had slightly different variations, though the idea was generally the same. However, hunting began to deplete even more and Agriculture becoming more possible, the now God of Hunting became known as a God of Nature.
People had developed a belief system involving the idea of life after death and the Goddess was now also associated with rebirth.
Rituals continued as the people wanted to please the Gods and have them bless the land. This is were witchcraft develops, they developed a priesthood, a leader if you will to bring good results when directing the rituals. These Priests and Priestesses became known as the Wicca, or the Wise Ones.
The Wise Ones were consulted even by the king during Anglo Saxon times and relied heavily on them, they lead religious rites and had great knowledge on herbs, divination and magic. Though, Christianity became widely popular and Pope Gregory attempted at a 'Mass Conversion' and wanted people to worship the new religion and abandon the old one. He was to a large extent very successful in his conversion and new churches were building built.
Christians and Pagans were rivals and the Christians wanted to eliminate the threat of Pagans and took the Horned God of Nature and transformed him into the 'devil'. The Devil was the leader of evil living in hell, they believed Witches sold themselves to the devil in order to receive magical powers.
Anything that went wrong during these times was automatically blamed on the Witches, casting spells to cause chaos and mayhem. It was believed that Witches had a abnormal 'mark' on their body from which signified their allegiance with the devil and what some called the 'Witches Mark.' From this, it was believed that a witches familiar which was a demon or the devil that took the form of an animal, sucked on this mark and drinking their blood.
Numerous hunts took place over the ages, an estimated 9 million people in total all over the world were persecuted on the charge of Witchcraft, whether this is true or not seems to be a mystery. In England, the death penalty for witchcraft was abolished in 1736. The very last execution for Witchcraft took place in Poland in 1793.
Over the years following, many witches still practiced in secret and handed down their knowledge for many generations. With the last laws in England gone about witchcraft, in the 1950's, there was a revival of Paganism in England. Gerald Gardener became known as the Father of modern Wicca and it taught his teachings in America throughout the sixties. And from then Wicca and Paganism has become widely popular, according to Wikipedia, Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in America.
* The Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland
Thank you for reading and I ophe you enjoyed this and learnt something, also if I got anything wrong, feel free to correct me!